LACONIA —In yesterday's election, Ed Engler topped Kailief Mitchell by a wide margin to win the race for mayor while Armand Bolduc staved off a challenge from Tony Felch in Ward 6 to earn his 16th consecutive term on the City Council, incumbent councilor Bob Hamel prevailed over Tom Tardif in Ward 5 and David Bownes bested Richard Beaudoin in Ward 2 to capture the only open council seat.
Incumbent city councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1), Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Brenda Baer (Ward 4) ran unopposed.
Engler, the president and editor of the Laconia Daily Sun, polled three of every four votes cast in besting Mitchell, an academic assistant at the Spaudling Youth Center, 1,155 to 403. Engler carried Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 by 100 or more votes while Mitchell ran closest in Ward 5, where he has served as moderator for the past seven years, narrowing the margin to 114 to 82 .
When the votes were tallied Engler said that he was not surprised by the result. "In the last week or so I felt pretty good about the situation," he remarked. He said that in local elections that are not overshadowed by a divisive issue the engaged segment of the electorate weighs the candidates then chooses the one with whom they feel most comfortable. Although he purchased print advertising and distributed yard signs, Engler sensed that his success owed much to word of mouth, noting that people both inside and outside the city promoted his candidacy.
Engler said that he intended "to start getting engaged from a conversation standpoint immediately," adding that he has been approached by some and will approach others. Economic development, the primary theme of his campaign, he indicated would be a priority, beginning with how to apply the funds accrued by the downtown tax increment financing (TIF), a question currently before the City Council. "I intend to participate in that conversation," Engler said.
Mitchell, in his first bid for major office, said "it was a great campaign, a really good race. I put my heart and soul into it. The people had a really tough choice," he continued, noting that there was little difference between the candidates on many issues. "The subtleties made the difference," he said.
In the most hotly contested of the council elections, Bolduc polled 282 votes to Felch's 170 to keep his seat in Ward 6. In the strongest turnout among the six wards, nearly one of every four registered voters cast ballots in a tribute to the energy of the campaigns waged by both candidates. Bolduc said that he walked the entire ward and phoned most voters while Felch spent his spare moments going door-to-door throughout the ward.
Felch, who challenged Bolduc for the second time, doubted he would do so again. "I'm glad I put my name out there and gave people the opportunity to choose," he said, "but the people have spoken and they like things the way they are." Felch called for eliminating the primary election during his campaign and vowed to pursue the issue. "He's my councilor," he said of Bolduc, "and he'll be hearing from me."
In the closest of the contested races, Bownes edged Beaudoin by 123 to 88 to succeed the retiring Matt Lahey in Ward 2. Bownes congratulated Beaudoin, who he said ran a good race. "I'm happy to win," said Bownes, who will be returning to the council after last serving between 1986 and 1988, when Bolduc was among his colleagues..
In Ward 5, where Tardif won his place on the ballot with three write-in votes after a recount, Hamel won re-election to a fifth term, 135 to 67.
Altogether 1,660 voters went to the polls, representing 17-percent of the 9,653 registered voters in the city. However, discounting the 463 votes cast in Ward 6, the turnout was just 12-percent.