It’s Election Day in the Queen City, bringing to an end a long, hard fought campaign in which incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas has kept focus on taxes and spending and the next steps to combat the opioid crisis and rival Joyce Craig, a former Ward One alderman and school board member, has kept focus on the awful, terrible, very bad Mayor Ted Gatsas. The race is, of course, a rematch of last election’s nail-biter that had Craig asking for a recount after losing by seventy five votes on Election Night. Because of an error in the recount, Gatsas ended up winning by sixty four votes instead of eighty nine. No matter how it gets sliced, it was really, really close.
Some expect that Craig will prevail today given her near miss two years ago.Other’s believe she hit her high water mark then and point to her parade of Democrats from across the country, like sanctuary city Mayor Erik Garcetti of Los Angeles and former Vice President Joe “the Groper” Biden as evidence she’s having trouble mobilizing her base.
Others believe that after two consecutive tax cap overrides and a property revaluation that caused taxes to spike, the override of Gatsas’ vetoes on overly generous labor union contracts, the ethical issues that have dogged both the Board of Aldermen and the Board of School Committee and both boards’ refusal to surrender their pricey taxpayer provided health benefits, the issue set has shifted in Gatsas’ favor and put at risk a number of incumbents on both boards. They believe Gatsas will eek out a bigger win than two years ago while challengers have a good day in the races for alderman and school board.
By eight o’clock tonight, we will know who is right. The polls open this morning at six and close tonight at seven. So, let’s go ward by ward and take a look at all the races.
In Ward One:
Incumbent Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh faces a tougher than expected reelection bid against former Ward Three School Board member Christopher Stewart, who’s ignored the conventional wisdom about his impending doom to wage a very active campaign.
School board incumbent Sarah Ambrogi faces former State Rep. Joe Lachance in a race that’s been under most everybody’s radar. Some believe Ambrogi hurt herself by not only opposing the elimination of taxpayer provided health benefits, which she takes, but also by voting to keep secret the investigative reports that confirmed the violations of law committed by at-Large board member Nancy Tessier in leaking confidential personnel information and exonerated at-Large board member Rich Girard of the baseless wiretapping charges leveled against him.
In Ward Two:
Front runner Will Stewart faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bob O’Sullivan in the race for alderman. O’Sullivan seemingly turned the conversation from bike lanes and park maintenance to the opioid epidemic with his thirty-sixty-ninety plan saying if Manchester really wanted to restore its quality of life, it had to respond differently to the opioid crisis. He also hit hard on taxpayer concerns, pledging to uphold the city’s Tax Cap, which Stewart refused to do.
For school board, David Scannell, the union backed former Executive Director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party launched an all out assault against incumbent Debra Gagnon Langton, whose campaign rallied impressively in the last month. This is a campaign school board watchers have taken great interest in, believing it could determine whether or not the district moves forward with a number of important changes suggested by Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas and supported by Langton or solidifies a failing status quo that would be advanced by Scannell’s policies.
In Ward Three:
Incumbent Alderman Patrick Long is in one of the marquis battles of this election cycle with opponent Tim Baines, son of the former mayor. It has, at times, seemed personal between the two, who’ve fought for every vote on every imaginable level.
For school board, incumbent Mary Georges faces Phillip Harris. That race hasn’t been on anybody’s radar, but it’s one that could have a surprise result at the end of the night.
In Ward Four:
Two incumbents embattled over their utterances on taxes and spending are facing hard charging challengers. For alderman, incumbent Christopher Herbert faces Steve Mathieu in a rematch from two years ago. Mathieu has made hay with Herbert’s assertion that the elderly shouldn’t receive a tax exemption to stay in their homes, but should be on the receiving end of a government program that removes them from their homes when they can’t afford the taxes so people who can can move in.
School board member Leslie Want’s oft made statement that she’s not on the school board to represent the taxpayers but to represent the kids hasn’t been lost on challenger Mark Flanders, who pledged to use his experience handling an eighty million dollar budget in his job to help the district better allocate resources to stay within the tax cap. Want, who unapologetically demands more money for school spending, also disappointed her own supporters when it was discovered she took the taxpayer provided health insurance in the face of budget woes. She also voted to keep secret the aforementioned investigative reports.
In Ward Five:
Incumbent Alderman Tony Sapienza faces a challenge from someone named Cameron Barr. ‘Nuff said.
Incumbent school board member Lisa Freeman faces former at-Large school board member Kathy Staub who was tossed out of office two years ago after championing a policy that prevented the schools from sending kids with live head-lice home and prevented the schools from notifying parents of lice outbreaks. Staub also championed the Common Core and took the health insurance benefits while voting to cut school programs.
In Ward Six:
Newly elected Alderman Elizabeth Ann Moreau faces Peter Macone in a rematch of the special election she won in September.
The school board race pits incumbent Dan Bergeron against newcomer Jon DiPietro who’s held Bergeron to account for his votes against parental notification, for preserving the taxpayer provided health benefits, which he takes, and for covering up the violations of law committed by Tessier and the exoneration of Girard. DiPietro has also pushed the elimination of Common Core and other curriculum reforms, which Bergeron has opposed.
In Ward Seven:
Incumbent Alderman Bill Shea faces newcomer Brenda Noiseux and incumbent Ross Terrio faces Democratic Party intern Ethan Moorehouse, who just graduated from Memorial High School.
In Ward Eight:
The race for alderman is wide open with newcomer John Cataldo waging an aggressive campaign against former Alderman and State Senator Betsy DeVries, a former union firefighter that has refused to say she will uphold the tax cap. Cataldo has made taxes and spending his central theme.
The school board race features incumbent Erika Connors in a rematch with challenger Jimmy Lehoux, whom she narrowly defeated two years ago. Lehoux has grabbed a lot of attention with his plan to expand vocational education while Connors has created a lot of controversy by voting for budgets that reduced spending on classroom supplies and building maintenance while preserving the taxpayer provided health benefits, which she takes. She also voted to keep secret the findings of the investigations involving the at-Large board members and denied, despite the clearly published requirements of the outfit to the contrary, asking an outside political action committee to send hundreds of handwritten postcards sent from across the country to support her reelection bid as if they were people who lived in the ward.
Connors is also on the ballot as a Democrat in the special election for state rep. in the ward against conservative Republican Albert MacArthur, Jr.
In Ward Nine:
There’s another Battle of the Titans in the race for alderman, featuring incumbent Barbara Shaw and former Fire Chief James Burkush. Despite voting to overriding the tax cap twice in two years, conservatives have rallied to Shaw’s reelection because of her promise not to do it again. Burkush has said he will vote to override the cap. He has also said that he won’t vote on the firefighters union contract because his son is on the job. Shaw did vote on the teachers union contract covering her daughter, but has said she won’t do again.
In Ward Ten:
Incumbent Alderman Bill Barry says taxes aren’t an issue in his ward because crime, roads and schools are. He faces one of the tax cap founders in former State Rep. Tammy Simmons who says, unlike Barry, she won’t vote to override the cap and won’t take the city’s health insurance.
For School Board, incumbent John Avard, the man who gave us the current teachers contract, is up against newcomer Tom McGee who served for almost a decade on a school board in Massachusetts before moving to Manchester.
In Ward Eleven:
Former Alderman Russ Ouellette has taken the fight to incumbent Normand Gamache on both the tax cap and conflict of interest issues. Gamache, a retired firefighter, has voted twice to override the cap and voted multiple times on union contracts covering his daughter, who is a teacher, and his son, who is a firefighter.
For school board, incumbent Kate Desrochers, who made the bogus wiretapping accusations against Girard, voted to preserve health benefits for board members while voting to cut supply and cleaning line items faces newcomer Alexander Avery.
Finally, in Ward Twelve:
Two embattled incumbents are on the ballot. Alderman Keith Hirschmann is up against recent West High grad and college student Hassan Essa.
School board member Connie Van Houten is up against newcomer Kelly Thomas, who has deep roots in the ward and gave up a career in teaching to become a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. Van Houten is also up against her own record of relentless personal attacks against several board members that have soured many in the ward on her reelection bid.
All of the at-Large members on both boards are unopposed, as is Ward Nine school board member Arthur Beaudry.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next