Primary blues

Predictions have no consequences, except when you make really weak ones. If you’re going to bother making a call, I learned, people want a strong one. Great lesson learned.

The city primary is on Tuesday; It’s time for predictions

If it weren’t for the smattering of signs across the city and coverage by the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News, even a relatively engaged resident might easily forget there’s a primary election on Tuesday. So it’s not much of a stretch to predict a record low turnout: less than 15 percent of registered voters heading to the polls.

Now, here are some other predictions:

In the race for alderman at-large, Dan O’Neil will likely be the top vote-getter, bolstered by union turnout. As for the No. 2 vote-getter, my money is it won’t be Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez after his budget proposal that left firefighters out in the cold. Though he’ll likely earn a spot on the November ballot.

The Ward 11 and 12 aldermen will also continue on to November, as will Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau. But whether former Alderman Peter Sullivan or former Deputy Welfare Commissioner Diane Guimond earns that second spot is too close to call.

In the Ward 5 school committee race, Ted Rokas will easily pull in the most votes. Voters have continually rejected Robert Tarr in the past, but when fellow candidate Tara Powell does absolutely no campaigning, it could give him an in. In Ward 8, there are three strong candidates. That’s going to be a tough one.

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CANDIDATE FINANCIAL filings are due Monday, but early submissions show the race for mayor, financially speaking, is very lopsided.

Mayor Ted Gatsas added $50,630 to his coffers since July 1, putting his total campaign haul at more than $150,000. His opponent, Democrat Chris Herbert, raised $2,375. Of that $2,250 has already been spent.

Lopez had a stellar showing, pulling in $9,335 through his Friends of Mike Lopez political committee. Part of that money was spent on blue polo campaign shirts, which could be spotted on a few supporters during Wednesday’s Taste of Downtown event.

Another top fund-raiser was the Granite State Teamsters, which raised $3,592 for local candidates. The organization donated to 14 city candidates, including Welfare Commissioner Martineau. Most donations were $100, but alderman candidate Nikolas Levasseur was given $200 to use in what will soon become a tough battle for the Ward 4 seat.

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WHEN THE MAYOR made his reelection bid official this year, he told this newspaper he would serve a full term if reelected. But in politics, circumstances can change, as they did on Thursday when Gov. John Lynch announced he would not run for a fifth term.

Did Lynch’s move affect Gatsas’ plan to seek reelection?


“I don’t change my mind based on what other people’s decisions are,” Gatsas said.

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CITY POLICE took some hits during the debate over Senate Bill 88, which survived a Lynch veto last week and will become law in November. The measure will allow civilians to use deadly force when responding to the threat of deadly force anywhere they have a legal right to be.

In a letter to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week, Republican state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt accused Police Chief David Mara of lobbying on the clock when he spoke against the bill, specifically his tour with Gov. Lynch through a center-city neighborhood last month.

“To the extent that Manchester police receive state funds, I suggest that Chief Mara (and all other police officials who engaged in lobbying against any legislation) have broken the law by engaging in lobbying activities against SB 88,” wrote Vaillancourt. “Therefore, I feel duty bound to forward a copy of this letter to the Attorney General’s attention.”

During the tour, Mara argued the law is not a good fit for urban cities such as Manchester.

“It’s a vibrant neighborhood. But, unfortunately, there has been a lot of gun violence around here, and we don’t want to add to it,” Mara said during the tour. “Now they can’t just start shooting. This (bill) allows them to just start shooting, and that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Republican state Sen. Tom DeBlois took a more underhanded shot at police on the Senate floor this month. With declining public safety budgets, DeBlois said, SB 88 allows residents to take responsibility for their own safety.

“It’s great to have the police protect us, and they do a fabulous job doing that, but when you’re shot and you’re laying in the street, the police are there to investigate why it happened, not to stop it,” said DeBlois.

DeBlois incorrectly noted, however, that Manchester police are being laid off. The current budget allowed for new police hires, not layoffs.
Mayor Gatsas has long stood by Mara, and this issue was no different.

“Chief Mara is the law enforcement officer of the city. He came to me, we had a conversation, and I certainly respect his opinion,” said Gatsas. “He’s there in the trenches, fighting the battles. I just hope this legislation doesn’t have any unintended consequences to it, as SB 500 did.”

When it became law in 2010, SB 500 mandated that inmates be released from prison and sent to community supervision within nine months of their maximum term. Subsequent legislation rendered it moot.

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IT’S BEEN A TOUGH year for the Manchester City Library. There were layoffs and the West Side Branch was nearly shut down. Library Director Denise van Zanten has handled these rocky times with professionalism, part of the reason she was awarded the New Hampshire Library Directors of the Year award by the New Hampshire Library Trustee Association.

Van Zanten was one of two to receive the award for exhibiting professionalism and leadership and making notable contributions toward fulfilling library goals. Joannie Barrett, chairman of the Manchester City Library Board of Trustees, credited van Zanten with “going above and beyond the call of duty, from working with difficult budgets to moving books on weekends after heavy rains and flooding.”

The trustees plan to give van Zanten the award in a ceremony at the library.

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