Executive Council race remains a tight one late

District 5 Wheeler, Pignatelli unable to claim victory; Wieczorek wins District 4 contest handily.

Debora Pignatelli of Nashua was leading two-term incumbent David Wheeler in the District 5 Executive Council race as The Telegraph went to press Tuesday night, but the race was still too close to call.

Pignatelli won her home city of Nashua handily, 21,066-15,544, did reasonably well in Democrat-unfriendly spots such as Merrimack, and even took Wheeler’s hometown of Milford by almost 200 votes.

Yet success in traditional GOP strongholds such as Goffstown, which Wheeler took strongly, 4,789-3,272, and Merrimack, which he won 7,064-6,322, kept Pignatelli from claiming early victory.

With results in from 69 percent of the precincts, Pignatelli had 55,190 votes, or 54 percent, to 47,735 votes for Wheeler, or 46 percent.

In another Executive Council race, Republican Ray Wieczorek of Manchester easily defeated Democrat Raymond Buckley of Manchester in District 4, which includes Hudson and Litchfield. With results in from 77 percent of the precincts, Wieczorek had 56 percent to 44 percent for Buckley.

“I think there is such a thing as truth in advertising,” Wieczorek said, adding later: “When someone makes misstatements like my opponent, (people) don’t believe it.”

This will be Wieczorek’s second term on the council. He was also mayor of Manchester for five terms. Buckley has been a state representative for more than a decade.

“I’m a known quantity,” Wieczorek said Tuesday night. “I bring a lot to the job.”

District 5, which stretches from the Merrimack River to the Connecticut River, usually features a few Democrat hot spots amid wide swaths of Republican support.

Most interesting were Tuesday’s results in Milford, which echoed back to 1998, when Wheeler was hurt by a fracas over spreading sludge on his Christmas tree farm. Wheeler has huge roots in the town – his late aunt, Emma Wheeler, was the doyenne of the GOP in the region – but that didn’t help.

The five-person Executive Council is part of the executive branch. Its main jobs are to approve most state contracts and to oversee the governor’s appointments to head state agencies and to judgeships.

Wheeler has been the council’s most conservative member, a title he embraces wholeheartedly. He has gone to bat for gun owners outside the district, been the sole vote against what he calls “activist judges,” and fought the state over its handling of parental custody cases.

Until now, his stance has been successful: In 16 years in the state House, state Senate and Executive Council, he has lost only once.

Pignatelli put in 15 years in the state House and Senate, piling up a reputation of being able to work with both sides of the aisle. She touted this skill in her campaign, arguing that such pragmatism was necessary to keep the state running.

She also attacked Wheeler as a “bully” who was prone to accepting no-bid contracts. In turn, Wheeler called Pignatelli a liberal who is out of touch with most of the district.

In the District 4 race, both Wieczorek and Buckley sharply criticized each other, with Buckley claiming Wieczorek acted as a rubber stamp for Gov. Craig Benson. In turn, Wieczorek said he had more business and political experience than Buckley, whom he charged blindly supported former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen when she was in power.