Primary fizzled

I thought we pumped the crap out of the primary, but there were many people who said we could have done more. While I think they are only partially right, it did light a fire under me to kick up the city election coverage a notch.

I also put a little more effort in coming out with some solid analysis. Working on the speaking with authority thing every day.

Low voter turnout did little for anyone — especially the city

Sure, there was no primary for mayor, considered a big driver in past elections, but by the way the mayoral race has been skewed thus far, it’s unlikely casual voters will rush to have their voice heard in an expected rout.

There were also few primary races. Not counting the poll-worker races such as moderator and clerk, there were six primary races out of a possible 30, even after the City Clerk practically begged people to run. Some people interviewed said the poor turnout was due to a lack of notice, but with daily mentions of the primary in the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News for more than a week, ignorance is no excuse.

Alderman Jim Roy said leaving future leadership up to a tiny fraction of the city worries him. There are some big issues facing this city and a complicated tax cap question on the November ballot that has major consequences for next year’s budget. Low turnout, little enthusiasm and a lack of interest in city issues is worrisome indeed.

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OTHER TAKE-AWAYS? Incumbent Dan O’Neil was the top vote-getter for alderman-at-large, but he was beaten by business owner Joe Kelly Levasseur in five wards.

— There were 600 people so dissatisfied with the Alderman At-Large candidates, they voted for a guy who has pledged to leave the city as soon as he can.

— Board of School Committee candidate Tara Powell may have squeaked her way onto the November ballot, but less than a quarter of the people who showed up in Ward 5 voted for her.

— And Welfare Commissioner Paul R.R. Martineau beat former Deputy Welfare Commissioner Diane Guimond in every ward, coming away with 1,000 more votes than Guimond, but factoring in the 1,100 votes cast for the other two candidates, this race is going to be close.

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HAVING SERVED as a city firefighter is no longer a guarantee of firefighter union support. The Manchester Professional Firefighters have endorsed state Rep. Nick Levasseur in the Ward 4 alderman race, snubbing former city firefighter Alderman Roy. Union President Ryan Cashin said the decision was based on Levasseur’s support and Roy’s lack of support of public safety.

Reading between the lines, it’s for Roy’s vote for the recent budget compromise that led to 13 out of a 15 potential firefighter layoffs and his proposal to eliminate the six district chief positions and use the money saved to hire entry-level firefighters.

“When I brought my idea forward I knew there was going to be some backlash. I didn’t think it was going to be from (union) Local 856 since I was trying to save 15 of their firefighters,” said Roy. “All 13 of those firefighters would have stayed in the city of Manchester and emergency response would have stayed at the same level as before.”

But Cashin disagrees, citing a federal study supporting the command structure and staffing levels the Fire Department ran before the cuts.

“Candidate Jim Roy has gone against all empirical data we have. He is looking to reduce firefighters and command staff to a point we feel is unsafe for the city of Manchester,” said Cashin

The union has made this a high-profile endorsement, posting large signs around the city boasting of their support of Levasseur.

“It’s got some good attention and some bad attention,” said Cashin. “Some people have actually gotten threats for the signs.”

The threats were “basically that there will be payback if Jim Roy wins,” Cashin said.

If anyone is threatening payback, Roy said it isn’t coming from him.

“(The endorsement) was a surprise to me, but that’s politics,” said Roy. “Unfortunately in my position, I’ve got to look at the union I evolved from and I have to look at what’s best for the taxpayer too.”

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ENDORSEMENTS HAVE been a nasty business this election cycle, first with Roy and now with Garth Corriveau. Former Ward 6 Alderman Real Pinard isn’t endorsing the man who took over his previous post, but instead is supporting Zoning Board Chairman Brian Desfosses. Part of it is simply knowing Desfosses’ family for many years, but Pinard also said he didn’t think Corriveau was fulfilling his constituent duties.

“As an alderman, I think I gave 99 percent of my time to the residents of Ward 6, which Garth is not doing,” said Pinard. “Hopefully Brian Desfosses will do a little better than Garth is doing.”

The endorsement has bred hard feelings. Pinard said Corriveau refused to shake his hand at the polls on Tuesday. Corriveau, who said he was holding a sign in one hand and a coffee in the other, saw the interaction differently.

“I’m sorry Pinard’s feelings were hurt. We had a pleasant conversation at the polls on Election Day. In November I’ll make sure my hands aren’t as full,” Corriveau said.

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WAS THAT MAYOR Ted Gatsas scrolling through his cell phone during the school board’s Coordination Committee meeting last week? The ardent advocate against electronic devices in the aldermanic chambers had a simple explanation. Gatsas said he was checking to see if his phone was on.

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ALDERMAN AT-LARGE candidates Will Infantine and Joe Kelly Levasseur need to send Al Kaprielian a gift basket. The legendary weatherman recorded a robo call reminding voters about the primary.

“It’s going to be warm and sunny, so come out and vote,” Kaprielian told voters. “While you’re there, make sure to vote for Joe Kelly Levasseur and Will Infantine Alderman At-Large.”

He flubbed the forecast, but I doubt Levasseur and Infantine care much about that.

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