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Hansel coasts to re-election as Keene mayor
  • Updated

George Hansel secured a second term as mayor after easily defeating challenger Mark J. Zuchowski in Keene’s municipal elections Tuesday.

Hansel won 2,133 votes compared to Zuchowski’s 212, according to official results. Each of the city’s five wards overwhelmingly supported Hansel, who ran for another two-year term on a platform focused on addressing the region’s housing shortage and continuing the city’s efforts to upgrade its aging infrastructure.

“It’s always a humbling experience to have the trust and confidence of so many of your friends and neighbors,” Hansel said after the results were in. “These have been an extremely challenging two years, but I’m very proud to be the mayor of such a resilient community. I look forward to working with the City Council, staff, and the community to lead the city forward, ensuring Keene is positioned to thrive for many years to come.”

Hannah Schroeder/ Sentinel Staff  

Lee Johndrow checks in to vote with Ballot Clerk Linda Sullivan on Tuesday at the Ward 4 polls at Symonds Elementary School in Keene.

Hansel and Zuchowski were the two candidates to move on after October’s primary election, which saw candidate Aria DiMezzo eliminated from the race. Hansel was the highest vote-getter in the primary as well, where he earned 763 votes, compared to 58 and 35 votes earned by Zuchowski and DiMezzo, respectively.

Both Zuchowski and DiMezzo have faced legal trouble this year; a judge issued an order of protection against Zuchowski after a city employee said he showed up at her home and refused to leave and DiMezzo was charged in connection with what federal prosecutors have described as an unlicensed scheme to sell cryptocurrency. Zuchowski, who was not charged with a crime, has said the matter with the city employee is a misunderstanding, and DiMezzo has pleaded not guilty.

Also at the polls Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question that allows the City Council to approve the redrawing of ward lines after the 2020 census, rather than put the new maps to voters. The measure removes the city’s ward boundary descriptions from the city charter — which can only be amended by voters — and instead publishes them in the city code, which can be changed by the City Council. The measure passed 1,648 to 505.

Hannah Schroeder / Sentinel Staff  

Selectman Paul Krautmann places voting stickers along the ballot box at the Ward 4 polling station, Symonds Elementary, on Tuesday in Keene.

The reason for the proposed change is the pandemic-related delay in the federal government’s release of census data the city requires to perform its legally obligated 10-year redistricting process. The data didn’t arrive in time for new districts to be approved during the November election, so city staff put forth the charter amendment question that appeared on the ballot Tuesday.

Turnout for the election city-wide was 17 percent, with Ward 1 at 11 percent, Ward 2 at 21 percent, Wards 3 and 4 at 18 percent and Ward 5 at 17 percent.

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Keene City Council incumbents hold on to seats in Tuesday's election
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It was a good night for City Council incumbents in Keene on Tuesday, with nine of the 11 seats up for grabs going to the person who already holds it.

However, the council did gain two new members — both of whom have already served. Kris Roberts was elected to represent Ward 1, while the last of five available at-large council seats went to Mike Giacomo, who was a Ward 3 councilor until July, when he resigned after moving to Ward 5.

In the at-large race, incumbents Kate Bosley (1,678 votes), Randy Filiault (1,485 votes), Mike Remy (1,474 votes) and Bettina Chadbourne (1,433 votes) all won re-election. Giacomo secured the fifth seat with 1,380 votes, narrowly defeating Jodi Newell, who had 1,344. Rounding out the candidates were Boston Parisi and Ian Freeman, who received 227 and 168 votes, respectively.

“I’m just thrilled to be able to continue the work I was doing, excited to represent the city at large and would like to offer a huge thank you for all the support I received,” Giacomo said Tuesday night. “Keene is full of amazing, community-minded people, and I am honored to be able to serve them.”

At-large council seats come with two-year terms, while ward council seats carry four-year terms.

In Ward 1, Councilor Janis Manwaring opted not to run for re-election, leaving two challengers — Robert Crowell and Kris Roberts — to vie for the position. Roberts, who previously served eight years on the council, won 160-50.

Roberts was included on Tuesday’s ballot after winning enough write-in votes during last month’s primary election to move on to the general contest. He had secured the votes to run in either the at-large race or in Ward 1, and chose the ward councilor seat. He was not immediately reachable for comment Tuesday evening.

In Ward 2, longtime incumbent Mitch Greenwald won re-election over challenger Ryan Clancy, 332-224. Greenwald, who has served on the council for 28 years, said he’s happy to receive another term and is looking forward to working with Mayor George Hansel, who also won a new term Tuesday and whom he ran against for mayor in 2019.

“I think we have a lot of goals in common, there are a lot of plans that we both had that got pushed aside due to COVID,” Greenwald said. He added that renovating Robin Hood Pool, rebuilding downtown infrastructure and redeveloping Gilbo Avenue are among those goals.

In a typical election year, only one of the two council seats representing each ward is up for grabs. This year, both of Ward 3’s seats were on the ballot, as both of the positions were vacated during the year. Councilor Terry Clark resigned in February and Giacomo left over the summer.

The council appointed Andrew Madison to fill Clark’s position and Bryan Lake to fill Giacomo’s. Both men ran to keep their seats without opposition, with Madison securing 375 votes and Lake taking 372. Madison will serve a four-year term, as Clark’s time on the council was up this year, while Lake will serve out the remaining two years of Giacomo’s term.

In Wards 4 and 5, the incumbents also ran unopposed, with Ward 4 Councilor Catherine Workman receiving 450 votes and Ward 5 Councilor Philip Jones receiving 461.

Elections officials

Voters also elected new ward officers at the polls on Tuesday:

Ward 1: Moderator: Bob Lyle, 198 votes; Ward Clerk: Elizabeth Sayre, 199 votes; Selectmen: Kim Maleski, 173 votes, Ruzzel Zullo, 131 votes; Supervisor of the Checklist: Janis Manwaring, 201 votes.

Ward 2: Moderator: Matthew McKeon, 438 votes; Ward Clerk: Jamie White, 453 votes; Selectmen: Wes Cobb, 341, Chuck Weed 405 votes, Nancy Wilkinson, 360 votes; Supervisor of the Checklist: Linda Haas, 458 votes.

Ward 3: Moderator: Lucinda McKeon, 366 votes; Ward Clerk: Kathleen Richards, 384 votes; Selectmen: Cheryl Kahn, 339 votes, John McKeon, 294 votes, Charlie Stone, 310 votes; Supervisor of the Checklist: Charles Ferrando, 371 votes.

Ward 4: Moderator: Ellen Wishart, 438 votes; Ward Clerk: Sharon Wright, 34 write-in votes; Selectmen: Nancy Ancharski, 366 votes, Paul Krautmann, 387 votes, Margaret Simonds, 390 votes; Supervisor of the Checklist: Claire Coey, 431 votes.

Ward 5: Moderator: Christine Houston, 463 votes; Ward Clerk: John Therriault, 463 votes; Selectmen: Kathaleen Austen, 261 votes, Mark Rebillard, 243 votes, Sandra van de Kauter, 278 votes (finishing out of the running was Raven Norlander-McCarty, 135 votes); Supervisor of the Checklist: Sylvie Rice, 468 votes.

In mayor's races across the US, voters divided on questions of public safety, police reform

Voters in more than a dozen cities went to the polls Tuesday to select mayors who will try to revive communities battered by a host of pandemic-era challenges, including a surge in violent crime, gutted commercial districts and soaring homelessness.

Some mayoral races, such as Seattle’s, exposed sharp ideological divisions among Democratic candidates over policing, public safety and economic inequality. Other contests, particularly in the Rust Belt, pitted older, moderate voters against younger, more liberal residents.

One of the most closely watched races was in Buffalo, where India Walton was trailing in her campaign to become the first socialist mayor of a major U.S. city since the 1960s. Walton faced an aggressive write-in campaign from Mayor Byron Brown, a moderate who was defeated in the September primary.

Voters also chose candidates who represented historic firsts. New York is projected to elect Democrat Eric Adams as the second Black mayor in the city’s history. The city of St. Petersburg, Fla., elected Ken Welch, the city’s first Black mayor. Boston elected Michelle Wu, the city’s first Asian American mayor, while voters in Pittsburgh elected Ed Gainey, a Democrat and that city’s first Black mayor.

And in some cities, voters weighed in on ballot measures aimed at addressing public safety and policing.

In Minneapolis, voters rejected a referendum that would have scraped the Minneapolis police department and replace it with a new force focused on a “comprehensive public health” approach to law enforcement. Opponents of the measure argued that police reform is needed, but worried what this particular ballot language would mean in a city suffering through a “pandemic of violence.”

In Miami Beach, voters passed a measure banning the sale of alcohol at bars and nightclubs after 2 a.m., which the mayor says is needed to regain control of the city after a tumultuous year of unruly behavior and gun violence. Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat, also won re-election after promising to implement quickly the new policy to improve public safety.

The focus on public safety in many city elections comes as large U.S. cities experienced a 30 percent jump in killings in 2020, the biggest one-year increase since the federal government began compiling national figures in the 1960s. In many cities, the number of homicides continued to rise this year.

“The fear of gun crime is palpable in American cities, and because home rule is being eroded in many states, cities now have very little ability to get guns off the streets,” said Ned Hill, who teaches economics at Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. “Cities are now having conversations to figure out what does respectful, community policing mean?”

“And what we are seeing,” Hill added, “is an uneasy alliance and relationship between the traditional, moderate portion of the Democratic Party and the progressive wing.”

In New York, where Democrats have a greater than 6-to-1 voter registration advantage over the GOP, that discussion largely took place this summer ahead of the Democratic primary to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio, who could not run again because of term limits.

In September, Adams, a former police captain who vowed to fight crime, won the Democratic nomination, defeating several more liberal candidates. He is projected to easily beat Republican Curtis Sliwa, founder of the crime-prevention nonprofit Guardian Angels.

In Boston, the campaign to replace former mayor Marty Walsh, who stepped down in March to become labor secretary, largely focused on spiraling housing costs, education and the city’s opioid crisis. But the race also highlighted the city’s growing diversity because for the first time in 200 years, Boston was poised to elect someone other than a white man.

City Councilor Michelle Wu, a Democrat, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, defeated City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, Democrat, the daughter of a Tunisian immigrant who identifies as Arab American.

Wu, a liberal Democrat in the mold of her self-described mentor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has called for free public transportation, a citywide “green New Deal” to combat climate change, and rent control to rein in the soaring cost of housing.

She stitched together a coalition of voters that included highly educated White voters as well as segments of the Black, Latino and Asian communities.

In Atlanta, where Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, decided not to seek a second term, 14 candidates competed in a mayor’s race that has become a referendum on who can best manage a city that appears at political and cultural crossroads as its non-Black population has soared over the past decade.

Early returns show City Council President Felicia A. Moore, Democrat, former mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, and council member Andre Dickens in a tight race. If no candidate in the crowded race receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will be forced into a Nov. 30 runoff.

In Seattle, a city hard-hit by commercial vacancies downtown, City Council President M. Lorena González, a Democrat, squared off against former council member Bruce Harrell in the mayor’s race.

González is a staunch liberal, who last year advocated reducing police funding by as much as 50 percent and diverting that money to social programs. Noting homicides in Seattle increased by 73 percent last year, Harrell hammered González as he sought to rally moderate voters and business owners behind his candidacy.

Several of the nation’s marquee mayoral races were held in the Rust Belt, where aging cities emerged as a new front in the ideological battles engulfing the Democratic Party.

On Monday, Walton and her supporters gathered at a newly formed meeting house and bar named after socialist leader Eugene V. Debs on Buffalo’s dilapidated East Side.

A 39-year-old community organizer, Walton was a teenage mother who dropped out of high school before becoming a nurse. In September, Walton shocked many political observers when she defeated Brown, D, who was first elected mayor in 2005.

Walton’s primary win was seen as a major victory for the far-left wing of the Democratic Party, as well as racial justice protesters who want more spending social services and less on traditional forms of policing. Walton has received heavy backing from left-leaning affluent communities on the city’s West Side as well as the East Side.

“The conditions of concentrated poverty and disadvantage is what allows crime to thrive, and [Brown’s] police department has been unaccountable and opaque,” Walton said in an interview. “My public safety plan centers on solving the root causes of crime and also having transparency and accountability.”

But after he lost the primary, Brown launched a write-in campaign, banking on support from moderates and Buffalo residents who oppose reducing funding for police. A host of labor unions, including the United Auto Workers and AFSCME, supported Brown, despite Walton’s efforts to win over blue-collar voters.

As he campaigned Tuesday in a dark pinstriped suit, Brown said he was optimistic that moderate Democrats “will fight back against this far-left, socialist movement.”

“It’s dividing the party, [and] it’s making it more difficult to get things done at the national level,” said Brown.

Yet Brown’s path to victory was complicated by the need for his supporters to write in his name on their ballots. His campaign handed out stamps bearing his name for voters to use to minimize potential misspellings (stamps, but not stickers, are allowed for use on ballots in New York state).

Despite those obstacles, Caitlin Szalkowski, 36, voted for Brown, even though the Democrat likes some of Walton’s ideas.

“The movement she represents make me uneasy,” said Szalkowski, a psychology professor.

“We have made a lot of progress in the last decade and a half, and there’s a sense of not wanting to see that backslide,” she added.

But in Buffalo’s West Side neighborhood of Elmwood Village, where historical homes sit on tree-lined streets named for U.S. states, 26-year-old Sara Rosenblatt said she and many of her friends and co-workers voted for Walton.

Rosenblatt said Walton was part of a group of “far-left women of color rising in power” and “only good has come of that.”

Shawn Donahue, a political scientist at the University of Buffalo, said he couldn’t recall another mayoral election quite like this in the city. He said he had fielded calls from media outlets in Switzerland and Brazil asking him about the race. Meanwhile, “the only thing that people are talking about more in the Buffalo area are the Bills,” said Donahue, referring to the Buffalo Bills’ 5-2 record this year.

In Cleveland, the mayor’s race also pitted a diverse coalition of younger and left-leaning voters against older voters in the city’s more traditional outer neighborhoods.

Justin Bibb, a Black 34-year-old nonprofit executive, was the top vote-getter in the September Democratic primary after he campaigned on holding the police more accountable, including supporting the referendum for a civilian police commission, known as Issue 24.

But in the days leading up to the election, the Democrat found himself locked in a tight race against City Council President Kevin Kelley, a Democrat, 54, who is white and made his opposition to Issue 24 the central message of his campaign.

In Detroit, two-term Mayor Mike Duggan was projected to defeat fellow Democrat Anthony Adams in that city’s mayor’s race.

NH, Vt. differ in rollout of kids’ shots

WEST LEBANON — New Hampshire health officials are urging families to be patient in scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11, citing the Executive Council’s recent rejection of $27 million in federal funding to support the vaccination effort.

While Vermont officials on Tuesday directed families to register for the shots through a state website and phone number as soon as Wednesday morning, New Hampshire health officials are pointing families of young children to area pharmacies, which already are scheduling booster shots for older people out into the future.

“Parents should expect significant demand for pharmacy-based vaccinations after the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends vaccines for the group,” said Jake Leon, a spokesman for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC advisers on Tuesday unanimously recommended using the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 (See story on A6). That came following the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization of the vaccine in the age group on Friday. New Hampshire has about 100,000 residents ages 5 to 11, while Vermont has about 44,000. Both states have child-size doses in hand and on order, and aim to distribute them to children who have had some of the highest rates of infection in recent weeks.

But how the shots will reach kids’ arms may differ by state.

After rejecting the $27 million in funds for vaccine distribution from the CDC last month, the N.H. Executive Council did approve $4.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for school-based vaccinations last week. But before it can spend the money and run the clinics, DHHS has to submit contracts with regional public health networks and federally qualified health centers, Leon said.

“The public health region is planning to offer vaccines to children once state contracts are approved and will be communicating directly with schools as soon as details are available,” said Alice Ely, executive director of the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock patients in the Lebanon area may be able to participate in COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children ages 5 to 11 on Saturday, Nov. 13, at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center and Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, said Audra Burns, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokeswoman.

At least at the beginning, appointments at D-H locations will be reserved for D-H patients, and appointments through the myD-H patient portal are required. Appointment slots will be posted later this week and parents are encouraged to visit go.d-h.org/vaccine for the most current information, Burns said.

Across the Connecticut River, Vermont officials announced in a Tuesday news conference that families with children ages 5 to 11 should be able to begin registering for the shots through the Vermont Department of Health’s website on Wednesday at 8 a.m. Doses also are to be available through community clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. In addition, 96 schools are slated to hold clinics in the coming weeks.

Vermont officials said the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing infection in individual children, and also is expected to help curb transmission of the virus, which is key to keeping children in school and engaged in other usual activities.

Vermont pediatricians “unequivocally recommend this vaccine for every Vermont child who is eligible,” said Dr. Rebecca Bell, president of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, during Tuesday’s news conference.

In voicing her support, Bell cited the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the two-dose immunization for children last week. An FDA panel of independent advisers found that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. Trials showed that the vaccine was 91 percent effective against infection in this age group.

Trials of children found that common side effects were sore arms and redness, which went away soon after, she said. There were fewer reports of fever, chills, fatigue and headaches than in adults, and no reports of serious adverse effects related to vaccination, she said.

“Data are clear that the vaccine is beneficial,” she said.

The dose for children ages 5 to 11 is one-third the dose for those who are 12 or older, Bell said. That is because young children generally have a stronger immune response, she said.

Bell encouraged families in Vermont to seek out the shots for their children at the most convenient and earliest opportunity. She said that community vaccination sites would get the child-sized doses soonest, and that pediatric and family practices expected to get shipments by mid-November. School clinics and pharmacies also are expected to receive doses.

Baker urged community members to get vaccinated in order to limit the virus’ effects on school attendance. Vaccinated people are not subject to the same quarantine requirements after exposure to people who test positive for the virus, so Baker said he’s hopeful that vaccinating younger children will help keep kids in school. He also said vaccinations will help schools ease masking requirements in the future.

“It is my strong belief that if we can get our buildings vaccinated, then we will be able to revisit masking in our buildings,” Baker said. “I see the mask fatigue that sets in with adults and children.”

On Wednesday at noon, D-H is slated to host a Facebook Live conversation about 5- to 11-year-old COVID-19 vaccines with Dr. Susanne Tanski, section chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth- Hitchcock. The 30-minute update will be shared on the D-H and CHaD Facebook pages.

In addition, Vermont pediatricians are scheduled to host a series of online forums to answer families’ questions about the vaccine: Nov. 8; Nov. 10; Nov. 16; Nov. 18; Nov. 22; and Dec. 2. All forums are slated to take place from 7 to 8 p.m. Pediatricians from around the state are slated to take turns leading the forums. More information and links for the forums are online at aapvt.org.