Commuter Rail, Downtown Development Key Issues In Crowded Nashua Mayoral Race

Jun 18, 2015

Nashua City Hall
Credit C. Hanchey via Flickr CC.

There’s no shortage of options for Nashua voters when it comes to who’ll be the next mayor of the state’s second-largest city.

Six candidates are confirmed to be running, and that’s a big change from four years ago, when the city’s current Mayor Donnalee Lozeau ran unopposed.

Lozeau isn’t seeking re-election this time around, which has opened the door for others hoping for the job.

Kathryn Marchocki is a reporter for the Nashua Telegraph. She joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about how the race is shaping up.

This week, Chris Williams, the former Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, made his bid official. Who else is running?

You have five other candidates; three are currently sitting aldermen-at-large. You have two others; one is a first-time bid for public office, a local businessman named Mike Broderick. Another is Doug Carroll, a former one-term state representative.

The alderman-at-large are the board president and the longest-serving member, David Deane. There is also Jim Donchess, who is a former mayor of Nashua. He served in the late 1980s through 1991. The other is Dan Moriarty. He is on his fourth year serving on the Board of Aldermen, first as ward aldermen and now as an alderman-at-large.

So these are all names that are fairly well known around the city.

Yes, but I would say some more than others. I would say definitely the aldermen-at-large are very well known. Chris Williams is also very well known. But Broderick and Carroll will have some issues with name recognition in their campaigns.

Are there common themes we’re hearing from the candidates as far as what they see as the major issues for the city?

I think there are some common themes you’re hearing even at this very early stage. One of them is bringing jobs to Nashua and improving economic development of some vast areas of the mill yard and the Nashua River front, which will become open once the Broad Street Parkway public works project is completed. But also, revitalizing the downtown retail district will be an issue. Alec’s Shoe Store decided they were going to pull out of the downtown.

And they’ve been there for decades.

Nearly 80 years. They’re moving up to Exit 8 on the highway. Part of the reason is they’ve done so well, they’re very well known. But it was also accessibility; parking and other issues have been problems for downtown. They’re an iconic presence downtown and the news was greeted by some calling it sad, others said it was painful. I would bet money that if there are debates down the road, Chris Williams will be asked what’s happening with the downtown district.

The debate over whether to expand commuter rail into Nashua is likely to be a big issue in the race. Have we heard anything from the candidates on this?

Yes, Chris Williams has definitely been a very strong advocate of commuter rail, even before he came to Nashua. He’s definitely following in Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s shoes, saying it’s very important to the development of the city. Also, former mayor Jim Donchess is pushing that very hard. Most of the well-known candidates have taken positions on it to varying degrees. I don’t know the positions of Broderick or Carroll on that.

Any other issues do you see as being a factor in the race?

Yes, I think how to balance the budget, particularly in keeping a tax rate stable is going to be a critical issue going forward. Nashua has a spending cap, which is different from a tax cap, but it was a very difficult budget year this year and projected to be more so in the next two years.