MANCHESTER, NH – Last spring, State Representative Richard Komi (D-Manchester) was forced to resign following a comment he posted on his social media page. On Tuesday, he returned to serve as moderator for the primary in Ward 5, causing several female voters to say they felt “uncomfortable” having him there, based on his comments, still fresh in their minds.
In a now-deleted tweet, Komi defended allegations against now-Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, accused by former aide Tara Reade of sexual assault by penetrating her with his finger. Komi remarked that a finger could not enter a woman’s vagina without physical assistance from the woman.
Lisa Freeman, a former member of the Manchester Board of School Committee and current Republican candidate for state representative in Hillsborough District 43, which includes Ward 5, said she heard from women who felt uncomfortable with Komi in charge of the ward’s polling place given the recentness of Komi’s comment.
“I am not that person who is very delicate or clutches pearls or is easily offended, that’s just not who I am. But I know how I felt and I can’t imagine any other woman felt walking in there and seeing him knowing what he said,” said Freeman. “Not in a polling place, it just isn’t appropriate.”
According to Komi, only one incident occurred at the polls on Tuesday. He received a report from a woman who saw that an election worker was not wearing personal protective equipment on their hands. When the woman learned that Komi would rectify the issue, the woman became upset and left.
“I have made contemporaneous apologies for that comment, I took down the tweet, I apologized and said I was very sorry and recognized that those were a very poor choice of words,” said Komi. “I hope that people will understand that people are not perfect in speech and we can move on. The comment was not intended to hurt people, my words were just not properly chosen.”
Komi was the only person to apply for the position after former Ward 5 Moderator Paul Crawford moved out of town this spring, just months after Crawford was re-elected to the position unopposed.
For Manchester GOP Chair and Hillsborough District 18 State Representative Candidate Brittany LeClear-Ping, agrees with Freeman.
“This was a huge shock for multiple women that someone who thinks that women can be responsible for their rape can be in charge of their voting,” said LeClear-Ping.
She added that only the Ward 5 electorate can ultimately offer Komi redemption for his comments.
“This is an elected position. I understand that he’s the only one to put his hat in the ring and the nature of the situation trying to get poll workers during COVID, is it understandable that he’s there due to the circumstances? Sure. Is it something that we should all feel good that he has the chance to redeem himself when he wasn’t elected to that position? Absolutely not,” said LeClear-Ping. “If he was elected in that position and his constituents said ‘we’re going to give him that responsibility,’ I think that shows that the majority of people are willing to let him redeem himself.”
Manchester City Clerk Matt Normand said he did not receive any reports of incidents from Ward 5 on Tuesday.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party declined to comment for this story.
UPDATE 9/14/20: According to the Manchester City Clerk’s office, Komi has completed his term as moderator pro tem and is not working as moderator in November, but is eligible to run for moderator or apply to become moderator pro tem in the future.