City Campaign Roundup: Gatsas won’t run, Craig gets SEA endorsement, state budget reactions

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It’s Friday, June 25, 2021. Here’s what’s been going on this week on the campaign trail for the 2021 Manchester municipal election.

Gatsas won’t run for mayor

On Tuesday, former Manchester Mayor and Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas announced in a six-part tweet that he would not be running for mayor this fall.

Gatsas said that he appreciated the outreach and urged voters to look at “alternatives to the status quo,” but felt that he should continue focusing on his role in the New Hampshire Executive Council.

Gatsas has served on the Executive Council since first winning election in 2018. In the past, he also served as Alderman and as a State Senator prior to serving as mayor from 2009 to 2018.

State Employees Association endorses Joyce Craig

On Monday, the New Hampshire State Employees Association(SEA)/SEIU Local 1984 endorsed incumbent mayor Joyce Craig.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the SEA,” said Craig. “Across our city and state, SEA members work every day to keep New Hampshire running. Their work is invaluable to the success of our community and I look forward to continuing to work with them to build a stronger Manchester.”

“Joyce has been a terrific mayor,” said KJ Desjardin, a union member and resident of Manchester. “She has handled the problems facing the citizens of Manchester with grit and determination. She has been open, honest and deliberate in her actions. We should re-elect Mayor Craig, so she can continue to serve the people of Manchester.”

SEA/SEIU 1984 President Rich Gulla stated, “We couldn’t be any prouder to endorse anyone than to endorse Mayor Craig. She will bring great energy and ideas to office, as proven throughout her last two terms, she will continue to get things done.”

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents public and private sector employees around the state, and more than 500 members reside in Manchester. In addition, many SEA-represented worksites are based in Manchester, including Manchester Community College, the Sununu Youth Services Center, Health and Human Services district office and numerous state liquor stores.

Craig testimony submitted at County Commissioners’ meeting

On Wednesday, Craig submitted a letter to Hillsborough County’s Commissioners and delegation as they deliberated upon the Hillsborough County Fiscal Year 2022 Budget.

In the letter, Craig urged greater utilization of American Rescue Plan funding to develop a transitional housing program for formerly incarcerated people as they re-enter society as well as reducing taxes.

“Across New Hampshire, other counties are setting up systems to deliver additional services to residents, and I urge all of you to follow their lead. In New Hampshire, crafting a budget requires a lot of creativity, and prior to raising taxes on our residents, I urge you to take a harder look at eligible uses of the American Rescue Plan dollars, think about the changing needs of County residents, and budget accordingly,” said Craig in the letter.

Information on the proposed budget can be found here. Detailed information on the budget approved by the county’s delegation, which will increase county property taxes on Manchester residents from $1.29 to $1.34 per thousand dollars of property value, could not be provided by Hillsborough County administrative officials as of Friday morning.

State budget reaction

This week, the New Hampshire General Court passed HB 1 and HB 2, the two key bills regarding the upcoming biennial state budget, and its passage drew attention from the three current candidates for mayor in Manchester.

Former At-Large Alderman and Board of School Committee Member Richard Girard praised the passage of the bills, particularly the creation of education freedom accounts, which allows some parents to use education aid to enroll students in non-public schooling options. Girard has championed school choice and now hopes Manchester will follow the state’s lead.

“Manchester now has an opportunity to step up and prove itself.  Throughout our history, Manchester has tackled much tougher challenges.  All it takes is the right attitude and leadership to make great things happen.  Because we ‘Believe in Better,’ we’ll get the job done!” he said.

Former New Hampshire House Assistant Majority Leader Victoria Sullivan was also pleased with the passage of the bills.

“The news coming out of Concord today is historic. My former colleagues passed a Republican-led state budget that delivers for the hard-working families of Manchester, and plans for the future for our city and our state,” she said. “From delivering tax relief to ordinary families and small businesses, providing education options for our kids and their parents, facilitating support for programs addressing mental health and substance misuse, to prudent investments in affordable housing, this budget is indicative of the growth-oriented leadership that I will bring to Manchester as its next Mayor.”

In contrast, Craig criticized the passage of the bills.

“State House Republicans just passed a two-year budget that imposes a state-wide school voucher system that takes taxpayer dollars from Manchester public schools to help pay for private and religious schools. It limits free speech, banning educators from teaching issues related to racism and sexism. It downshifts pension costs to local municipalities. It includes an abortion ban that criminalizes doctors, limits access to care — and would make Governor Sununu the first governor in New Hampshire’s history to institute an abortion ban,” said Craig. “State budgets should meet the needs of the people, not force unpopular and overreaching policy decisions.”

Girard praises Craig

Although candidates don’t often compliment each other, Girard did give Craig kudos for Craig’s letter at the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) earlier this week.

Craig’s letter asked the ZBA to deny variances to a sober house on Orange Street which has ignored the city’s zoning ordinances in the past.

Girard, who lives near the congregate living facility, testified at the meeting and says he will make cracking down on these organizations a major issue during the campaign.

“My neighbors and I were pleasantly surprised when Mayor Craig’s email in opposition to the variance was read aloud.  It marks a dramatic change in her position on these illegally operating properties which I hope is genuine and will continue,” said Girard. “Half of the city’s zoning districts allow for these facilities by right or with permission from the Planning Board.  There are plenty of good places where they can operate legally without disrupting residential neighborhoods.”

“I welcome Mayor Craig to my position on the issue and encourage her, and the departments that answer to her, for the safety and stability of the dozens of affected neighborhoods across the city, to pursue enforcement actions against those places they know don’t belong.  Had they done their jobs all along, this problem wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is,” added Girard.

About this Author


Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.