Municipal primary election: Engler tops poll by 3 to 1 margin

LACONIA — After finishing one-two in the three-way mayoral primary election race yesterday, Ed Engler and Kaileif Mitchell will square off the general election on Nov. 12. Engler topped the field field with 349 votes, while Mitchell came in second with 103 votes. Bob Luther trailed with 78 votes.

In the only other contested primary race, David Bownes and Richard Beaudoin will compete for the City Council seat in Ward 2, while Mark Templeton, in his first bid for office, was eliminated. Bownes polled 39 votes, Beaudoin 20 votes and Templeton 14, as a mere 73 of of the ward's 1,446 registered voters cast ballots for city councilor.

"I, like everyone else today, was disappointed by the low turnout," Engler said. "Everyone I spoke with questioned the value of the primary election and no one thought it was a good idea."

"I want to thank Bob Luther for his many years of service as a city councilor and his continued representation of the city in the New Hampshire House of Representatives," Engler continued. "I am looking forward to the campaign this fall and to some joint appearances with Mr. Mitchell in the coming weeks."

"Obviously I am encouraged to get nearly two-thirds of the vote," he said. "Very encouraged and grateful to all those who supported my candidacy."

Mitchell, a teaching assistant at Spaulding Youth Center, said, "The numbers show I have a lot of work to do, but I'm still excited. My goal was not to finish third, and I'm right where I want to be." Although he cautioned against reading too much into the low turnout, he said, "Mr. Engler is still 66-percent better (off) than I am. I need to keep getting out there and letting people know my message."

Engler, the president of the Laconia Daily Sun, carried five of the six wards by comfortable margins. He carried Ward 3, where he resides, with 91 of the 122 votes cast and captured 72 of 94 votes cast in Ward 1 while polling more than half the vote in Wards 2, 4 and 6. Mitchell ran strongest in Ward 5, where only 47 ballots were cast — the fewest of any ward — narrowing Engler's margin to six votes, 22 to 16.

Only 548 of the 9,619 registered voters, or 6 percent, in the city cast ballots. Curiously the most votes were cast in an uncontested primary in Ward 6, where both incumbent Armand Bolduc, bidding for his 16th consecutive term on the council, and challenger Tony Felch, who lost his first bid to oust Bolduc in 2011, are both well known among voters. Together they polled 124 votes of the 126 ballots, four more than the 122 cast in Ward 3. Bolduc topped Felch by 84 to 40.

"I've got work to do," Felch said. "Signs will up in October and I'll be going door-to-door, getting name recognition."

"You can't sit around and do nothing," said Bolduc. "I'll be getting out and talking to people, putting up signs."

Incumbent city councilors Ava Doyle in Ward 1, Henry Lipman in Ward 3, Brenda Baer in Ward 4 and Bob Hamel in Ward 5 all are unopposed.

In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has ranged from a high of 18 percent in 2001 to a low of 3 percent in 2011, with the average being 9 percent. The cost of this year's primary election was approximately $10,000, or $18.25 per vote.