The Republicans turned to a political newcomer Wednesday to run as their mayoral candidate this year.
Mary Alford, a 62-year-old bookkeeper, said she hasn't run for political office before, but she's always had an interest in politics.
Alford steps in as a replacement for the party’s first choice, attorney John Gill, who pulled out of the race two weeks ago. She’s taking on incumbent Democrat Art Ward and independent Gary Lawton.
She said she decided to run after the GOP's city chairman, T.J. Barnes, asked her to consider it following Gill’s departure from the contest.
"There should always be a choice. That's what we do in this country," Alford said.
Barnes said that Alford deserves "big kudos" for having the courage to step into the political arena.
"Mary has a lot of enthusiasm and energy," Barnes said, and can "put a smile on her face through good times and bad."
She said she offers voters someone who can “think in a new way” and offer fresh approaches at City Hall. She also said she’s not afraid to say what she thinks.
Alford grew up in Plymouth and moved to Bristol when her son, Gary, wanted to wrestle for Coach Dennis Seigman at Bristol Central High School.
Alford said she doesn't know incumbent Mayor Art Ward and did not want to criticize him.
Both Ward and Lawton said they welcomed her to the race. They also said they want to campaign on the issues.
Alford said she views economic development "as the lifeblood of a city” and plans to emphasize it.
She said the city’s schools are also crucial.
“Education is really the heart, where the young get trained to take over," she said.
Alford, who lives on West Street, said the police and fire departments as "some of the best anywhere."
Alford also had kind words for public works, which she said does "a terrific job under very difficult circumstances."
Barnes said he first got to know Alford when she switched her political affiliation in 2004 from independent to Republican to reflect her views and so she could help select candidates, not just vote for the ones the parties put on the ballot.
But Alford said she really got involved heavily last year working for her friend Republican Jill Fitzgerald’s 77th District state House campaign, which ended in a Democratic victory.
“To be in it is really exciting stuff,” Alford said, and gave her a chance to meet many “great people.”
Alford knows she’s a long-shot in heavily Democratic Bristol, but she said she’s got a chance.
“That’s what they’re going to decide in November,” she said. “It’s all about choices. It’s all about opportunity.”
A single mother, Alford also has a daughter and two granddaughters in addition to her son.
She attended Terryville High School and took a few semesters of college classes at the Connecticut State Teachers’ College, the old name of Central Connecticut State University.
She said she has worked for all sorts of companies, large and small. She is a bookkeeper for a Thomaston firm.
Her favorite job, she said, was spending seven years taking care of her grandchildren.
Bristol has never had a woman mayor, but the Republicans have had women run for mayor at least twice in the past. Former city Registrar Ellie Klapatch was the first woman to seek the city’s top job more than two decades ago.
The election is November 3. Mayors serve two-year terms for $100,000 annually.
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