Special Election Breaks Tie, Despite Last Minute Snafu

February 22, 2023 by Dan McCue
Special Election Breaks Tie, Despite Last Minute Snafu
Last minute campaigning by State Rep. Chuck Grassie and his supporters. (Photo from Rep. Grassie Twitter page)

ROCHESTER, N.H. – If you are one of the 32,492 residents of this small city about 30 miles due west of Kennebunkport, Maine, it was the race you were keeping an eye on yesterday.

Voters in Rochester’s Ward 4 were asked to turn out for a special election to resolve a tie in a state Legislature contest left over from November.

The contest had it all: two old friends who actually live on opposite sides of the same street near a local elementary school, and an electorate that seemed evenly divided between them, at least based on the 970-970 tie they wound up in on Nov. 8.

What’s more, the election actually had something more at stake than which neighbor would have bragging rights in the local diner.

Last November’s election gave New Hampshire Republicans a slim majority — 201-198, and one of the candidates in the runoff was an eight-term Democrat, state Rep. Chuck Grassie.

Though the election wouldn’t swing the state House from one party to the other, state GOP officials saw a potential victory by their man, David Walker, as a way to shore up their razor-thin majority in the state House.

As the candidate himself liked to say on the campaign trail, “It’s only one seat … but if just three people are sick and don’t show up to vote, you’ve just lost your majority.”

Then came an 11th hour wrinkle: On Tuesday, the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a local newspaper, printed that the election would occur next week.

Though the newspaper corrected its online edition by mid-afternoon, state Attorney General John Formella and the New Hampshire Department of Justice Election Law Unit jointly issued a release telling potential voters the special election was this week, and that polls would be open at the local McClelland Elementary School.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, which Grassie won by receiving 568 votes to David Walker’s 451, the incumbent said he and his GOP opponent had long worked well together on Rochester’s city council, with many bipartisan accomplishments to their name.

“I would say 99% of the time, when we teamed up together, we got things passed,” Grassie told reporters recently.

Walker agreed.

“We’re friends,” he said.

Grassie even went on to predict that once the dust settled, the two would be part of each other’s lives again.

“We’ll move on,” he told local reporters before the polls opened Tuesday. “I’ll honk [my car horn] if I see him … if I’m out in the front yard, he’ll honk at me.”

Such is life in a community dominated by modest single-family homes and encompassing three village parks along the Cochecho River. 

As for concerns over the erroneous election date appearing in the newspaper, Michael Garrity, spokesman for the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, told The Well News that as of mid-Wednesday morning, the office had received no calls from Rochester Ward 4 citizens saying that they missed the election due to the incorrect information. 

“And, while the turnout was not as high as for the November 2022 general election, it was a solid amount of voters for a special election,” Garrity wrote.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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