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Manchester officials say number of votes shows Dems showed up

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 08. 2017 10:37PM
Voters walk by a crowd of sign holders at the Ward 2 polls at Hillside Middle School in Manchester on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — While a breakdown by political party of ballots cast in Tuesday’s municipal election isn’t available yet, several city officials said the sheer volume of votes — the highest number of ballots cast in a Queen City election in 18 years — proves Democrats turned out in droves to support their candidates.

That resulted in the election of the first female mayor in the city’s 171-year history — though Republicans can claim several victories further down the ballot, taking seats on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Board of School Committee.

“It looks like the Democrats were very successful in identifying their candidates up and down the ballot and encouraging their faithful to vote for them all as a ticket,” said at-large school board member Rich Girard, who ran unopposed for reelection and received 11,015 votes.

Official results from Tuesday’s election released by City Clerk Matt Normand on Wednesday show challenger Joyce Craig defeating incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas by 1,498 votes, 53 percent to 47 percent — or 12,068 to 10,570 — becoming the first Democrat elected mayor of the state’s largest city in 14 years.

According to Normand, 22,830 votes were cast on Tuesday, or 40.8 percent of all registered voters in the city.

“Craig had almost a half of a million dollars and only lost by 64 votes last time,” said At Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur. “Gatsas’ shelf life was at its end because he did a great job holding the line on taxes and spending and the unions and big spenders wanted him out. They worked hard to get Craig her win. She owes her soul to them now.”

“At this point, my hope is that Mayor-Elect Craig will be the leader she said she would be during the campaign and reaches out to all of us who were also elected with the purpose of cooperating on the issues facing the city,” said Girard, who has been critical of Craig in the past. “They are many and many are serious, so I hope she’ll keep the promised focus on them and not on party or personality. I want to start anew and work with her now that she has been elected.”

Girard said he’s already reached out to Craig following her win.

“I’ve called Mayor-Elect Craig to offer my congratulations and express my sincere willingness to start with a clean slate so we can get the people’s work done. I look forward to my first meeting with her to get things underway.”

Further down the ballot, conservative candidates picked up a few seats on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and school board. Jimmy Lehoux defeated Democrat Erika Connors for the Ward 8 school board seat, John Cataldo topped retired firefighter and Democrat Betsi DeVries for alderman in Ward 8, and Republican Keith Hirschmann fought off a strong advance by Democrat Hassan Essa to retain his alderman’s seat in Ward 12.

Levasseur credited Gatsas with helping push several conservative candidates over the top.

“Thank goodness Gatsas ran, or Craig would have swept both boards with more liberal big spenders and the city would be in very serious trouble,” said Levasseur. “With Gatsas at the top of the ticket, he was able to help preserve the tax cap supporters’ position on the BMA by helping two Republicans win and stopping two former firefighters from getting on the board. Craig ran a great campaign, but she had two years to do so. Gatsas did what he could coming off a loss in the governor’s race — but his political shelf life simply ran out. Thankfully he ran and helped out the team.”

“As a mother with a middle school child, Mayor Craig will bring a different perspective to the role of school board chair than any mayor in recent history,” said David Scannell, who defeated incumbent Debra Langton by 20 votes to take the Ward 2 school board seat. “In her, students and parents will have a greater voice in school policy than they have had for many years.”

In Ward 3, official results show Mint Bistro owner Tim Baines — son of former mayor Bob Baines — in his first run for office defeated incumbent Pat Long by just 7 votes, 530 to 523. On Wednesday Long, the current board chair, said he would request a recount but was not optimistic the result would change.

“The majority of voters didn’t want me to serve them,” said Long. “I will be requesting a recount and don’t expect to gain votes. The machines are accurate.”

“My opponent Pat Long has been an incredible public servant for many years,” said Baines in a statement. “He has dedicated himself to the community and has worked tirelessly on behalf of so many. It was a very hard fought race but I want it to be known that this is someone that I have a great deal of respect for.”

On Wednesday, Lehoux thanked his supporters and his opponent for her service to Ward 8.

“Thank you to the voters in Ward 8 who came out and showed your support during my campaign and at the polls,” said Lehoux. “I am truly humbled and blessed. I believe Manchester’s best days are ahead of us and I look forward to working with the new mayor and the school board in making Manchester’s schools a magnet for students, teachers and families.”

John Cataldo thanked his supporters following his upset win for alderman in Ward 8.

“It was a hard fought race, and Betsi DeVries and her supporters should be proud of the campaign she ran,” said Cataldo. “Now is the time for unity in the city, so that we can work together to solve the tough issues facing Manchester. I congratulate Mayor-Elect Joyce Craig on her historic win, and I look forward to sharing my new perspective with the new Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Mayor Gatsas deserves high praise for everything he accomplished during his time as mayor, and for leaving Manchester as a growing and vibrant city with limitless potential.”

Craig’s win received national attention, with her victory mentioned on several morning network talk shows. She was also mentioned in a congratulatory tweet by former Vice President Joe Biden, who referred to her as an “incredible leader” in the community.

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