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November 10. 2012 11:51PM

Ted Siefer's City Hall: Gatsas says he's 'going to continue to work for the city'


 
There's a fair amount of soul-searching going on in Republican circles these days after Democrats won sweeping victories Tuesday in national, state and local races.

One person not wringing his hands is Republican Mayor Ted Gatsas, whom many in the GOP see as the most promising prospect to regain the corner office.

"I applaud the people who put their names on the ballot. I feel bad for those who lost and congratulate those who won, every candidate," he said.

Gatsas, of course, is known to be far more practical than ideological, and he neither critiqued Republican strategy nor deplored the tactics of Democrats. Rather, he said, candidates needed to have single-minded focus on the economy.

"I think people are still scared about what the economy looks like, whether or not they're going to have a job tomorrow, and for those without a job: 'When am I going to find one,'" he said. "We can talk about everything under the sun, but that's what people want solutions to."

Without mentioning any names, Gatsas did say he didn't think there was enough on-the-ground campaigning in the governor's race. "People run their campaigns differently. I'm one of those old-school candidates who stands with a sign on the corner and waves," he said, adding, "That's something I only learned after 14 elections."

So, will Gatsas be the GOP's white knight and run for governor in 2014?

"It's going to be Gatsas for mayor. Right now, there are issues we need to deal with. That's what I'm hanging the shingle out for. I'm going to continue to work for the city and worry about what's next later."

Read into that what you will.

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Another lesson from Election Day might be that when it comes to Manchester politics, it helps to have the last name Pappas.

As we reported last week, Nicholas Pappas, a young Republican activist and first-time candidate, bested 59 others to win a coveted seat on the city's Charter Commission. He received the third-highest number of votes, and far more than any other Republican candidate, including the minor celebrities Rich Girard and Will Infantine.

Pappas insists he earned most of his votes through vigorous campaigning.

Mike Ball, the chairman of Manchester Republican Committee, agrees that Pappas "worked his tail off."

But he allows that having the name Pappas doesn't hurt. "People go to the polls, and there's a familiar name. Just like it doesn't hurt to have a French name on the West Side," he said.

Donald Manning, the chairman of the Manchester Democrats, has a different outlook on Pappas' victory.

"People saw the name Pappas in Manchester and thought it was Chris," he said. "It was a savvy move on (Nicholas Pappas') part to just put up signs that said Pappas. But I wish the man luck. He has a good opportunity."

Chris Pappas, part of a well-known Manchester family that owns the Puritan Backroom, won the race for District 4 Executive Councilor after a high-profile campaign. As a gay Democrat, Chris strikes a strong contrast from Nicholas, who was active in the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum.

Regardless of what motivated the voters, Pappas could help shore up the Republican bloc on a Charter Commission that appears divided, 5-4, in favor of Democrats.

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Nicholas Pappas will make his debut when the Charter Commission holds its first meeting Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 5 p.m. in the City Hall chambers.

At the meeting, the commission will elect a chairman, a vice chairman and a secretary. And before the commissioners sink their teeth into the charter and propose everything from making the school district a city department to holding partisan municipal elections, the public will have a chance to weigh in. The commission must schedule a public forum within 14 days of its first meeting.

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City voters may have had more time than they would have liked to savor performing their democratic duties on Election Day. Long lines and hours-long waits were reported at many city polling places. Part of the problem was that voting machines kept jamming due to the volume of ballots.

This prompted several ward moderators to wonder why the city never acted on their request, after similar problems during the presidential election of 2008, to place more than one scanning machine at the polling stations.

"We'd love to do it," said City Clerk Matt Normand. But those scanning machines cost a lot of money. A new machine, made by AccuVote, costs more than $65,000, and as it is, a significant chunk of Normand's budget goes toward maintaining and upgrading the existing machines, which are 15 years old.

Normand said the situation on Tuesday was exceptional, due to the high turnout - around 78 percent - and the fact that two ballots had to be inserted into the machines. "We wouldn't have any need (for more machines) in most off-year elections," he said.

As it was, the city was able to save $65,000 by holding the city election - for Charter Commission and Ward 11 alderman - the same day as the state election. So by waiting in long lines, voters were not only performing their civic duty, but also doing their part to keep the city's finances in check.

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Alderman, lawyer and restaurateur Joe Kelly Levasseur can add another title in front of his name. On Tuesday, he was elected register of probate for Hillsborough County.

The job, as it turns out, may not be much more than a title. As part of the recent budget cuts in the court system, the probate posts were stripped of their duties - and remuneration. The last guy to hold the office, Robert Rivard, was making more than $80,000 a year before he stepped down, according to Levasseur.

Levasseur filed to run before he knew that the position had been gutted, but he's still game.

"I don't know what the actual duties are or where the office is," he said. But "wills, trusts, estates, guardianships - it's a very personal and important issue for a lot of the population. You deal with a lot of extremely poor people that aren't able to pay for an attorney."

And he noted, he was one of the few Republicans to beat a Democratic opponent on Tuesday, winning some 70,000 votes.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter: @tbsreporter.

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