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Executive Council picks up two Democrats

Van Ostern wins by wide margin

Democrats picked up two seats on the Executive Council last night while one other race remained close for a spot on the five-person board, which is currently held entirely by Republicans.

Colin Van Ostern in District 2 and Chris Pappas in District 4 both claimed victory just before midnight. At that time Republican Dave Wheeler, who holds the District 5 seat, and his Democratic challenger Debora Pignatelli were separated by just a few percentage points.

“I think it’s clear we will have a more balanced Executive Council than we do today and have both Democrats and Republicans ready to work together to move our state forward,” Van Ostern said.

The Stonyfield Yogurt executive appeared to breeze through his race against Republican Michael Tierney, a Contoocook lawyer, and was up by about 20 percentage points at press time.

Van Ostern saw his strongest support in his home of Concord, earning 64 percent of the vote. He also carried Keene and Dover, among other towns.

“I’m particularly honored to have received such strong support from my hometown of Concord, and I spent the day in more than a dozen polling locations from Belmont and Northfield to Dover and Rochester and got a great response,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to see the results reflect that, too.”

The District 2 council seat Van Ostern will now hold is being vacated by Republican Dan St. Hilaire, who chose to not run for re-election in the newly drawn district. The district picked up Keene and Durham while dropping more conservative communities like Allenstown, Chichester and Epsom.

Those towns are now a part of District 4, where Pappas, co-owner of the Puritan Backroom in Manchester, beat out Bob Burns, owner of a pharmaceuticals manufacturing company, yesterday.

The seat is being vacated by Republican Ray Wieczorek, who is retiring.

Pappas last night said that campaigning in the new district never concerned him.

“It presented some opportunities and some new challenges, but I think as we reached out to the communities in the district we had a great time campaigning there. . . . I feel strongly that I need to keep my ear to the ground and focus on what’s in the best interest of the community in District 4,” he said.

With just five of Manchester’s 12 precincts reporting at press time, Pappas appeard to have a strong showing there with 56 percent of the vote.

In both Pappas’s and Van Ostern’s races, social issues came to the forefront, but it wasn’t because the candidates placed the matters high on their own agendas. Instead, candidates on both sides seemed intent to critique or commend past decisions by the council, namely the vote to pull the state’s Planned Parenthood contract.

Van Ostern and Pappas both accused the council of becoming a “super legislature” and promised to return the board to its more traditional role.

Councilors Chris Sununu of District 3 and Ray Burton of District 1, both Republicans, appeared to hold onto their seats last night and were each ahead by at least 15 percentage points at press time.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

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