By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
A small number of absentee ballot requests, coupled with traditionally low turnouts for special elections, indicate that the upcoming primary election to fill a vacancy for Grafton County Dist. 9 representative will see a small percentage of registered voters going to the polls on Tuesday.
The open seat was created by the abrupt resignation of Rep. Jeff Shackett (R-Bridgewater), 30 days after he was sworn in for a new term to represent the towns of Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol and Grafton.
Four Republicans and a Democrat initially filed for the seat, with another Democrat running a write-in campaign because he had not registered as a voter in his new town of residence. The Ballot Law Commission later added Libertarian John Babiarz of Grafton to the ballot, and Bristol Republican Burt Williams filed to have his name removed from the ballot due to health concerns.
That leaves Republicans with a three-way race between Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater, Paul Simard of Bristol, and Timothy Sweetsir of Ashland. Democrats will choose between Tom Ploszaj of Grafton, who is on the ballot, and Joshua Adjutant of Bristol, who is not.
Adjutant got a jump on the race by creating a website seeking donations in support of his candidacy on the day after Shackett’s resignation, long before the towns had decided to seek a special election. In fact, each of the towns initially voted not to seek the special election because of the cost and because, by the time a new representative could be seated, most of the work of this legislative session will have been completed.
Ashland selectmen reconsidered their decision and voted to ask Concord to approve a special election. It takes a single town’s request for a special election to move the decision to the governor and executive council, which subsequently approved the petition and set the primary for July 18. The date of the general election is Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day.
Despite his early start, Adjutant stumbled when filing for the seat, first trying to file with the Bridgewater town clerk because that is where he was previously registered. When turned away because he now lives in Bristol, Adjutant tried to file in that town, only to find that the supervisors of the checklist, who must certify residency, would not be meeting until after the filing period had closed. That left him with one option: to seek the seat as a write-in candidate.
He has been using social media and face-to-face meetings to drum up support, and has continued his fundraising efforts.
Like Adjutant, Ploszaj previously ran for and lost an attempt to win a House seat, and said, “I have been busy continuing my 2010-12 campaign, emphasizing that a representative should represent the people of Dist. 9, not a political party or their own beliefs. Talking with people, one notices the influence of the major parties’ rhetoric and polarization.”
For the primary, Ploszaj said, “I have no 11th-hour plans and will continue to run a positive campaign. I have not met Josh and only saw his campaign info.
“As union member, I have been a Democrat — a Kennedy Democrat — since 1972. District 9 Democratic Primary choices are: a Kennedy Democrat of 40 years who understands decorum and the balance of social programs with the fiscal reality of New Hampshire workers/taxpayers; and a Bernie Socialist. Josh is an ambitious young man who believes he is doing what’s best, and I wish him well.”
Like others, Ploszaj said he expects a low turnout for the election.
On the Republican side, Migliore and Simard have been the most active, although Sweetsir has a following in his hometown.
Migliore has been traveling to each of the towns and sending letters to the editor of local newspapers and online outlets to state his positions on the issues. He made no secret of his opposition to holding a special election, viewing it as a waste of taxpayers’ money, but now that there will be an election, he is giving it his all.
Emphasizing his business experience and 10-year service on the Newfound Area School Board, Migliore also cites his success as a citizen to shepherd legislation through the House and Senate to address a school funding issue. Now that he has sold his business, Migliore said he is able to devote the time necessary to do a good job in Concord.
“I’m getting a lot of support from people that I’m casually acquainted with, that will acknowledge my presence in a positive manner,” he said. “I’m also getting emails saying the same thing.”
One endorsement he is particularly proud of is from last year’s student representative to the school board, Nicholas Crosby, who doesn’t live in Dist. 9 and describes himself as a moderate Democrat.
“I am endorsing you because of one major concept that a majority of politicians don't understand: listening to their constituents. While I fundamentally disagree with some of your economic agenda, especially taxes, you seem to be the only candidate who will speak for the voters of your district,” Crosby wrote. “[Y]ou run on a fiscal conservative background, and while I don't live in Bridgewater or any other towns you're running in (I live in Groton), fiscal conservatism resonates in District 9.”
Crosby continued, “Regarding your opponents, disregard them. … I respect Joshua Adjutant’s service to his and our country, and I admire his activism with some of the ideas he cares about. However, for the most part, he is an opportunist and to me, unclear of what his actual intentions are.”
Migliore has focused much of his campaign on Adjutant, citing his potential rival’s inexperience in politics and business. Adjutant recently sent out a letter that mentioned his experience as a school board member. Like Crosby, Adjutant was a student representative to the Newfound Area School Board while Migliore was serving on that board (Migliore was chairman at the time).
“He presented student activity to the school board and subsequently left the meeting,” Migliore said. “He may have been interested, but he never served on the school board. He attended five, maybe eight meetings over two years.”
As to his rivals in the primary election, Migliore said, “If Paul Simard wins the primary, I’d stand behind and support him. I do not know Sweetsir personally, but if he became the nominee, I’d support him.”
“He added, “I sponsored legislation as a private citizen, and I can point to that. I do not believe that Paul Simard ever sponsored any legislation that actually passed. He may have co-sponsored something that became law.”
Simard, who previously served two terms in the House, has cited his work on the House Finance Committee, helping to trim expenses in Health and Human Services, and he served on the 361 Commission that studied the Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission proposal and recommended burying the lines along the entire corridor. He also worked on an agreement for the state to cover payments to the towns when Massachusetts defaulted on its obligations under the Merrimack River flood control agreement.
Support has come from Bristol’s fiscal conservatives, with many who served with him on the Bristol Budget Committee sending letters in support of Simard’s candidacy.
As for the low number of absentee ballots being requested in advance of Tuesday’s election, part of the reason may be a reported problem with a link on the Secretary of State’s website. To request an absentee ballot, one must download a form from that site and send it to the appropriate town clerk; however, there were reports that the link to the town clerks’ addresses was not functioning. The problem has now been corrected.
Early absentee ballots still listed Williams as a candidate, but the Secretary of State’s office reissued the ballots, once Williams certified that he would be unable to serve.
- Written by Tom Caldwell
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 858