Charbonneau keeps county post

A sweeping victory in her hometown and strong numbers in two others propelled Hudson Republican Rhona Charbonneau to her fifth term as Hillsborough County commissioner on Tuesday.

The 74-year-old former selectman and state representative defeated Democratic challenger Michael Clemons, a Nashua Board of Education member and assistant high school principal in Manchester, for the second time in two years.

“Thank goodness for the towns,” Charbonneau said late Tuesday night from her home, where family and friends were helping her tally results from Nashua, Hudson, Hollis and Pelham, the constituency of the seat.

Clemons came out ahead by a slight margin of roughly 200 votes in Nashua, but Charbonneau won the three towns by nearly 4,500 votes to clinch the win. Charbonneau received a total of 27,708 votes in the race compared to 23,132 for Clemons.

Even before election night gave way to Wednesday morning, Charbonneau was looking ahead to the next two years.

“There’s lot of work to be done,” she said. “One big thing we’re looking at is assisted living for people who can’t (presently) afford assisted living, and making sure people don’t lose their Medicare and Medicaid coverage . . . that will be a big issue for us.”

Clemons, meanwhile, extended his congratulations to Charbonneau, calling the campaign a good experience.

“I’m not terribly disappointed . . . I didn’t really campaign that much this time compared to two years ago,” he said.

Clemons referred to his 2002 run for the same office, when, he said, “I spent almost $10,000 and campaigned every day for two months. This time, I just put out a few signs and didn’t do much else.”

The Central High School assistant principal said he became interested in running for county commissioner when a Democratic friend and fellow teacher at Central, the late John McDonough, began talking to him about running.

“It interested me, and later, (state Democratic party chair) Kathy Sullivan asked me to run, so I did.”

“I do plan to keep my name out there,” he added.

Charbonneau, who said she visited each polling place during the day Tuesday, found crowds and lines virtually everywhere but couldn’t figure out how they were thinking.

“I couldn’t read people at all this time,” she said.

But by the time the numbers came in, it was time to look ahead – and stay the course with her goals.

“I will always work hard for my constituency, and still look for ways to make sure we can give them the best services,” she said.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6523 or at