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Salem selectman candidate wants off ballot, but is told it's too late

SALEM - While Stephen Kelly's name will still appear on next month's Salem town ballot, he said he's no longer a viable candidate for the board of selectmen race.

Kelly, who filed for the sole three-year board opening against incumbent Pat Hargreaves last month, said he's had second thoughts about serving. But when he went to the town clerk's office last week, he was told the Feb. 1 deadline to withdraw from the ballot had passed.

"It wasn't a complicated decision," Kelly said, noting that he'd attended a few board meetings recently and ultimately came to realize the position just wasn't quite what he had in mind.

"I really didn't realize there was so much minutia involved and I guess I just didn't really grasp the whole scope of it before," Kelly said. "While I'm still interested in politics, budgets aren't really my strongest suit."

He said his family supported his decisions to run and eventually withdraw. Kelly said many members of the public had encouraged him to run for the board, and he appreciated the support regardless of his change of heart.

That change of heart means Hargreaves, the board's current chairman and sole contender for the vacant selectman seat, will likely be spending some additional time in his position next year.

Town Clerk Susan Wall said she received a phone call from Kelly on Feb. 13, nearly two weeks after the filing period ended.

"Unfortunately he called us too late," Wall said on Friday. "The ballots had already gone to the printer's."

Under state law, candidates wishing to withdraw from the race after filing period ended must have a valid reason for doing so, such as a verified illness or injury that would prevent them from serving.

A signed doctor's letter confirming either a family or personal medical issue would be required to remove a name from the ballot after the deadline, according to Wall.

Since that isn't the case with Kelly, his name will still appear alongside Hargreaves' on the March ballot.

Should Kelly be declared the winner of the selectmen race based on residents' votes next month, he'd have to officially decline the position, Wall said.

And if that happens, the other four selectmen would likely appoint Hargreaves to continue his term for another year, though another vote would be required to place at the 2014 polls in order properly elect someone to serve the term's remaining two years.


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