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Salem selectmen decide against special election

Union Leader Correspondent

August 23. 2017 9:46PM

SALEM — The town will be down one state representative until next November.

The Board of Selectmen decided on Monday to not ask the state for a special election to fill a vacant seat after Ronald Belanger died on July 14.

Belanger, who was 78 years old, was serving his 13th term as a state representative when he died. He also served as a selectmen for the town. He was a retired police officer from Chelsea, Mass., and a graduate of Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, Mass., and was first elected to the New Hampshire House in 1992.

To fill the seat, the town would have to write a petition to the state asking for a special election, according to Interim Town Manager Chris Dillon.

The topic was brought up at the Monday night Board of Selectmen’s meeting by resident Carla Billingham, who first expressed her sorrow over the loss of Belanger.

“The circumstance of the current vacancy are sad and unfortunate,” she said.

She asked for the election to ensure that the town was being adequately represented in Concord. Billingham said that Belanger had been absent much of his first year of this term due to his illness and didn’t want this to continue into the second year.

“Salem deserves to have all hands on deck for these important issues,” she said, citing issues like education, healthcare and energy.

However, selectmen said they thought the town was already well represented at the state capitol.

There are eight other legislative members representing the town, said Selectmen and State Rep. Gary Azarian. The Senate President, Chuck Morse, also hails from Salem.

“Salem has always been well represented even though Rep. Belanger’s illness,” he said. “ ... I don’t think Salem is loosing any representation by not having nine. I think we’re still well represented with eight.”

The town would also be responsible for the cost of holding the special election, something not included in the budget approved this past town meeting. The cost would be between $20,000 and $30,000 for both the primarily and final vote.

The seat will be on the ballot for the upcoming midterm election next Fall.

“Essentially the seat will remain vacant until the November election of next year,” Dillon said.

Local and County Government Salem