By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Sal Tabit has pulled his name from the three-way School Committee race in March’s elections, leaving voters with two candidates to go in unopposed.
Tabit was slated to appear on the ballot for the March 26 elections after filing nomination papers with 63 signatures — not far above the 50 needed to run.
His withdrawal leaves the race uncontested between incumbent Paula Colby-Clements and candidate Barbara L’Italien, who both pulled nomination papers and filed around 100 signatures just hours before the cutoff for getting on the ballot had closed.
Tabit, who withdrew yesterday morning, said he made his decision “after talking to several people and looking at some of the critical issues that are going to be facing the town and School Committee.”
“I just realized that I wouldn’t have the time, given my law practice, to fully devote the necessary time and resources to the School Committee,” he said. “In particular, with this budget situation which is unresolved, I think it’s going to take a significant amount of time that I can’t afford to take away from my law practice.”
Tabit is an attorney with Broadhurst Tabit LLP, based out of Methuen. He also ran for state representative in 1998 and 2010.
With Tabit’s departure from the race, L’Italien, a four-term state Representative who lost consecutive bids for office in 2010 and 2012 to state Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), will now run uncontested after just squeezing onto the ballot earlier this month.
Recognizing that nothing short of a write-in campaign will stop her and Colby-Clements from winning in next month’s election, L’Italien said she’s going to spend her time before the town votes learning about the issues facing the schools.
“I know some of the local issues, but there’s a lot I need to learn to be effective and helpful to my town,” L’Italien said. “I want to be up to beat and be able to do the best job I possibly can.”
Still, she’s “excited and eager to serve,” she said.
“It’s really unusual to not have the big campaign, sort of a pleasant surprise,” L’Italien said. “I always had a contested race when I was a state legislator, always had a fight to keep that seat every two years.”
She and Colby-Clements aren’t out of the woods yet, however.
While the situation has changed, a write-in candidate could get strong support at polls and knock the candidate to receive the lesser number of votes on election day out of the running.
Town Clerk Larry Murphy, a six-year veteran of running elections, said he saw it happen in his old town of West Newbury.
In that scenario, an incumbent lost a re-election bid to a resident who was written in by voters.
“It certainly happens,” Murphy said. “There’s no question about it.”
While Tabit isn’t running in this race, when asked if he may run again in the future, Tabit simply said, “never say never.”
This year’s election will be held at the Andover High School field house on Tuesday, March 26 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Registration to vote ends on March 6. For more information, call the town clerk’s office at 978-623-8255.