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November 09. 2013 9:38PM

Ted Siefer's City Hall: Manchester elections held thrill of victory and near victory


GATSAS 

In his victory speech Tuesday night at the Derryfield Country Club, Mayor Ted Gatsas conceded that he was a little nervous in the weeks heading into the election. This was his 13th general election in the year 2013. "I'm a pretty superstitious guy," he joked.

As we all know by now, Gatsas won reelection by a respectable 6 percent margin, but it was the closest race in his three campaigns for mayor.

And superstitions aside, some of the credit had to go to Patrick Arnold, the 30-year-old Democratic alderman who was a political nobody a year ago. Besides coming within 1,000 votes of the mayor, Arnold denied Gatsas the clean sweep he had in the previous elections.

Arnold won Wards 3 and 4 and came within 13 votes of winning Ward 9.

But there's another conclusion to be drawn from the election: Gatsas prevailed despite what appears to be an effective get-out-the-vote operation by the city Democrats.

It's notable that the largest single vote-getter Tuesday was Alderman-At-Large Dan O'Neil, even though he was scarcely challenged during the campaign.

O'Neil received nearly 2,000 more votes than he did in 2011. In addition, the Democrats could claim the only takedown of an incumbent: Ward 10's Phil Greazzo, who lost to Bill Barry.

And yet Gatsas still won by a comfortable margin, including in Ward 10. He also had his widest margin of victory in Ward 8, where Erika Connors, the Democrat incumbent on the school board, crushed Republican state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, 62 percent to 31 percent.

Gatsas, it's safe to say, has an appeal among city voters that transcends partisan loyalties.

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Based on the atmosphere at the Derryfield versus the Pint Publik House, where Arnold held his campaign party Tuesday night, you could have been confused as to who the victor was. Then and since, Arnold has been pretty excited about his performance in the election.

"I couldn't be more proud about the issues we raised and how to meet those challenges," Arnold told me as he was on his way out of town for a vacation.

So what's next for Arnold? He gave the distinct impression that city voters have not seen the last of him.

"The filing period for 2015 isn't for 515 days," he said. Not that he's counting.

"Between now and then, we're going to continue to be talking about issues of importance to Manchester residents and continue to be involved in the process," he said.

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Things got pretty tense in Ward 10, where Greazzo, a strong fiscal conservative, was defeated by Barry, a former police officer who had strong union support.

From Greazzo supporters there were accusations of public employee intimidation and campaign improprieties, and from Barry backers came harsh allegations over Greazzo's management of the Manchester Dog Park, his, ahem, pet project.

The tension appeared to carry over to election night. There was an incident between Barry's wife and Greazzo when he went over to congratulate Barry.

Apparently, she was less than gracious.

Greazzo said he didn't want to go into detail and "stir the pot."

In any case, it appears Greazzo and Barry have since patched things up.

"He called to apologize," Greazzo said, referring to the interaction with Barry's wife. "Bill and I were friends before the race started; we were Facebook friends," he said. "When he told me he was going to run, I pointed out some of the pitfalls. Politics is a rough game."

And Greazzo notes, it won't be long before the next election. "We'll see what happens in two years," he said.

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There may have been another Republican casualty in Tuesday's election: Will Infantine, who again lost his bid for an alderman-at-large seat.

Prior to the campaign, Infantine had been the chair of the Manchester Republican Committee, but he said he's not interested in returning to the leadership role.

"I'm done with city politics," he said. "I've given 10 years. I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly." Infantine declined go into detail on his decision, but he did note that this year's city election was the catalyst.

Infantine was caught in something of a tug-of-war between the city's Republican establishment, led by Gatsas, and his old buddy Joe Kelly Levasseur, who is, well, his own brand of Republican. Levasseur has had an increasingly tense relationship with the mayor - and he's repeatedly gone after the Manchester Police Department, both at City Hall and as an attorney.

But this election was further proof that, like him or not, Levasseur has a solid and steady core of support in the city.

He first won election to the at-large seat in 2011 with 6,829 votes, and he won it again on Tuesday with nearly the same number, 6,811 votes.

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After the excitement of the election, the school board meeting Tuesday feels a bit like having to go back to class after summer vacation. But there is something exciting about the meeting: it's going to be held at Dyn, the premiere Internet technology company at the Millyard. Field trip!

Superintendent Debra Livingston said at the last school board meeting that she wanted to build ties between the board and the business community and to help "give us a new picture of how to be very innovative and how to supply future training."

It also might be a good setting for the first update on the development of the Manchester Academic Standards. The business community has largely been supportive of the Common Core standards, arguing they will help ensure a well-trained work force. As Livingston presses forward with her district-based alternative to Common Core, she's going to have to make the case to opponents of the standards that they are still a worthy foundation.




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


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