Craig makes history as first woman elected Manchester mayor

  • Joyce Craig speaks after winning the Manchester mayoral race Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Craig became the first woman ever elected to the office in New Hampshire’s largest city. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

  • Ted Gatsas Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The second time was the charm for Joyce Craig.

The former Manchester alderman and school board member defeated Mayor Ted Gatsas in a rematch of the 2015 election, when Craig lost by just 64 votes to Gatsas. This time around, there was little suspense when the polls closed. According to unofficial totals, the Democratic candidate topped the four-term Republican mayor by well over 1,000 votes.

Come January, Craig will become the first female mayor in the history of New Hampshire’s largest city.

Gatsas conceded about 30 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m., telling supporters at the Derryfield Country Club, “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Speaking minutes later in front of a throng of energized supporters and Democratic activists at the Puritan Conference Center, Craig said, “I’m incredibly honored and humbled to stand here tonight as the next mayor of Manchester.”

“As your mayor I will focus on the things that matter most for residents: improving our schools, making our streets safer, supporting our existing businesses and bringing new businesses to our city. And making real and lasting progress against the opioid crisis,” Craig said.

Both Craig and Gatsas pledged to work with each other during the two-month transition.

Gatsas, who was a member of the 1966 Manchester Center High School football team that won the state championship, said in his concession speech that “the only thing that gets you ready for this is being an athlete.”

Speaking with the Monitor minutes later, Gatsas said of his defeat, “You never know what the voters are thinking.”

The former alderman, state senator and state Senate president has been a public servant for nearly two decades. Until now, that is.

“I’m a servant to my wife and my mother,” he said. “The next challenge is to get up tomorrow morning and go into the office and continue to do the work of this great city.”

While he kept the margins close, Gatsas ended up losing nine of the city’s 12 wards to Craig.

“We left it all on the field. We gave 110 percent. There’s no looking back to say, ‘What if we’d done something else,’ because there was nothing else to do,” he told the Monitor.

Craig followed her victory with praise for her team’s efforts during the campaign.

“Our campaign knocked on thousands and thousands of doors,” she said. “We worked hard for every vote and tonight we know that our hard work paid off.”

Turnout this year was slightly more than the 20,000 voters who cast ballots in 2015.

Craig is the first Democrat in a dozen years to win a Manchester mayoral election, which, while officially nonpartisan, are in reality partisan showdowns. Bob Baines was the last Democrat to run the Queen City.

The race attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks both inside and outside of New Hampshire. Five Democratic 2020 White House hopefuls parachuted into Manchester to campaign for Craig in the past couple of months. And last Friday, former vice president Joe Biden put out a video supporting Craig. Biden, who has twice run for Democratic presidential nomination and came close to running again in 2016, is reportedly once again considering another presidential campaign.