She entered the race for mayor saying she would work to control and lower taxes and collected the signatures of more than 800 voters, when only 200 were required to put her on the ballot. She was buoyed by the public response to her campaign, finding many residents remembered her and endorsed her efforts on behalf of animals. She was promoting a plan to build a water park for dogs, a fenced-in area on the shore, where dogs could be let off leash to swim.
But on Tuesday, with 28 days to the primary, Carel Callahan Bainum pulled out of the race. She submitted a letter announcing her withdrawal to the Board of Canvassers. As the primary ballot has already been printed, her name will appear as one of two candidates for mayor on the Democratic ballot.
Bainum issued a release yesterday stating that, “Due to an unexpected legal matter, which was not anticipated at the start of my candidacy, I will not be able to devote the amount of time necessary to successfully campaign while also dealing pro se with an unexpected legal matter.”
Bainum is representing herself in a $1.3 million lawsuit she brought against the Coventry Police Department in 2013. She said she was under the impression that a settlement had been reached but she said she received notice “nixing the proposed settlement” after her candidacy had been confirmed.
Bainum’s withdrawal leaves John “Jack” Kirby as the party’s nominee, although he has not yet won the Democratic City Committee’s endorsement. Kirby said Tuesday he has made the rounds appearing before the ward committees and hopes to get the party’s nod when the full committee meets.
“Hopefully, I’m going to get it,” he said.
The last time Kirby ran as a Democrat in 2010, he did so without the party’s blessing. Two years ago, he ran as an independent and, at the time, the Democrats didn’t come up with a candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Mayor Scott Avedisian.
Bainum’s withdrawal was news to Kirby.
“It’s too bad,” he said, adding that more ideas of how best to run the city are positive.
In her statement, Bainum writes, “I am encouraging my constituents to support Jack Kirby.”
Since she declared, Kirby said he hasn’t heard anything from Bainum or seen signs of her campaign. He pointed out that campaigns are expensive and raising funds is difficult.
So far, Kirby has held a fundraiser and is out getting up his red, white and blue signs that he recycled from one campaign to the next.
“We’re working,” said Kirby, explaining that about 15 “bigger” signs are up around the city and he expects another 15 would be standing soon.
“We’ll just keep plugging,” he said.
But while Kirby can breathe easy on primary day, Avedisian is still in a high stakes race with Stacia Petri for the Republican nomination. A pharmaceutical sales representative, Petri has a core group of supporters – some of them registered Democrats – who have been persistent critics of the administration. She is out campaigning and is effectively using social media to get out her message that a change is needed. Petri signs are appearing across the city, although she is selectively targeting Republicans who have a history of voting in primaries and knocking on their doors.
Avedisian has ramped up his campaign, getting out signs earlier than customary, issuing press releases, commenting on developments, such as the plans of retail outlets to locate in Warwick and launching his own Facebook page. He held a $10-a-ticket meet and greet last night at the Islander Restaurant and has a $50-a-ticket ($75-a-couple) fundraiser scheduled for Sept. 3 at the Haborlights Marina and Country Club at 6 p.m.
Kirby said he is surprised by the Republican race, as Avedisian has gone virtually unchallenged for years. In general elections, the mayor has consistently won more than 70 percent of the vote.
Reflecting his humorous side, Kirby asked, “Has Avedisian dropped out yet? Can he take the heat?”
Bainum said her lawsuit is an effort to clear her name of a misdemeanor charge of willful trespass at the Coventry Health Center more than four years ago. Convicted and sentenced to one year probation, Bainum alleges Coventry police officer Ryan DeSisto committed perjury on Sept. 16, 2010 as the state’s second main witness. She has also brought suit against the state’s first witness, Earle Lerner, the health care facility administrator, charging perjury, collusion and conspiracy.
Bainum’s arrest revolved around visiting her former neighbor, World War II veteran Michael Koczan. She claims Koczan’s daughter was keeping him “locked in the third floor dementia ward” against his will. While Koczan had granted his daughter the power of attorney, Bainum said an attorney for Koczan had drafted a revocation of the directive but was denied access to Koczan so he could sign it. She goes on to say that, within a year of gaining guardianship, Koczan’s daughter sold his property on Glen Drive and bought herself a house in Hot Spring Villages in Arkansas.
Bainum said had Koczan been given the opportunity to be heard in court, a judge would have realized “he was competent, and actually quite intelligent” and he would have been able to leave the court as a free man.
“Instead, Michael Koczan died on Jan. 4, 2013 while still imprisoned,” Bainum writes.
With a settlement of the Coventry Police suit not in the offing, Bainum said, “I’m not able to fit a vigorous, and what I’d anticipated to be a fun campaign, into my busy schedule.”
In addition to her suits against Coventry Police and the willful trespass charge, Bainum is involved in a third suit with Sona Stevens, daughter of Vartan Baligian in an unrelated matter dating before 2007.
She said she could have handled two cases and continued to be a mayoral candidate, “but three cases would really be too much.”