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Kenney Wins N.H. Council Seat

Cryans Unsure if He Will Run Again in Nov.

Republican Joe Kenney on Wednesday was declared the victor of a special election for the District 1 Executive Council seat, winning 51.3 percent of the vote to complete the current term of late council veteran Ray Burton.

“We have a lot of constituent work to do,” the 53-year-old Kenney, a former state senator from Wakefield, said on Wednesday after attending an Executive Council meeting in Concord. “Touring of the district, solving problems with the roads, with infrastructure and economic development, with wind-power issues.”

His opponent, Hanover Democrat Mike Cryans, said he was absorbing his narrow loss and was unsure whether he will run for the seat again in a matter of months.

“A number of people have called me to say how disappointed they were that we didn’t quite make it, and asking whether I’m going to try again in the fall,” the 63-year-old Grafton County commissioner said after falling less than 1,300 votes short in Tuesday’s election. “Everyone has said, ‘Go for it again.’ I’ve got to take some time.”

If Cryans does lace up his campaign shoes again to challenge Kenney for a full, two-year term, he’ll need to file by mid-June for the Democratic primary in September.

And whoever takes on Kenney next time will be facing an incumbent, which isn’t lost on the councilor-elect.

Kenney’s next opponent will need that time to figure out how to attract more voters to the polls than the 41,435 who cast ballots in this election on Town Meeting day Tuesday. The last time Burton ran for a full term of two years, in 2012, 133,000 people voted on a day that included the presidential and gubernatorial elections and elections for state offices.

“In a wider election, it will probably be a little more party driven, just based on the way the races line up,” Kenney said. “When the time comes, we’ll try to stay true to our form from this campaign.”

Aside from historically low turnout for a special election on Town Meeting day — which Cryans acknowledged as a major hurdle during the campaign — the Democratic candidate will need to fare better in her or his part of the state than Cryans managed in the Upper Valley and the northwestern edge of the district.

While dominating Hanover, where he resides, by nearly 10-to-1, and Lebanon, he topped Kenney by just 33 votes in Littleton, where Cryans grew up.

And while nearly 7,000 voters in the district’s Upper Valley communities marked ballots for Cryans to not quite 5,000 for Kenney, Kenney won half of the cities and towns, including Claremont by 20 votes, Haverhill (the Grafton County seat) by 84, Newport by 135, and Sunapee by 139.

“We did a lot of ‘Cup-of-Joe’ events in the small communities, talking about issues,” Kenney said. “And we spent a lot of time in Claremont. (Claremont) was a good surprise, but we put a lot of hard work to get out the vote in Claremont.”

Cryans said that while the Claremont outcome was disappointing, along with Kenney’s 594-417 victory in Laconia, “I wasn’t following the towns that closely (on Election Night). My staff in Concord was getting all the totals. With 109 towns, I would have been hard-pressed to pinpoint any one or two making a difference.”

Cryans praised his campaign staff and volunteers for energizing him throughout a campaign short on time and long on travel.

“Every town I went to, there was a handful of people there to help me — people who three months ago had no idea who I was, who thought I had a chance,” Cryans said. “They kept me motivated.”

Motivated enough to embark on a longer race in the fall?

“I hate to say this, but I just crossed the finish line,” Cryans, a distance runner, said. “This is not one of those times when I’m thinking about the next marathon.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.