EVERETT — Gary Watts’ write-in campaign to be the next mayor of Everett is founded on hope, prayer and an exasperation with drug addicts.
And with results of the August primary revealing nearly 40 percent of voters didn’t cast a ballot for either finalist, Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy, it’s apparent that Watts barging onto the electoral landscape cannot be ignored.
This isn’t to predict the peppery 75-year-old will be victorious in November — and if history is an indication, he won’t — but it helps explain the first-time candidate’s beat-the-world bravado.
“If we can get our word out to the people we’re trying to reach, it will be an interesting election,” he said Tuesday. “I plan on winning.”
Watts conducts his campaign out of his automotive business, Z Sports, at 3532 Smith Ave., which, it turns out, is where he now lives. When he filed as a write-in candidate he reregistered as a voter at that address.
He’s not raising money though he insists he’ll spend as much $80,000 in the campaign’s final seven weeks if necessary. An employee is helping manage the campaign and another is designing a website Watts says will go live soon.
There’s serious energy behind this, so why wait until September to exert it?
Watts said he wanted to know how Franklin and Tuohy would deal with what he considers the most important challenge facing the city — a surging population of substance abusers who take advantage of free health and social services, then go unpunished for crimes they commit to finance their drug habits.
He became so fed up he put “Welcome to Tweakerville” on the reader board near his second shop on Broadway, capturing the attention of the community, its leaders and the region.
After the primary, Watts met separately with Franklin and Tuohy and made the same demand: Give me a plan on how you will make it safer for residents and businesses.
“I said I will support you if you will come back with a plan. Neither came back with a plan,” he said, adding that he’d abandon his write-in campaign if either put something in writing “that I could hold somebody’s feet to the fire.”
Tuohy said she told him she is working on a plan and “still am.”
“I want it to be realistic and on the right track and not make it up,” she said.
Franklin said she “shared my ideas of what I intend to do as mayor” noting any plan she creates would be put online.
“I totally understand his frustrations,” she said, adding that she also expressed concern about some of his practices.
With Watts in, for now, can he win?
He will need to garner in the neighborhood of 40 percent of votes. That means counting on several thousand voters to share his frustrations and fears, know that he is running and remember to write in his name. They also would have to reject both Franklin and Tuohy as viable leaders for the city. What makes this seem an unreasonable assumption is voters elected the women to the City Council two years ago and it’s hard to believe a lot of them would lose faith this quickly.
Watts’ candidacy will almost certainly take away votes from each of the women. How many is what Franklin and Tuohy, and their advisers, are trying to figure out. This looked to be a close race before Watts got in. Now he could spoil it for one of them.
Publicly Franklin and Tuohy insist they are focused on running their campaigns.
“I am sure he is going to pull votes from someone,” Tuohy said. “He isn’t going to make me any more nervous than I might have been before.”