MANCHESTER — In the aftermath of Mayor Ted Gatsas’ reelection Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans continue to debate the significance of his modest margin of victory.
Gatsas won 52 percent — 8,106 votes — to the 46 percent — 7,163 votes — garnered by Alderman Patrick Arnold, who less than a year ago was a scarcely known political figure in the city.
It was the least number of votes Gatsas had won in his three bids for mayor, and 2,000 fewer than he won in 2011, when he defeated his opponent by more than 40 points. Arnold, meanwhile, won 3,000 more votes than the Democratic candidate in the last election.
City Democrats Chairman Liz Kulig argued that Arnold’s pointed critique of the mayor had resonated with voters. “The Patrick campaign was massively outspent by Gatsas, and Gatsas still barely clung on to reelection,” she said. “Now he should know how people in Manchester feel about him and his lack of responsibility on education, on public safety.”
Gatsas has declined to draw conclusions about his opponent’s campaign, but in his victory speech Tuesday the veteran of 18 elections suggested that there was an element of ballot fatigue. “The more times your name appears on the ballot, the more difficult it becomes,” he said.
He also noted that he declined to run a negative campaign. “The thing I’m most proud of is we did this with a positive message,” he said. “That was important to me.”
In interpreting Tuesday’s results, other Republican leaders have pointed the record low turnout, and at least one acknowledged that the Democrats had a good ground game, in part the product of the 2012 presidential campaign.
“It’s clear to me what occurred,” said Will Infantine, who was a candidate for alderman at large and is the former chair of the city Republican Committee. “I congratulate Obama for America for its get-out-the-vote program... They hit the phones at noon and got a tremendous amount of votes out.”
Infantine noted that incumbent Alderman-At-Large Dan O’Neil, who did not do a great deal of campaigning, won 2,000 more votes than he did in 2011, while the vote count for the Republican at-large candidates held steady.
City elections are technically nonpartisan, but city parties play a large role in the races and each backs its own slate of candidates.
Despite the relatively close race for mayor, the balance of power on the boards of aldermen and school committee largely stayed the same. The only elected incumbent to lose his seat was Ward 10 Republican Alderman Phil Greazzo, who lost to Democrat Bill Barry. However, the Republicans appear to have gained a seat on the aldermanic board in Ward 12 with the narrow loss of Roger Beauchamp to Keith Hirschmann. Beauchamp plans to seek a recount.
On the school board, Republicans appear to have picked up two seats with the victories of Robyn Dunphy in Ward 6 and Ross Terrio in Ward 7. Democrat Amy Bradley, who ran unopposed, won the Ward 4 seat currently held by Roy Shoults, who did not seek reelection.
If there is agreement between the parties, it is that overall turnout was disappointing. Only 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday, a new low. While 800 more ballots were cast than in 2011, which had 28 percent turnout, there are nearly 10,000 more people on the voter rolls due to new registrations during the 2012 presidential election.
“It shows how little interest people really have in the municipal elections,” said Mike Lopez, the former longtime alderman.
“I think a lot of people are just sick and tired of people bashing politicians. They don’t want to get involved,” Lopez said. “It is what it is. The people got elected who got elected, and they’re going to make the decisions about what’s best for the city.”
City Republican Committee Chairman Tammy Simmons did not return a call for comment Wednesday.