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Council elections send strong message


November 05, 2009
CLAREMONT The city council elections Tuesday sent a strong message, loud and clear, that a majority of those casting ballots like the direction of the city.

It was clear from the beginning of the campaign, there were two very different sides going into this election: Claremont Citizens for Lower Taxes versus Stand Up for Claremont and Save Our Services; capping taxes versus not capping taxes; cutting the budget versus spending wisely.

With signs clogging the sides of main streets and polling places, voters turned out Tuesday to have the final say.

In the highly contested Ward III race, Nick Koloski edged Bob Woodman 341 votes to 291. The other two candidates, Dennis Dube and John O'Connor, each received less than 60 votes.

In Ward I, with two newcomers, Vic Bergeron took the seat over Bradley Ferland, 389 to 241.

Ward II went to Keith Raymond in a landslide, 710 votes to former Ward II councilor Bill Regan III's 300.

Deb Cutts, appointed in January 2008 after Scott Pope resigned, was re-elected mayor, defeating former mayor Jim Nielsen IV, 1,368 to 1,081.

Assistant Mayor Andy Austin maintained control of his seat, winning over current Ward II Councilor Paul LaCasse, 1,418 to 1,013.

In the at-large field, each of the four winning candidates took in at least 1,250 votes:

Current at-large Councilor Kyle Messier (1,391), current Ward III Councilor Jeff Goff (1,380), Adam Burke (1,334), and current Ward I Councilor Chris Lewis (1,250).

Of the losing candidates, Robert "Bob" Picard had the most votes with 971. CCLT leader Cynthia Howard received 806 votes.

Goff said the results are "encouraging."

"We focused on the issues in this election," he said Tuesday night over the phone. "We can't help but feel encouraged by the city essentially saying 'a job well done,' but at the same time, they're saying 'you've still got work to do.'"

In Ward III, Koloski said he was in fire training when he got a text message saying he'd won.

"I couldn't really react," he said Tuesday night, adding he was "very honored" by the results. "It's been a learning experience," he said. "And I sincerely believe I'm a better person now for having done it."

Burke said he's "excited," but also "a little humbled. I told my Mom I'd be happy if I got a 100 votes. I didn't really expect this."

Going into the budget season, the newly elected candidates must wait until January to take their seats.

"I don't foresee any of the current councilors stepping," he said. "I don't think we'll have a repeat of what happened last time," he added, referring to the 2007 elections in which three defeated incumbents resigned from the council prior to the end of their terms.

Lewis echoed the sentiments of Koloski and Burke, saying he felt "humbled" by the results.

"But I'm excited at the same time," he said. "It's a good night for the future of Claremont. I'm more excited for the future of the city than I have been in a long time. Tonight gave us the confidence to keep moving forward down the path we're on."

Ward II winner Raymond was also excited following his victory.

"The voters of Claremont saw where we were going and they don't want to go backward," he said. "The City of Claremont is now open for business we're back on the map! Other communities are going to look at what's happened here, and are going to say, 'that's where we want to be.' It was an astounding vote across the board, with a clean-sweep of candidates who want to move the city forward. Watch what's going to happen now."

Howard said she felt the issues were muddied by "misinformation" on behalf of S.O.S.

"I believe they ran a lot of misinformation in their ads," she said Tuesday night. "For example, they emphasized the 30 to 60 percent [budget cuts] and that wasn't true."

Howard said she's considering a run for the school board.

Nielsen wished Cutts well, and acknowledged he was "disappointed with the slate of candidates the city went with," adding that the younger vote probably played a large role.

"I feel it would've been more helpful if there had been more of a debate-type format for the candidates," he said. "But who knows?"

Voter turnout increased "significantly" over the '07 numbers according to City Clerk Gwen Melcher's figures.

"This year we had a turnout of 28 percent in Ward I," she said Wednesday morning. "37 percent of registered voters in Ward II voted, while Ward III was at 31 percent."

In '07, those percentages were 20, 29, and 25 percent, respectively.

Cutts, Austin, Bergeron, and Regan could not be reached for comment.

The winning candidates will take their oath of office in January, at which time they will begin their service as city councilors.

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