Two years ago at this time the overwhelming issue in the Attleboro mayoral race was the school budget.

More than 30 teachers had been laid off and people were blaming Mayor Kevin Dumas.

Meetings were held and a Facebook group called Attleboro for Education was formed to advocate for more money.

The controversy went a long way toward getting Paul Heroux elected mayor over 14-year incumbent Dumas.

Now that controversy is all but forgotten as Heroux pumped more money into the school budget his first year in office and the state chipped in with more this year.

But, while the school budget has stabilized, no burning issues has popped up to replace it as the signature item in this year’s election.

Several long-time city activists have said this has been an unusually quiet election.

The breaking of ground on a new high school, the purchase of the bankrupt Highland Country to create a city park, and the announcement that a private developer intends to rebuild an entire block of downtown Union Street, have put the city in a positive light.

In fact, the big issue this time around might be Heroux himself, not his policies.

The talk in political circles is about who likes and who dislikes the mayor personally, rather than his record.

It’s no secret Heroux has his share of enemies in city politics. It’s gotten to the point where his opponent, City Councilor Heather Porreca, is running on a slogan of #nicematter.

She is making the case that she would get along better with other city officials.

What is unknown at this point is how much nice actually does matter.

Is temperament as important as results?

Do voters care that Heroux and school committee Chairman Stephen Withers Jr. don’t get along?

Or does it matter more to them that Heroux is the first mayor to create a stabilization fund for the schools to use when they are hit with unforeseen jumps in special education costs and is moving to replace middle school roofs that have been leaking for 20 years?

Are voters upset Heroux and firefighter union president Paul Jacques are antagonistic, or are they satisfied the mayor has increased staffing in the fire department?

Are voters put off by the constant bickering between the city council and Heroux, or is the infighting offset by the council agreeing with his proposals to become a Green Community and purchase Highland Country Club?

Do voters even know about the inside baseball tales of arguments between Heroux and the council?

Or, do they blame the council?

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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