Two newcomers headed to Concord School Board, Higgins loses seat

  • Concord school board candidate Liza Poinier stands outside the ward 6 polling place at St. John's Church in Concord on Election Day, Nov. 7, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord school board candidate Barb Higgins stands outside the ward 6 polling place at St. John's Church in Concord on Election Day, Nov. 7, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Candidates and supporters stand outside the ward 4 polling place at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Concord in Concord on Nov. 7, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/7/2017 10:52:56 PM

Voters sent two new faces to the Concord school board on Tuesday and re-elected one incumbent. 

In District B, Liza Poinier handily beat two-term incumbent Barb Higgins. Tom Croteau won re-election in District A, defeating his challengers Danielle Smith and Liza Dube with a comfortable margin. And in District C, newcomer Chuck Crush bested Rusty Cofrin, who had previously held the seat for three years.

Higgins lost by more than two hundred votes to Poinier, who took home 1,003 votes across wards 5, 6, and 7 to Higgins’ 766.

“I’m pretty bummed out. But she put on a great campaign,” Higgins said in a phone interview about an hour after the city clerk’s tallies had been released. 

Higgins said Poinier had invested heavily in her campaign and gotten an endorsement from Save the Children Action Network, a national early-education advocacy group. “I didn’t put forth that kind of effort,” Higgins said. 

Full-day kindergarten loomed large in the race. Higgins voted against implementing full-day programing in the district this year amidst a budget crunch, and has said publicly her vote had cost her support. Poinier first got involved with the board when she campaigned for full-day kindergarten last year.

SCAN, which endorsed candidates based on their support for early-learning, also backed Crush. They didn’t endorse in District A, saying all candidates had expressed equal support for full-day kindergarten. 

All told, Higgins said she was glad the race had remained positive.

“We stood together all day long, and she’s really a wonderful person,” she said. 

Higgins added that she planned to take a few months off – but then planned to run again next year, when the school board’s at-large seats would be up for grabs. 

For her part, Poinier thanked Higgins for her time on the board and said she looked forward to learning all that she could. 

“I know there’s a steep learning curve but I want to catch up as soon as I can so I can make good decisions,” she said. “I’m just really excited to get involved and see what we can do.”

In District A, the voters of wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 cast 416 ballots for Croteau, 316 for Smith, and 219 for Dube.

“My competitors … did a great job,” Croteau said. “They made this a tough race. Had me wondering. So I congratulate them for their hard work – but I’m glad I won.”

Dube, one of his challengers, said she’d been glad the race had been so competitive.

“Hopefully we are setting a bar for school board races for the future,” she said. Dube added that she “wouldn’t rule out” running again later.

And Smith, who came in second in the race, said she was glad that the contest hadn’t gotten dirty.

“I’m disappointed, obviously, that it didn’t work out in my favor but it was a very respectful and dignified race,” she said. Like Dube, she said she might run again next year.

And in District C, the voters of wards 8, 9, and 10 cast 702 ballots for Crush and to 604 for Cofrin.

Speaking on the phone from a celebratory dinner at the Barley House, Crush said he “was very happy and feeling grateful.”

“I’m excited to serve on the school board,” he said.

Cofrin, who ran for a seat on the board after getting ousted last election, wasn’t available for comment after the results came in. But earlier at the polls, he said he didn’t expect to win.

“I’m a budget hawk. And they’re not,” he said while holding a sign outside of Broken Ground School.

The District C race had been the one with the clearest policy differences between candidates. Cofrin had said his overriding concern was holding the line on taxes. And while Crush touted himself as a fiscally responsible businessman, he’d pushed inclusion and full-day kindergarten as his campaign’s chief themes.

The candidates will hold their seats on the board until 2020. All results released Tuesday by the Concord city clerk are unofficial they are certified. 

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or

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