ATTLEBORO -- Mayor Kevin Dumas came in second for the first time in his political career at the hands of State Rep. Paul Heroux Tuesday as a field of three mayoral candidates was narrowed to two.
Heroux placed first in the race over Dumas, who's won election to the corner office seven times, by five percentage points in the city's only preliminary contest which featured a voter turnout of just 17 percent.
The two will square off in the city election on Nov. 7.
Former fire chief and city councilor Ronald Churchill finished out of the running with 12 percent of the vote.
Vote totals were 2,217 for Heroux, 1,966 for Dumas and 587 for Churchill.
Heroux, a Democrat, who has easily won election to the state Legislature three times, celebrated at his Newport Avenue home with supporters.
He said the win was partly due to the electorate's fatigue with long-term office holders as well as issues with school funding.
"I think I did well because people are ready for change," he said. "People don't like career politicians. They don't like people staying in one position too long."
He also cited dissatisfaction with school funding.
Pay increases and other cost hikes caused school officials to lay off about 30 teachers in Fiscal Year 2017.
Heroux claimed years of under funding education caused the crisis last year.
"He did a disservice to education," Heroux said.
Meanwhile, the Dumas camp which got the results at Morin's Diner on South Main Street was anything but downhearted.
Dozens of supporters lingered long after the results were in and appeared ready to start campaigning for the final.
The mayor said the low turnout, typical of preliminary city elections, doesn't reflect the true support he has among voters.
Dumas said he was pleased with his numbers considering it was a preliminary.
"I think it's a tremendous boost. People came out to say they are happy with the progress of the city and the initiatives we've put in place," he said.
When the main campaign gets rolling and his message gets out, his supporters will come out too, he said.
He said many voters were unaware of the preliminary, but they will be aware of the final, he said.
"We have to continue to sell our message of what we've done and what we will continue to do," Dumas said.
He defended his actions on school funding.
"I'm the first mayor in the city's history to fund above net school spending (the minimum required by the state) ever," he said.
Dumas has been increasing funding by $1 million a year for a number of years, which often means cuts in other departments, he said.
The campaign to come will feature a resume of accomplishment, he said.
"We will be highlighting our progress and our initiatives and everything happening in the city," he said noting that Gov. Charlie Baker is scheduled to come to Attleboro on Oct. 28 to endorse him.
"I'm very honored by the endorsement of the governor," he said.
It's not the only endorsement he will seek, the mayor said.
Dumas said he plans to reach out to Churchill for support as well.
He said he believes that Churchill has similar goals and beliefs about the direction in which the city should go.
"I'm hopeful he will support the Dumas administration," he said.
Heroux said he will leave an endorsement up to Churchill, but that he respects the campaign he ran.
"I heard no negativity out of him at all," he said. "I hope to earn the support of the people who backed him."
Churchill could not be reached for comment on his cell phone or his home phone.
Both candidates seemed ready to do battle over the next seven weeks.
Heroux is taking nothing for granted. "It's still anybody's game," he said.
He said he will not change his campaign and will run a "bottom up" effort by "going to the people," which means a lot of door knocking.
Dumas said he will present his record and 14 years of accomplishment to make his case.
"The city's "positive direction" and "unprecedented growth" will win him the support he needs for an eighth term, he said.
"Blue pride is alive and well here in Attleboro," Dumas said. "It's not happening anywhere else in the Commonwealth."
One of his supporters, state Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said Dumas' relationships with state officials from the governor down have been invaluable to the city's progress.
Like Dumas she believes the general election will tell a different tale.
"This was not a true gauge of the support Mayor Dumas has in Attleboro," she said.