The Manchester Mayoral race is heating up and the candidates are coming out swinging.
For those who may not have been following the race up to this point, let me quickly bring you up to speed.
There are three main competitors, Mayor Ted Gatsas, former Alderman Patrick Arnold, and Alderman Joyce Craig.
“As Mayor I have worked hard to build a better Manchester and I am proud of all that we have accomplished,” said Mayor Gatsas at his campaign kickoff
“I’m running for mayor of Manchester because the people of our city deserve better than the status quo and business as usual at City Hall. Over the last several years especially, our city has suffered from the timidity and ineffectiveness of the current administration. Drug activity and violent crime remain out of control. Opportunities for progress continue to be squandered. Taxpayers continue to seek a better return for their tax dollars,” said Arnold in his campaign announcement.
“I’m running for mayor because it’s time Manchester reaches its full potential,” said Alderman Joyce Craig. “Unfortunately, over the past six years our city’s growth has stalled under Mayor Gatsas’s poor leadership. Our schools are in worse shape, the drug epidemic is escalating, our roads are deteriorating and our infrastructure is outdated, yet the Mayor has put forth no concrete plans on how to tackle these problems. It is time our city has a mayor who will work with all partners to solve these citywide problems. I’m running for mayor to be the leader to move our city forward together and once again make Manchester a city that attracts families and businesses.”
I think we can all agree that Manchester needs a change in leadership and that Mayor Gatsas must go. He vetoed the Manchester Education Association’s contract, which would have given Manchester teachers their first raise in years.
Arnold called Mayor Gatsas’ recent veto of a proposed teachers’ contract “absurd” and urged Gatsas to step aside. “Mayor Gatsas, work with those elected by the voters, or step aside for someone who will,” Arnold said at the packed school board meeting.
“For six years the Mayor has bullied his way through these School Board meetings to the detriment of our students, teachers, and taxpayers,” said Alderman Craig. “During his tenure, we have lost teachers, our class sizes are still high, we lost the sending towns of Auburn, Hooksett, and Candia, and now our school year begins in a few weeks and teachers will return to their classrooms without a contract in place for the third year in a row.”
Both Arnold and Alderman Craig have received strong support from the people of Manchester. Local 7 Ironworkers, the Manchester City Firefighters, and six of the Manchester School Board members have endorsed Arnold. On the other side, IBEW 490, IBEW 2320, Senator Donna Soucy, and Senator Lou D’Allesandro have endorsed Alderman Craig.
Before we get to the general election, one of these three candidates will be eliminated in the city-wide primary on September 15th. We all know it is nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent in the primary so the primary race really boils down to Arnold and Alderman Craig.
Recently a new controversy has emerged as Arnold called on the Democratic Party to organize debates between himself and Alderman Craig. “Let’s discuss the challenges we face as a city. Let’s debate what works and what doesn’t,” Arnold said.
The Union Leader reported that Arnold publically called for debates at the annual Manchester City Democrats meeting. Ted Siefer also reported on Alderman Craig’s resistance to debating at the time.
She said she was willing to participate in debates “at some time probably, but right now I’m speaking to voters directly,” she told me. “I feel there will be plenty of time to engage in politics, and right now my focus is my work as an alderman and hearing directly from voters and the issues concerning them.”
Many attempts have been made to hold a debate but Arnold is now accusing Alderman Craig of refusing to debate. “Manchester deserves debates. Manchester voters deserve to see and hear the differences between the candidates, and ask them questions. Timid candidates can come up with any excuse to hide from their records and the voters. Manchester deserves better.”
I reached out to Alderman Craig and she responded by stating that she is open to a debate and that a primary debate should include all candidates, including Mayor Gatsas, and to her knowledge no other pre-primary debates have been scheduled with all candidates. Alderman Craig also highlighted the upcoming education forum hosted by the Manchester Education Association on September 9th.
Alderman Craig also repeated the line that she is focused on “communicating with voters” as she has in previous statements to the Union Leader.
Where is the truth in all of this? Is Alderman Craig refusing to debate Arnold? Is Alderman Craig correct by stating she would debate but none have been scheduled?
Unfortunately I cannot answer any of these questions for you. I do think that the Manchester Democrats should have organized some type of debates between these candidates. I also think that Alderman Craig should accept Arnold’s call to debate on Manchester Public Television. What better way to get your message out to the people than to show them who you are, what you stand for, and that you can handle yourself in a debate, before you have to face off against Mayor Gatsas.
I guess you could say the ball is Alderman Craig’s court. What will she do?
You can get more information about where to vote from here, or to request an absentee ballot, here.