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Jones departs race for Selectman

April 27, 2012

Edited 4/29/12 9:16 a.m.

Selectmen Chris Timson and Nancy Mackenzie might be able to rest easier at night now that their strongest competitor has dropped out of the race to defeat them in this year’s election.

Conservative Russell Jones announced yesterday he plans to drop out of the Selectmen’s race and will ask the Town Clerk to have his name taken off the ballot before next week’s ballot finalizing deadline.

Jones said the State Ethics Commission advised him recently that if he was elected to the Board he might have a conflict of interest because his business, Jones Contracting, Inc., currently does contract snow-plow work for the town during the winter.

“If elected I would be in conflict,” a disappointed Jones said. “I hate to give in,” he said.

Jones’ candidacy offered conservatives the best chance of getting one of their own elected to the Board of Selectmen. He ran last year as a first-time candidate with only nominal name recognition for the town’s top board and came in a surprisingly strong second place for one open seat. He vowed to run again, and his campaign created such a stir that Moderator Jon Rockwood considered appointing him to a spot on the Finance Committee last summer.

When he entered this year’s race just before the deadline to obtain nomination papers, it was after strong encouragement from many supporters across town.

The remaining conservative candidates in the race have almost no name recognition or prominence in town, which will present difficulties as they seek to oust the politically-strong incumbents. First-time candidate, Oak Hill Drive resident, and small business owner Christopher Donovan is currently running a campaign similar to Jones’. Retired MBTA inspector Robert Luce, also a first-time candidate, has yet to release any public statements outlining his positions on the issues, except brief quotes in The Walpole Times that appear to show him against the proposed override. Former Selectman and perennial candidate Bill Hamilton, who has been against revenue increases in the past, is running for the board for the third time in four years and isn’t expected to win.

Though Jones may have been the biggest menace to the incumbents, his exit from the race may also boost the candidacies of Donovan and Luce. Many political observers believed that with Jones and so many other conservatives in the race, the conservative vote would be split, to the advantage of the incumbents. Now conservatives can focus on coalescing around two candidates rather than three. What remains up in the air is whether Donovan and Luce, who are said to be more passionate than Jones is about their brands of conservatism, can attract the same moderate and right-of-center voters that they will need to win and that were drawn to Jones’ candidacy. If they can take Jones’ votes, and if they continue to pound the pavement and get wider name recognition, they could actually benefit from Jones’ withdrawal.

To Russell Jones: Thank you for fighting for conservative causes and for your desire to serve. See you around town.

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