Remembering ‘Robbie’ Bass, analyzing the Manchester election

No sooner had I written the last column about the late Perkins Bass, former 2nd District congressman, Robert P. Bass Jr., his younger brother, died at age 88.”Robbie” Bass, who died Nov. 2, was 11 years younger than Perkins and had a distinguished career as an attorney, civic and political activist as did his brother.Bass attended Harvard College and the Harvard Law School, and, along with James C. Cleveland, Perkins’ successor as 2nd District congressman, and Warren Waters, founded the Concord law firm of Cleveland Waters and Bass, where he worked well into his seventies.Bass was the Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire for many years, at a time when moderate Republicans still had influence in the party. He was involved in many charitable activities and causes.*****In the Nov. 8 municipal election, Manchester voters went to the polls and dramatically changed the school board while leaving the board of mayor and aldermen largely intact.Why this is important to people elsewhere in New Hampshire is that the largest city in the state, and its business hub, matters with ten percent of the population and a significant number of the social and economic power and problems.In this year’s election, incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas garnered over 70 percent of the vote against school board member Christopher Herbert, who ran a campaign notably short of money and organization.While Manchester elections are nonpartisan in form, in the past the Republican and Democratic parties have put on fairly vigorous campaigns on behalf of candidates who are members of their respective parties. This year, the Democratic Party did not appear involved in the mayoral election — if it was, it was a well-kept secret. The Republican Party promoted Gatsas and other candidates of that persuasion effectively.Gatsas has served as an energetic leader for the last two years and his re-election was not unexpected, although the size of it may have surprised some observers.On the Board of Aldermen, the biggest surprise was that Republican Joe Kelly Levasseur was the top vote-getter, besting longtime Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neil and the other incumbent, Mike Lopez, who now will not sit on the board because there are only two at-large members.Incumbents won in all other races, save one: In Ward 8, Thomas Katsiantonis, a school board member, beat state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt.Vaillancourt, Levasseur and Will Infantine, another Republican state representative, are controversial activists who have been accused of erratic behavior in the past. Some observers advised Gatsas that he might have a problem if his coattails were too long in that he might bring several of these people back into office. Only Levasseur was victorious.On the school board, however, the situation was very different. Of the 14 members elected to that position, seven new members emerged after the election. Since Manchester School Board has been quite contentious in the past, there is some hope that new members will make it less so, although many of the new members will be first-time office holders.The top vote-getter was Kathryn Staub, who received over 7,000 votes in her run for member at-large. Former Alderman and Deputy Labor Commissioner David Wihby was second with 6,645 votes with Joshua Harwood and Ross Terrio receiving fewer than four thousand votes each.What effect does a city election have on New Hampshire politics?First, local elections are incubators where politicians start out and where political parties test their strength and organization. Second, especially in an election held two months before a presidential primary, the organizational skills of candidates sometimes can be transferred to those running for president. Third, large victories for candidates for one party or another sometimes predict trends and future election results.Based on these criteria, the recent Manchester city election is somewhat confusing. A light turnout was not a good sign, and only a small percentage of the city’s voters turned out, unlike what undoubtedly will happen at least in the Republican presidential primary in January. There does not seem to be any particular anti-incumbent trend which may be an interesting predictor of future results.Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.