MANCHESTER, N.H. – It’s official, Ward 8 will have a new Alderman in September.
In an 8-2 vote, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved Sept. 21, the specified date in the city’s charter for regularly scheduled primary elections, as the date for a special election in Ward 8.
The winner of that special election will then be the Alderman for Ward 8 until January, when they will be replaced with whoever wins in November’s regularly scheduled city election.
According to Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand, a candidate could theoretically run in both elections simultaneously, as the special election would be to serve the remaining time of former Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter, who unexpectedly resigned earlier this month.
June 29 was discussed as another possible date for the Ward 8 Special Election, given that the city has grant funding it can use for any election-related purpose prior to June 30.
Normand said that he was planning on purchasing new modular voting booth frames, each valued at $1,000. However, he also said that the will of the board took precedence.
The primary concerns over the June 29 date came from fears of low turnout, with opponents such as Kevin Cavanaugh (Ward 1) referencing the recent Ward 6 Aldermanic Special Election Primary that drew just three percent turnout.
Normand said that during a normal municipal primary, 15 to 20 percent of voters will turn out to vote and around 30 percent of voters will turn out to vote during a regular municipal general election.
Cavanaugh was concerned this would occur again, even if a primary was removed and there was just one winner-take-all special election, stating that most voters would not be expecting to vote in the middle of the summer.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig asked Normand if mail could be sent to Ward 8 voters letting them know about a June 29 election. Normand said it had not been done before and estimated it would cost $3,300.
Barbara Shaw (Ward 9) and Pat Long (Ward 3) were the strongest supporters of a June 29 Special Election, citing the recent absence of an Alderman in Ward 6 following the resignation of Elizabeth Moreau leaving Ward 6 residents without an Alderman for months on end.
“It’s (Ward 8’s) Alderman, it’s somebody they would have on July 1, and that’s where I’m going with this,” said Long.
A vote for the June 29 meeting failed 6-4. Cavanaugh was joined in opposition by Will Stewart (Ward 2), Jim Roy (Ward 4), Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5), Ross Terrio (Ward 7) and Normand Gamache (Ward 11). The four supporting votes came from Long, Shaw, Bill Barry (Ward 10) and Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large).
Long and Shaw were the only opposing votes in the motion for putting the special election in September.
Dan O’Neil (At-Large) and Keith Hirschmann (Ward 12) were absent.