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During Monday’s mayoral forum in City Hall auditorium, sponsored by Team Haverhill, Haverhill League of Women Voters and The Eagle-Tribune, Sally Cerasoulo O’Rorke (left), incumbent James Fiorentini, and James Rurak (right) debate the issues.

Three of the four candidates in the preliminary mayoral election squared off on important issues Monday night before an impassioned crowd in the City Hall auditorium and a live television audience.

Incumbent James J. Fiorentini, anchored by challengers Sally Cerasuolo-O’Rorke to his right and James A. Rurak to his left, sat in the heat of the lights as representatives from the three sponsors of the 2007 Mayoral Forum posed questions.

Candidate William “Red” Slavit was invited but did not attend.

As candidates spoke under strict time constraints, the audience seemed unable to rein in its applause. To save time, forum organizers attempted to stifle cheers until every candidate had answered questions, but the debate still went on for more than two hours.

The three candidates rarely agreed on anything during the Monday night forum as they were handed multifaceted and important questions from panelists. Cerasuolo-O’Rorke, previously the president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce for nine years, painted herself as a fresh face for Haverhill, while Rurak, mayor of Haverhill from 1994 to 2002, and Fiorentini, sparred about who was to blame for the current condition of the city.

They took on the issues of city debt, education, open space, promoting the city and health care, among others. The breakdown on where the candidates stand, according to their Web sites, campaign materials and their positions at the mayoral forum, follow listed in the order in which they will appear on the Sept. 18 preliminary election ballot.

Incumbent James Fiorentini is campaigning on his successes in bringing big name retailers and new jobs to the city, and revamping old mill buildings in the downtown.

A lifelong resident of Haverhill, he is married to Martha (Cooper) Fiorentini, and has three children. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and his law degree from Northeastern University’s School of Law.

If re-elected, Fiorentini wants to continue his “smart growth” policies in the city to keep “Haverhill on the move.”

To deal with Hale Hospital debt, he wants to hold the line on spending, more cuts in health-care costs and long-term state assistance.

William “Red” Slavit is a former harbormaster in Haverhill with a long history of working on the Merrimack River. He has no Web site and did not attend the 2007 Mayoral Forum.

Sally Cerasuolo-O’Rorke, former president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce for nine years, is campaigning on the idea that she will bring a new perspective and a fresh look to the office of mayor because she is not responsible for any of the failures of past administrations.

A lifelong resident of Haverhill, she is married to Vincent O’Rorke and has five children and two grandchildren.

According to her Web site, her No. 1 priority as mayor would be to better the schools and the education community in Haverhill. She wants to bring back a “team approach” to leadership in City Hall and feels the key to success is deliberate and strategic commercial growth. She believes the city needs a long-term plan for Hale Hospital debt, not the existing Band-aid approach.

James Rurak, mayor of the city from 1994 to 2002, is trying to regain his seat atop Haverhill city government by focusing on his successes when he was mayor along with what he would change to better the city. He has a plan to save $1 million in health-care costs, and would still like the city to save money by aggregating its own electrical power — something he said could save the city $2 million annually.

Rurak was born and raised in Haverhill, is married to Kathleen Rurak and has three children. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Bates College, his doctorate from University of Chicago, and reached the rank of sergeant in the United States Army Reserves.

Rurak wants to repair the rift between business and City Hall, and help Haverhill strike a balance between economic development and conservation.

Polls for the primary are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The two winners will face off in the final city election on Nov. 6.



Below is the list of polling places for the Sept. 18 city mayoral primary election. Polls will open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, and close at 8 p.m.

Ward 1

Precinct 1

Consentino School

Precinct 2

Washington Square elder housing community room

Precinct 3

Haverhill High School gymnasium

Ward 2

Precinct 1

First Church of Christ

Precinct 2

Hunking School art room

Precinct 3

Moody School

Ward 3

Precinct 1

Citizens Center, Room 22

Precinct 1A

Washington Square Elderly Housing

Precinct 2

Haverhill Public Library

Precinct 3

Universalist Unitarian Church

Ward 4

Precinct 1

Nettle School

Precinct 2

Second Baptist Church

Precinct 3

Kennedy Circle Elderly Housing Community Room

Ward 5

Precinct 1

Julian Steele Elderly Housing, Washington Street, community room

Precinct 2

First Presbyterian Church

Precinct 3

Haverhill High School gymnasium

Ward 6

Precinct 1

St. James School cafe

Precinct 2

John Greenleaf Whittier School library

Precinct 3

Pentucket Lake School music room

Ward 7

Precinct 1

Elderly Housing community room -- Greystone Avenue

Precinct 2

Hunking School Library

Precinct 3

Bradford Elementary School -- Montvale Avenue

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