LACONIA — City voters selected Andrew Hosmer as the new mayor on Tuesday and decided two City Council races, favoring Mark Haynes in Ward 4 and Tony Felch in Ward 6.
Hosmer received 1,767 votes and Peter Spanos got 1,478 votes.
Moments after Spanos called Hosmer to concede the race, Hosmer spoke to his cheering supporters in the 405 Pub and Grill.
"These are tough times to be in politics,” Hosmer said. "I really believe this city is moving forward and we have to believe in ourselves before this city can succeed.
"And now we're starting to believe in ourselves and people came out (to the polls) and agreed with that saying, 'We are better than some of the dialogue that was taking place during the race.'"
Supporter Phil Spagnuolo was happy with Hosmer's victory, but was also philosophical.
"It was a tough race on both sides," he said. “We haven't seen a race for mayor like this in a long time between two good guys who both have a vision for the city."
Spanos thanked supporters at a gathering at Fratello’s Italian Grille and said he was disappointed.
"You are true blue friends, you gave your sweat, your blood, your checkbooks and your phone calls," he said. "We did the very best we could. As the candidate, the blame rests on my shoulders. This campaign is over, but the friendships we have in this room will go on for the rest of my life."
With 3,245 votes cast, and 11,105 registered voters, the turnout was about 29 percent, more than double the 14 percent turnout of two years ago. The closest turnout to this level in recent years was 24 percent in 2009, said City Clerk Cheryl Hebert.
Ed Engler, who has been mayor for six years, did not seek re-election.
This year’s contentious race for mayor likely helped attract more people than usual to the polls. There were three campaign forums, prevalent advertising and dozens of campaign signs.
The two candidates differed sharply on several issues.
Although, city races are nonpartisan, the political parties got involved. Spanos is a Republican state representative, while Hosmer is a Democratic former state senator.
Each party helped its candidate knock on doors and telephone voters. Spanos was endorsed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and appeared with him at The Dive restaurant and bar. He would not say whether the party contributed money to his campaign.
Hosmer appeared with Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas. The Democratic party sent out a mailer criticizing Spanos’ record on fighting on the opioid crisis.
Since there is no requirement that local candidates in Laconia report campaign contributions, it’s not clear how much was spent on the race for mayor, a position that pays $2,800 per year.
The mayor presides over City Council meetings, but does not vote except in case of a tie.
During the campaign, Spanos emphasized law-and-order, fiscal conservatism and a pledge to make sure Laconia does not become a sanctuary city (where local officials don’t aggressively enforce federal immigration laws).
Hosmer focused on boosting economic development and ensuring excellence in the public school system. He also called for adding one more person to the fire department’s around-the-clock staffing level. He labeled as “a contrived issue,” the focus on sanctuary cities, of which New Hampshire has none.
In the Ward 4 race, incumbent Mark Haynes had 243 votes to 199 for former Councilor Brenda Baer. Haynes was defending a seat he won from Baer two years ago.
During the campaign, she said the council needs to be more judicious with municipal expenditures. She said she regrets her vote in favor of the city’s initial $1.4 million loan to the Belknap Economic Development Council that got the Colonial Theatre revitalization proposal off the ground.
Haynes said he supports the project as a way of spurring downtown revitalization.
After he won, Haynes said, “Elections are a report card. I did a little bit better.”
In the Ward 6 council race, property manager Tony Felch defeated insurance agent Sarah Jenna 317 to 278. The council seat is being vacated by Andrew Hosmer.
Felch is the Ward 6 moderator and Jenna is on the city’s Planning Board.
Jenna, 36, is at least two decades younger than any other city councilor.