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Paul Coogan took nothing for granted.
Even though he won the preliminary election for Fall River mayor in a landslide, and even though the only other candidate on the general election ballot suspended his campaign three weeks ago, Coogan stood in a downpour outside a polling place Tuesday to wring every vote out of the soggy electorate.
"If I thought it was in the bag, I'd be home watching 'Jeopardy,' " he said. "But I don’t think it's in the bag, so we're out here working."
A half hour after polls closed, Coogan could rest easy, his widely expected victory in the bag at last. He defeated the twice-indicted incumbent Mayor Jasiel Correia and staved off a late write-in bid by City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros.
Coogan entered his election night party at Our Lady of Light Band to “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” as about 200 supporters whooped and sang along.
The win by Coogan, a member of the Fall River School Committee, appears to close the once-promising Correia era. First elected four years ago at just 23 years old, Correia somehow authored a fall more spectacular than his rise.
"The city's in nowhere-land right now," said former Correia backer Ron Sevigny, who voted for Coogan. "I say a prayer for this guy. I met him and found out what he's made of. I feel hopeful that we'll have a new beginning."
The drama began last autumn when Correia was charged with defrauding investors in a startup he launched before taking office. Despite the case against him, he survived a recall in March, edging Coogan in a crowded field.
Correia was indicted again in September, this time for allegedly extorting cannabis businesses as mayor. Yet he did well enough in the preliminary 11 days later to advance to Tuesday's general election.
Correia has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Voter Julie Jasmin said she stuck with Correia "right up until he stepped aside." She said Correia had the city on the right track, "but unfortunate things happened."
"I really believe that he is innocent until proven guilty," Jasmin said. "That's why we have the courts, and I really, really believe that."
Correia said last month that he was taking a leave of absence as mayor and suspending his campaign, but it was too late to remove his name from the ballot. He'd won a court battle to hold on to power when the City Council tried to remove him. But his re-election prospects appeared dim.
The Herald News published leaked audio of a meeting where he told supporters that he couldn't beat Coogan, head to head, but said at least one person would launch a write-in campaign, potentially helping him by dividing the vote.
"This is very important that we're quiet, that we don't run out and tell people the strategy," Correia said on the recording.
The leak dashed Correia's attempt at secrecy.
A day after Correia said he was dropping out, Viveiros — one of the mayor's top aides — entered the race as a write-in candidate. She denied coordinating with Correia.
"I was at that meeting that got leaked out," said Richard Souza, a Correia backer who said he voted for Viveiros. "Her name was not mentioned whatsoever. All she did was wait for him to decide, yea or nay, whether he was going to come or go, and as soon as she found out that he was going to be pulling out, she put her hat in the ring."
Viveiros' loss marked her sixth failed run for mayor.
Coogan said he will get straight to work, with two events on Wednesday.
"Gotta spend a little time with my wife," he added, "or I'm going to be single in the bloody office."
Coogan said he wants voters scarred by the corruption charges against Correia to know this: "I'm very honest. I'm not going to be involved with anything like that."
This segment aired on November 6, 2019.
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