Shawn called this one! She won! Bye, bye Stan!

Backed by neighborhood leaders, Driscoll kicks off mayoral bid
By Ben Casselman
Salem News, Friday March 11, 2005

SALEM — Saying that it is time for Salem to reach its potential, Kim Driscoll kicked off her campaign for mayor last night with a promise to bring experience and integrity to the city's corner office.

"We are a great city," the former Ward 5 councilor told a packed room at the new Salem Waterfront Hotel. "We're Salem. We're special, the jewel of the North Shore, and we shouldn't settle for mediocrity.

"It is time for us to recognize our potential, celebrate what makes us special and work hard to ensure that our greatness is fulfilled," Driscoll said.

Driscoll, 38, got a jump on the competition with her announcement yesterday, but she is widely seen as an underdog. Incumbent Mayor Stanley Usovicz and Councilor-at-large Kevin Harvey, who will hold their own kickoffs later this month, have raised more money and have been building their campaigns for longer.

But the 200 supporters who filled last night's event did their best to counter the notion that Driscoll — the only one of the three candidates who is not a Salem native — is a candidate without a constituency. Rather than politicians and public officials, last night's crowd was made up of neighborhood activists and community leaders. And they were all convinced not just that Driscoll was the best candidate, but that she could win.

"She has all the credentials," said Gallows Hill resident Jim Moskovis. "I think you can see from the turnout tonight that a lot of people feel that way."

"It's about experience, it's about leadership, it's about integrity," Linden Street resident Jim Rose said.

Driscoll was introduced last night by another longshot candidate: Tony Salvo, who upset longtime Mayor Jean Levesque in 1983.

"I was running against an entrenched incumbent," Salvo said. "He had plenty of money, he had a big campaign chest, he had plenty of people working for him. But even so, with the small amount of money that I had and the small group that I had working, we won the election by 88 votes."

Salvo was not the only well-known name at last night's event. School Committee member Richard McCarthy was there, as was Beverly City Councilor Tim Flaherty. So was witch Shawn Poirier, who said he was there on behalf of several local covens.

"Witchcraft is basically a matriarchal religion, and we think it would be better to have a woman mayor," Poirier said, adding that he also believed Driscoll would be more supportive of Halloween tourism than the current mayor.

But most of the people enjoying "The Driscoll Drink" — a vodka concoction created for the event — were neighborhood activists like Meg Twohey, Polly Wilbert and Evelyn Blum. Salvo said that bode well for Driscoll's campaign.

"That's where the voters are, in the neighborhoods," he said.

In her own speech, Driscoll emphasized her 16 years in municipal government. A former assistant planner in Salem, community development director in Beverly and now the deputy city manager in Chelsea, Driscoll portrayed herself as the best qualified candidate in the race.

"Today, we are at the threshold of a great opportunity," she said. "The challenges that lie ahead require a focused, effective, professional manager with the ability to get tough things done."

Driscoll never referred to either of her opponents by name in her speech, but she took several thinly veiled shots at Usovicz. Referring to the newly opened hotel that hosted the event, Driscoll said that, "If left up to the current administration, I'm afraid we'd be standing in a vacant lot right now."

"Maintaining the highest ethical standards in the mayor's office is not an option, it is absolutely critical," she said later in the speech.

But mostly, Driscoll stuck to the issues, pledging to stem the city's rising property taxes, improve MCAS scores and city services and improve communications within government and with citizens.

"At the end of the day, there is really only one good reason to run for mayor," Driscoll said. "You run for mayor because you think you can do a better job than the person that's currently in office."