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Jawed Alibaba




New mayor in Manchester?
Queen City mayoral candidates seek to unseat Gatsas

09/10/15
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



Education and drug addiction are top issues in the campaign for Manchester’s next mayor, and while candidates agree that improvements are needed, they have different ideas as to how to make them happen.

 
Who's running
Manchester city elections are nonpartisan, so while candidates for elected office are often affiliated with a political party, that affiliation is not listed on the ballots. The top two vote-getters from the Sept. 15 primary will face off in the general election on Nov. 3 regardless of what party they represent.
Incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas is a Republican while his opponents this year are either Democrats or independents. The Democrats are Alderman and former school board member Joyce Craig, former alderman Patrick Arnold and businessman Jawed Alibaba Shaikh. Perennial candidate Glenn Ouellette is an independent the Washington Post once described as a “political gadfly.”
 
Ted Gatsas
As an incumbent with the most name recognition, Gatsas enjoys the advantage in the race. He’s already won two re-elections, and his name was floated as a possible gubernatorial candidate in past races.
He became the city’s 47th mayor in 2009, and while he enjoyed a 70 percent margin by more than 6,100 votes when he won his first reelection, he squeezed by in 2013 with just over half the vote, winning by about 940 votes.
This year, he's focusing on education and public safety. He points to his record of turning the Manchester School of Technology into a four-year school and his involvement in helping create the STEAM Ahead magnet program at West High.
“Students are the mayor’s number one priority. The mayor went to Manchester public schools and he'll be the first to tell you that having good teachers ... is very important,” Andrew Provencher, Gatsas’ campaign manager, said in a phone interview.
In the latest city budget, Gatsas put virtually all of the added revenue from the higher tax cap into the school district while flat funding other city departments.
Provencher said Gatsas has hosted 10 town hall events ahead of the primary, one for nearly each city ward. Gatsas prides himself on running “positive” campaigns and seldom mentions his opponents.
 
Patrick Arnold
Perhaps the most well-known of Gatsas’ challengers, Arnold was a sitting alderman when he ran against Gatsas in 2013 and gained 47 percent of the vote. He’s running a campaign of “change” and often rails against the “failed policies of the status quo.” Arnold argues that the issues with the Manchester School District, such as large class sizes, and persisting problems with drug-driven crime are born of a “culture of complacency” that he hopes to do away with.
He attempts to link voters’ concerns with Gatsas’ policies and, perhaps seeing a threat from Joyce Craig, includes the alderman in his criticisms.
“Mayor Gatsas and Joyce Craig have written the last six years of city budgets, and they claimed that such budgets would fix the city’s problems and were the best that we could do, and they were wrong on both counts,” Arnold said
He also criticized Gatsas and Craig for crafting budgets that laid off first responders.
“I think the sun has definitely set on the era of Ted Gatsas in the corner office. His my-way-or-the-highway style of governing is catching up with him,” Arnold said.
Arnold secured the endorsements of the firefighters union, at-large school board member Kathy Staub and school board member John Avard. He also has the backing of major establishment Democrats such as former U.S. Ambassador George Bruno and former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador Richard Swett.
 
Joyce Craig
This is the first time Alderman Craig has run for mayor, but she’s already secured the support of the SEA, which is the state’s largest union, former Alderman Bill Cashin, State Rep. Mary Heath and members of the business community like Dyn Senior Vice President David Allen.
She highlights her record as alderman, passing an ordinance banning synthetic marijuana and voting in favor of a teachers contract both times it came before the board (overriding Mayor Gatsas’ veto the second time around), and she characterizes her heavy involvement in the city budget as a strength.
Craig is critical of Gatsas for not supporting her plan to partially fund a drug court that would help divert more addicts to treatment instead of incarceration. And she says Gatsas has not prioritized education.
“It’s time we had a mayor in our city who believed that education is very important. We have families moving out of the city because they don’t trust that their kids will get a good education in Manchester and ... that affects property values,” Craig said. “We now have higher class sizes, we have fewer teachers in the classroom, we have less course offerings, we’ve seen Auburn, Hooksett, Candia school districts pull their kids from Manchester schools for the reasons I just mentioned.”
Craig also says she worked for 15 years in “major advertising agencies” in Boston and hopes to use her marketing prowess to promote the city to businesses that might locate there. She says she wants to attract more retail businesses downtown.
If elected, Craig would be the first female mayor of Manchester.
 
Jawed Alibaba Shaikh
A newcomer to Manchester politics, Jawed Alibaba Shaikh emphasizes his 20 years of business experience. He says he led the telecom company Wireless Link Inc., growing it to national status before selling it for millions. Alibaba is now an investor in about 50 companies, including the Alibaba food stores in the city.
He too points to the heroin epidemic and school district woes as the main reasons he’s running for mayor. Alibaba also says poverty is a main concern.
“Today, if you look at the city, we have 15 percent of our population living in poverty and under poverty. Teachers are not paid enough to make their ends meet and many businesses are struggling to meet payroll and keep their doors open. Some members of our community are out of work and more are working hard for less,” Alibaba said.
He says these problems persist because there is no accountability in government and people are shifting the blame.
 
Glenn Ouellette
Ouellette’s Facebook page says he owns 52 percent of QCE Publishing, the company that published the Queen City Examiner. The website for the Examiner indicates the last issue was published in 2012. During the 2012 New Hampshire primary, Ouellette opened an office space for “lesser known” presidential candidates. Ouellette has styled himself a media man, but his productions are sporadic. The website qcityexaminer.webs.com describes the Examiner as a free monthly paper and lists Republican State Rep. Will Infantine and former Republican State Rep. Andrew Manuse as partners. 
In his video address recorded by Manchester Public Television and posted online, Ouellette called himself an independent voice who wants to bring Manchester into the 21st century “before it continues to pass us by” and said City Hall is holding back efforts for change “like an anchor.” Ouellette could not be reached for comment. 
 





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