The city’s municipal election won’t be held until November, but potential opponents of incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig — assuming she seeks reelection — are already mulling possible runs for the corner office.
While most political observers in the city expect Craig, currently in the second year of her first term in office, to seek reelection this fall, last week she said she is focused on the start of the municipal budget season.
“At this point in time, the budget is the biggest priority for me,” Craig said. “That’s where my focus is at this time.”
Former Republican state representative and Ward 9 resident Victoria Sullivan confirmed last week that she has had conversations with veteran GOP strategist Michael Biundo, a partner at the political consulting firm RightVoter, about challenging lifelong Democrat Craig in the nonpartisan municipal election.
“I was approached by a few people encouraging me to run,” said Sullivan, who served two terms in the House. “It really picked up after (Superintendent) Dr. (Bolgen) Vargas announced he was leaving. People know me as a strong advocate for our students and are urging me to run. I’m humbled by it, to be honest.”
Sullivan said education has always been a “top priority” of hers and she believes the city is in “desperate need of new leadership.”
Sullivan said another opportunity has also come her way recently, one that would allow her to “help a lot of New Hampshire families and children,” and she is discussing her options with her family. She hopes to make a decision on a possible run in the next few weeks.
Biundo, a top organizer on many national and local campaigns for more than 20 years, expressed support for Sullivan on Twitter late last week.
“You would make a good candidate,” Biundo tweeted. “Your dedication to Manchester, our children and the state of New Hampshire is inspiring. Your thoughtful consideration of this and other opportunities even makes me think even more highly of you.”
Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann, a longtime Republican and outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, also confirmed late last week he is giving serious consideration to another run for mayor. He ran for the office in 2001 but dropped out of the race by May, citing health issues.
“I am actively engaging business leaders about the possibility of running for mayor,” said Hirschmann, who added he hopes to make a final decision on any potential campaign in the next couple of weeks.
It didn’t take long for state Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley to fire the first salvo at Sullivan. Upon learning of her potential candidacy Buckley tweeted, “Prime example of why we keep oppo research even on the most unlikely of opponents. While it is doubtful Sullivan (no relation to any Democrat Sullivan) could be a credible candidate, we have the file ready no matter what!”
Sullivan tweeted back, “I am so irrelevant that he keeps a file on me. Not at all creepy.”
Sounds like game on to me.
Did Craig really encourage city residents to ask Domino’s Pizza to help repair potholes in the Queen City?
To paraphrase one of the pizza giant’s ad slogans, Oh, yes, she did. She’s just trying to save the taxpayers some dough.
Domino’s has developed a program called Paving for Pizza, which provides grants to eligible cities to fix potholes, but requires repaired potholes be painted with their logo.
The company is giving a grant to one city per state and chooses the city based on the most online requests from customers.
During last week’s BMA meeting Craig said Ann Marie Curry, who works in the city’s public works department, told her about the program.
“I’m encouraging folks to go to PavingforPizza.com, pop your zip code in, and we could be selected,” Craig said.
“I think this is controversial,” Alderman At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur said. “We’ll have to check with our union over at the highway department.”
Levasseur put a post on social media about Craig’s no-holds-barred approach to street repair, sparking dozens of comments.
“I can’t believe she would invite a pizza shop to work on our roads,” Hirschmann wrote on social media. “Our Highway Department is really hard working and battling everyday to maintain our roads. This is silly time leadership by Joyce.This is sophomoric on her part.”
Another post asked, “Will they guarantee to fix a pothole in less than 30 minutes?”
Late last week, Craig said she thinks the program is a good opportunity to secure some extra funds.
”I’m grateful that a city employee felt comfortable bringing this idea forward to help address a need in our community and save our taxpayers money,” Craig said. “This idea would provide an additional $5,000 for public works crews to use to repair our roads. I’m always looking for new ideas to help improve our city. And we all know, every dollar counts.”
Mike Whitten, executive director of the Manchester Transit Authority (MTA), told aldermen last week that if the partial government shutdown continues much longer, his department will run out of money.
According to Whitten, MTA hasn’t been able to draw down any federal funds since the shutdown began in December.
“That’s left us with a federal balance of $440,000,” Whitten said. “We’ve had to approach the city in past years for a short-term loan during other shutdowns but we’ve worked hard to avoid that moving forward. Initially, I wasn’t too concerned as we had enough strings to pull that we could make it to February without any major impacts. Now that this is the longest shutdown in history, and February is two weeks away, my optimism is fading.”
Whitten said during a government shutdown in December 2016 the city loaned MTA $240K and then another $240K in January 2017. When access to federal funds was restored in February 2017, MTA issued a check for the full $480K to reimburse the city.
“Payroll is my chief concern,” Whitten said. “Our weekly cash obligation for wages, taxes and pension is approximately $90,000. MTA is fine this week and next week. That gets us to the week of Jan 27.”
Whitten said MTA has invoiced the school district for $245K covering December school operations.
“If we can get that payment made this week or next week, that carries us through two additional weeks,” Whitten said.
Another option is the $199K in outstanding capital for the remaining two school buses.
If the government is still closed month, Whitten anticipates approaching aldermen at their Feb. 19 meeting to request a loan.