NASHUA – Incumbent mayor Jim Donchess and challenger Mike Soucy have won the top two spots on November 7th’s general election ballot for Nashua city’s mayor. Fellow candidate Mark Gallant has been taken out of the running.

On Wednesday, September 6th, The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce hosted a debate at Nashua Community College, allowing voters the opportunity to hear from the current mayoral candidates for the city of Nashua. The event was completely sold out and NCC’s auditorium was at capacity per allowances set by Nashua’s fire marshal. An hour and a half long, the debate was moderated by Fred Kocher, a familiar face whom many would recognize as the host of WMUR’s NH Business segment on Sundays. The panel was composed of Chris Johnson (Telegraph Publishing Co.), Lucille Jordan (Nashua Community College), and Doreen Manetta (Enterprise Bank) who posed prepared questions to the candidates.

Incumbent Jim Donchess is seeking his third consecutive term as Nashua’s mayor. Donchess also served two previous terms between 1984 and 1992. He is running on his extensive experience and his most notable achievements, particularly increasing housing availability in response to a statewide housing crisis.

Mike Soucy is the current Hillsborough County commissioner. Soucy, as well, boasts a long history of service to the city. He spent 20 years as a Nashua city police officer, three as firefighter, and five as the city’s fire commissioner. Soucy is running on his diverse civic experience and offers himself as a candidate who will bring fresh ideas, the phrase “hope and change for better” having been mentioned more than once.

Mark Gallant has been the proprietor of ACG Electric, Alarm and Security in Nashua for four decades. Gallant poses himself as a government outsider who will bring common sense efficiency to city government. He posits that Soucy and Donchess will only continue a trend of growing government and, thus, growing property taxes to fund frivolous programs and add unnecessary city employees to implement them. Gallant, himself, stated that he does not expect to be listened to (or, presumably, voted for) because voters have already decided who they will vote for.

The three candidates spoke on several topics. The growing challenge that homelessness poses to Nashua was addressed first by Soucy who, drawing on his experience as a Nashua city police officer, asserted that it was a drug, mental health, and corrections issue. In his opinion, transitional help for those recently released is crucial to addressing this problem and the state needs to be involved in making it happen. Donchess, on the other hand, stated that lack of identification was a major factor contributing to homelessness. According to Donchess, not having proper identification prevents people from obtaining employment as well as housing.

When asked what could be done to improve the city’s economic development, Mayor Donchess asserted that while Nashua is doing quite well, due in part to the new Performing Arts Center, insufficient availability of affordable housing and lack of a commuter rail system is holding the city back. Commissioner Soucy, on the other hand, took the opportunity to confront the mayor on what he characterized as a lack of transparency and cited the city’s methods for approving the performing arts center project as well as recent lawsuits with regard to Right to Know laws. Gallant indicated that these two sides of the issue are evidence that career government officials are out of touch and will continue to make mistakes with taxpayer money, stating that since it is not their money, they do not suffer for those mistakes.

A particularly contentious topic centered on school facilities and enrollment. Soucy cited a 122 million-dollar school budget and the proposed building of a new middle school in southwest Nashua, stating that doing so when enrollment follows a downward trend is “madness.” He went on to suggest closing low performing schools. Donchess returned with a challenge that Soucy inform voters which schools he thought should close – Soucy responding with Pleasant Street School as the first he would consider closing. The discussion trailed off from there, but both candidates issued additional statements on this topic in the following days – Donchess in an apparent email blast which Soucy responded to on Facebook.

Many topics of importance to Nashua voters were covered and those interested in learning more can view the entire debate on Nashua Public Television’s YouTube channel. In the end, Mayor Donchess help up his record and achievements, Commissioner Soucy promised transparency and a change of pace, and Gallant offered an alternative to long-time government figures.

The mayoral general election will take place on Tuesday, November 7th. Voters can find their ward’s voting location on the city’s website.


Written by Elaina Bedio
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