METHUEN — The four-candidate mayoral race will be the only item on next month's preliminary election ballot.
Voters will narrow the field down to two finalists Sept. 20, with the top vote-getters facing off Nov. 8 in a general election for the right to replace outgoing Mayor William Manzi.
The four candidates for mayor that will appear on the preliminary ballot are incumbent city councilors Jack Cronin and Stephen Zanni, incumbent School Committeeman Kenneth Willette Jr., and local businessman Al DiNuccio. Voters will be allowed to select only one candidate.
In addition to electing a new mayor Nov. 8, general election voters will also choose three at-large members to the City Council, two councilors each in the East, Central and West districts, and six Methuen School Committee members.
Yesterday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for potential candidates to return nomination papers to the city clerk's office. Four residents who initially took out the papers either did not return them in time or failed to include the required number of voter signatures.
As a result, School Committee hopefuls Lorie Aliano and Paul Downing and City Council hopefuls Joseph Leone (East District) and Joseph Lambert (Central District) will not appear on the general election ballot. Leone also failed to return papers for Methuen Housing Authority.
Had Lambert made the ballot, he would have triggered a preliminary election in the Central District council race. Instead, voters in the district will elect two new councilors out of a field made up of James Atkinson, Lisa Yarid Ferry, David Lavallee and Fadi Chahine.
The voter signatures returned by Chahine must still be certified by the city clerk for his candidacy to become official. Current Central District councilors Cronin and Phil Lahey both will be forced to leave office at the end of this year due to term limits, which prevent candidates from serving longer than three consecutive two-year terms.