Both camps in Manchester mayoral race encouragedBy PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 20. 2017 11:04PM
MANCHESTER — Reaction to the results of Tuesday’s nonpartisan mayoral primary election depend on which side of the political spectrum one falls on.
Supporters of challenger Joyce Craig were pointing excitedly to the fact she won 10 out of 12 city wards, en route to becoming the first woman to ever win a mayoral primary in the Queen City.
Backers of incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas say he outperformed his performance in the 2015 primary, receiving 46 percent of the vote, compared to 42.5 percent two years ago.
Whatever lens the results are seen through, one thing is certain — for both candidates, the hardest work lies ahead.
“They both know this is really a November play,” said Greg Moore, a longtime Republican activist and state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, a conservative advocacy group. “I think both campaigns looked at the primary as a preseason game. Now they focus on November.”
Craig and Gatsas, who squared off in 2015, finished 1-2 in Tuesday’s primary election. According to official results released Wednesday afternoon by City Clerk Matt Normand, Craig finished with 5,812 votes, and Gatsas placed second with 4,997.
Gatsas is seeking a fifth term in office, while Craig is looking to become the first woman to be elected mayor in the Queen City. In 2015, Gatsas won the November race by 64 votes following a recount.
“I’m energized by tonight’s results,” Craig said in a statement. “Residents of Manchester said loud and clear that they are ready for a change in the mayor’s office.”
“I look at tonight with great optimism given that I outperformed my primary performance two years ago,” said Gatsas in a statement. “I look forward to the next 40-plus days of hard campaigning, meeting voters, and talking about the issues that matter.”
“Both sides can spin it any way they want — it’s going to be a close race,” said former Manchester Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau, who remains active in the Democratic party. “They are two well-known names, and the issues really haven’t changed in the last two years.”
While Manchester’s municipal elections are considered nonpartisan, both candidates are heavily involved in their respective political parties — Craig a registered Democrat, and Gatsas, a registered Republican.
The New Hampshire leaders of both parties weighed in on results in dueling statements.
“Joyce Craig’s campaign has proposed a lot of new spending for Manchester, but it has been absent in outlining how she intends to pay for it,” said NH GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester. “With Democratic aldermen seeking to override the city’s tax cap year after year, Joyce Craig needs to be transparent and honest about her tax and spending plans. How much does Joyce Craig want to increase Manchester’s taxes?”
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley issued a statement calling Tuesday’s results a “loud rejection” of Gatsas.
“Instead of focusing on solving Manchester’s most pressing issues, Gatsas has been distracted by problems of his own creation,” said Buckley. “The people who know Gatsas best rejected him in his home ward by a double-digit margin. Voters sent a clear message that they want a fresh approach to politics.”
Normand said the official voter turnout figure for Tuesday’s primary was 11,134 — or 19.9 percent of the city’s 55,905 registered voters. Of those, 18,305 are registered Democrats, 15,616 registered Republicans, 18 are Libertarians, and 21,965 are undeclared.
“I would expect to see turnout more along the lines of 50 percent in November,” said Moore. “Both campaigns will be ramping things up between now and Nov. 7. The people who came out on Tuesday are the diehards — who come out for any election. Now they shift focus to getting every vote out there.”
Craig was endorsed by two more city unions Wednesday. The Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association (MPPA) and Manchester Association of Police Supervisors (MAPS) announced their support for her campaign.
“Joyce Craig has continually proven she understands the issues Manchester faces,” said Kenneth Chamberlain, president of MPPA. “She listens to law enforcement concerns and has the ability to sit down and work out problems, rather than hiding from them.”
“Joyce is an incredibly vocal supporter of law enforcement,” said Rich Brennan, president of MAPS. “Her strong communication and forward-thinking ideas are exactly what we need from a mayor. Manchester’s police officers trust Joyce Craig to lead our city forward.”
“I’m honored to have the endorsement of Manchester’s law enforcement officers. Their commitment to protecting Manchester is unparalleled,” said Craig.
Craig has also been endorsed by the Manchester Association of Fire Supervisors and the Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association.
Only twice since 1999 has a second-place finisher in a city primary gone on to win the general election in November — in 1999, five-term Republican Mayor Raymond Wieczorek won the primary but lost the general to Democrat Bob Baines, and in 2005, when Baines won the primary but lost to Republican Frank Guinta.
“Both candidates know each other well,” said Corriveau. “Gatsas knows Craig is a tough opponent, and she knows how close it was last time. They have their work cut out for them.”
The city’s general election will be held Nov. 7.
The municipal election results can be viewed below: