While Mayor Art Ward remained in critical condition at Bristol Hospital Sunday, city officials continued to scramble to decide who should lead City Hall in the mayor's absence.
Democratic City Council members said that Acting Mayor Ken Cockayne, a Republican, should step down at Tuesday's council meeting and let Democrat Kate Matthews take the helm.
Ward notified the council and others before his Dec. 4 collapse that he intended to replace Cockayne with Matthews this month.
But Cockayne isn't giving in.
In an email to councilors this weekend, Cockayne said that "with the support of the Ward family, the Democratic town chairman and the Republican town chairman, as well as in consultation with various councilmen, I will be reappointing myself as acting mayor" until at least the Jan. 11 council meeting.
He expressed hope that Ward "will be back on the job" by January.
The city's Democratic Party leader, Elliott Nelson, said recently that Cockayne's doing fine as acting mayor and should stay in the post until January. Nelson is a close friend of the mayor's.
Complicating the issue for Democrats, Ward's choice for city attorney, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, is a former GOP state lawmaker with strong ties to his own party. Krawiecki would be the main source of advice for city officials trying to figure out how to handle a complicated situation.
Democrats, on the other hand, control four of the six council seats. Even with Ward out of the picture for the moment, they have enough votes to prevail on any issue where they stay united.
But it doesn't appear the council can prevent Cockayne from holding on to the acting mayor slot if he is determined to stay put.
Cockayne said he doesn't want to play politics at all. He said the only important thing for the city is to hold true to Ward's vision for Bristol and to pray for the mayor's speedy recovery.
Ward has been in intensive care since choking on a piece of steak at a tailgate party at the Italian Social Club. He apparently has been in a medically induced coma ever since, though neither the hospital nor Ward's family has confirmed the talk at City Hall.
Nelson has said that the family is "very optimistic" the mayor will recover, hopefully soon.
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