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November 12. 2013 2:06PM

Election official: State law requires special election for successor to Councilor Burton

CONCORD -- State law requires Gov. Maggie Hassan to call for a special election for a successor to the late Executive Councilor Raymond Burton, according to a top state election official.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said Tuesday said that while the state constitution says the governor "may" call for an election if a councilor dies, a state law makes it a requirement.

The law, Scanlan pointed out, says the governor, within 21 days "after proof of a vacancy," "shall declare that there shall be a special election," in this case in Executive Council District 1, which Burton represented for all but two of the past 36 years.

Scanlan noted that the law says that no election may be held after March 15 of "the second year of the biennium," which is 2014.

"And I think the convention wisdom is that the special election would be held on town meeting day," which is Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Scanlan said.

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said, however, the date and arrangements for a special election "will be addressed at the appropriate time.

"The governor is now focused on joining the rest of the state in mourning the loss of Executive Councilor Burton," Goldberg said.

The law says the special election shall be held on a Tuesday "not less than 110 nor more than 124 days following the day that the governor" declares that there will be such an election.

Nov. 21 is 110 days before March 11, Scanlan noted, and so Nov. 21, he said, is last day Hassan can call for an election, although she could do so sooner.

Scanlan noted that according to state law, the filing period for a special election must start on the Monday following the day the governor calls for the special election. The filing period would end at 5 p.m. on the Friday of that week.

The law says party primaries for nominees to the post must be held "49 days prior to the special election." That would be Jan. 21 if the special election is, in fact, set for town meeting day March 11, Scanlan said.

State law also says that if only one candidate files for each party, then there would be no primary elections and the special general election would be held on the day the party primaries would have been held, which would be Jan. 21.

A special election for an executive council seat was last held on town meeting day of 2002 in council District 4.

Voters chose Republican former Manchester mayor Raymond Wieczorek to succeed fellow Republican Tom Colantuono, who had resigned in late 2001 to become U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire in the George W. Bush administration.

Wieczorek defeated then-Assistant Attorney General John Kacavas, a Democrat who in 2009 was chosen by President Barack Obama to succeed Colantuono as U.S. Attorney.


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