LACONIA — With only 289 votes separating the winner and loser of Tuesday’s mayoral election, Andrew Hosmer said Wednesday support from educators and firefighters played a role in his victory over Peter Spanos.
“I was stronger because of the firefighters and the educators and a number of people spoke to me and mentioned the endorsement of the firefighters as the reason they would vote for me,” he said.
“It was important for me to earn the endorsements of both groups. The firefighters and teachers play essential roles in what I consider to be my priorities — public safety and education.”
Hosmer was endorsed by the Laconia Education Association, Education Assistants of Laconia and the Laconia Professional Firefighters — organizations with numerous local members.
Deb Tivey, president of the education association, said there are 199 teachers in the bargaining unit, many of whom live locally and have family members in the area.
“I know Andrew campaigned hard even at the debate at middle school,” she said. “I’d like to think the teachers and the endorsements from the former mayors and former Superintendent Bob Champlin had a major role in the election.”
Turnout in the election was 29 percent, more than twice as high as two years ago. Ward 3 at the middle school had the highest turnout citywide, with 38 percent. Hosmer won the election 1,767-1,478, and won Ward 3, 398-245.
“His views are very aligned to our views,” Tivey said. “We care deeply about education and students.”
She said association representatives met with Hosmer, but Spanos did not reach out for such a meeting.
Jason Griffin, president of the Laconia Professional Firefighters, said his local union has more than 30 members. Representatives of his organization met with both candidates. A police union representative also participated in the meetings.
“We felt Hosmer was going to be better on firefighter issues in the long run,” Griffin said.
Hosmer supported adding another person to round-the-clock firefighter staffing. He said the additional staff is needed for the safety of firefighters and the public. Spanos did not make such a commitment.
Spanos said during the campaign that some residents of the city fear crime, and he ran on a law and order platform. He said enhanced neighborhood watch programs could be helpful.
Hosmer, a former assistant district attorney, said the city can’t arrest its way out of problems associated with substance abuse and supports drug recovery programs.
Mayors endorse Hosmer
Hosmer was also endorsed by former mayors Mike Seymour, Rod Dyer and Matt Lahey, while Spanos was endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu.
Dyer said that historically, mayoral elections have been pretty mild in Laconia. This one was more exciting.
Political parties got involved and both candidates had advertising campaigns costing thousands of dollars, not including money spent by outside groups.
The state Democratic Party sent out a mailer criticizing Spanos for his record on fighting the opioid epidemic.
The political action committee of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire contributed to the Hosmer campaign, but Dario Scalco, the government affairs director for the group, did not immediately return a call seeking information on the size of the donation.
Spanos and the Belknap County Republican Committee would not say whether that committee contributed to his campaign.
The exact amount of money spent overall by the two candidates is unclear. The state does not require local campaign finance reporting, although some cities have adopted such requirements on their own. Laconia has not.
Dyer said it might make sense to look into whether Laconia should enact such a requirement.
“Now that the issue has been raised, it certainly merits thinking and investigation as to whether or not it is right for a city of our size,” he said.
Dyer said some of the excitement in this campaign arose from an issue that he thinks does not have much of a foundation.
“There was a lot of sound and fury with regard to whether Laconia was going to become a sanctuary city,” he said. “However, in my personal opinion, that's highly unlikely.
“The city has been welcoming immigrants for a number of years, but I haven't seen any great influx from any particular country. I suspect that before Peter raised the issue, not many were thinking about whether Laconia was a sanctuary city. Andrew was able to deflate that particular claim substantially.”
State Rep. Mike Sylvia, the chairman of the Belknap County legislative delegation, helped collect campaign signs for Spanos on Wednesday.
Sylvia mentioned the issue of sanctuary cities, which are places where local law enforcement does not aggressively enforce federal immigration laws. No cities have this designation in New Hampshire.
“There are people, conservative types, that consider sanctuary cities a true issue,” he said.
“I saw some diversity signs encouraging anybody to move to the city and take advantage of available services. That's the big issue.
"There are various programs that the government supplies at taxpayer expense. Democrats like to call it a social safety net. I see it as more of a spider web that captures people into poverty generationally.”
City Clerk Cheryl Hebert said that the relatively high turnout meant that some wards came close to running out of ballots. She ended up printing out 100 extra ballots for Wards 1 and 3, and 150 extra for Ward 6.
She said there was some confusion about polling hours, with some people not realizing the polls closed at 6 p.m. The City Council had the chance to change the polling times but opted to keep it at 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as stated in the city charter.
Hebert said she will likely suggest that the next municipal election run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. State elections run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., as will be the case in the 2020 General Election.
Three-term Mayor Ed Engler did not seek re-election. Hebert said he received two write-in votes.
To view the city's complete election results, visit https://tinyurl.com/y6c2y8ow