Gottesman officially claims District 12 seat

CONCORD – It took two full working days over a three-week span and the discovery of ballots inside a locked voting machine at Hollis Town Hall, but Nashua Democrat David Gottesman survived the recount of his state Senate victory over Hollis Republican Rep. Harry Haytayan.

The recount narrowed Gottesman’s winning margin of 188 votes on Election Day by 17, which made the final result, 13,335 to 13,164.

“It’s nice to have closure to the result because it seems like it’s going on for a while. Victory is sweet, and now we can move on to the job at hand,’’ Gottesman said Monday as several Greater Nashua supporters hugged him or shook his hand.

“I want to voice my appreciation for everyone who has worked so hard for me to get to this point.’’

Haytayan, noting his supporters had urged he ask for a recount, said a future campaign for the same District 12 seat is possible.

“I felt we did the appropriate thing just to make sure the count was accurate. I can tell you it won’t be my last campaign,’’ he said.

“Dave is certainly entitled to his victory. I called to congratulate him and wished him and his family the best.’’

Gottesman’s lawyer, Harry Judd, said despite the time delay in getting a final answer, the outcome was never in doubt.

“This was about what you would expect,’’ he said.

Charles Arlinghaus, who had helped organize Haytayan’s recount effort, said it appeared Gottesman got the benefit of a large number of Nashua Democrats casting a “straight ticket,’’ a single mark on the ballot that chooses all the candidates from that party.

There was little competition for offices in Massachusetts – a Democrat-dominated state – and this freed up volunteers from that state to help all Democratic candidates, Arlinghaus said.

“Whenever Massachusetts doesn’t have any races, it’s good news for Democrats running in New Hampshire along our border,’’ said Arlinghaus, a former GOP executive director.

Democrat John Kerry beat President Bush by 1,049 votes in the district, which includes Nashua Wards 1, 2, 5 and 9 along with the towns of Brookline, Hollis and Mason.

This recount had begun Nov. 12 but got stalled after Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s staff could not account for why the vote total in Hollis was 234 votes shy of what both candidates had gotten from that town on Nov. 2.

Town Moderator James Squires and Town Clerk Nancy Jambard alerted local police the following morning that 253 ballots were still sitting in the electronic vote-counting machine.

The difference between the “missing’’ ballots and those found in the machine is a number of voters who cast ballots but did not choose any candidate for state Senate, Gardner said.

“It is obvious that the counting machine had not been emptied, a mistake that I take full responsibility for,’’ Squires wrote in a letter to Gardner.

After the recount, Haytayan’s total in Hollis only had gone up by three, while Gottesman lost one vote.