It's Old Manchester Versus New Manchester In Race For Executive Council Seat

Oct 30, 2018

Chynoweth and Gatsas lawn signs line streets along Manchester. This year, Gatsas' signs have "Executive Council" pasted over "Governor" and "Mayor," two seats Gatsas ran for in the past.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The city of Manchester is reinventing itself. Some think its best hope lies in the high-tech industry based in the booming Millyard. But for others, old-school, neighborhood relationships are still the way to move Manchester forward.

Nowhere are these opposing visions more on display than the race between Republican Ted Gatsas and Democrat Gray Chynoweth for the District 4 seat on the Executive Council.

Gatsas is a household name in much of the District. Before serving as major of Manchester for eight years, he was a city alderman and state senator. His navy blue yard signs have been a part of the landscape every election for the past two decades.

Ted Gatsas on the campaign trail at the Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

And this year, Gatsas is counting on name recognition to win the race for Executive Council.

At a campaign stop at the Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta, Gatsas needs no introductions. He walks against the flow of parade goers as people stop to greet him.

"Hope we get your vote in November," he says to an old friend.

"Oh, of course you will," the man replies.

Another parade-goer shakes Gatsas' hand.

"You're out there working hard," he says. "I'm seeing a lot of you!"

Gatsas smiles and nods.

"Working very hard, people are seeing you, and it’s amazing how many people recognize you, which is good."

Credit NHPR

Goffstown is among the towns surrounding Manchester that make up the Executive Council district Gatsas is running to represent.

Before Gatsas was mayor, he was a successful business owner.  He says both roles have prepared him for the work of the council, a sort of board of directors for the state, that reviews the Governor’s appointments and approves contracts.

"I think people understand what I did in the city of Manchester as mayor: negotiating health care contracts, negotiating with the unions," he says.

When he’s working the crowd, Gatsas gives off an air of confidence. And his success here depends a lot on swing voters - voters like sisters Barbara Mahoney and Joan Hebert.

Sisters Barbara Mahoney (L) and Joan Hebert (R), from Manchester, are leaning towards voting for Ted Gatsas because he's a household name.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

They say in the past, they voted for Democrat Chris Pappas for Executive Council. He was a local - well-known, well-liked, and predictable.

Now, they're leaning towards voting for Gatsas - for basically the same reason.

"I know him," Mahoney says. "I know people who went to high school with him. He’s been around forever, you know."

But having been around forever doesn’t always work in Gatsas’ favor.

Manchester is changing - it has a growing tech sector in the revamped Millyard, which Gatsas takes some credit for.

When Joyce Craig, a well-known Democrat, challenged Gatsas for mayor in 2017, he lost. It was the first general election he had ever lost.

Malcolm Jennings, though leaning towards voting for Gatsas, understands why some people voted Gatsas out.

"I think he lost it only because he was in there for so long," Jennings says.

"People need change. People don’t like change but they need change, you know?"

And change is precisely the message you hear from Gatsas’ opponent, Democrat Gray Chynoweth.

Chynoweth was president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats and served as legal counsel for the party, but this is his first run for office.

Gray Chynoweth (L) at a campaign fundraiser with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig (center), who beat Ted Gatsas in the 2017 mayoral race.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

He’s known in Manchester for helping to expand Dyn, a software company in the Manchester Millyard that, according to former Fortune editor Dan Primack, sold for around $600 million.

But Chynoweth is not well-known outside Manchester, which is what brings him one evening to the Blasty Bough Brewing Company, a farm-to-kettle brewery in Epsom.

His first order of business: teach voters how to pronounce his name.

"Like with China," he says, "But the other way around. Chyn-now-weth."

Second order of business: explain why he’s running for office. It doesn’t hurt that his origin story begins with Chris Pappas, the popular executive councilor who represents this district and is now running for U.S. Congress.

"He told me I should think about it because of my business background," Chynoweth explains. "That that would give me some perspective on how to make the state a little more innovative and little more efficient."

Chynoweth (far right) at a campaign stop at the Blasty Bough Brewing Company in Epsom.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Innovation, efficiency - it’s a tech approach that shapes Chynoweth’s vision of Manchester, and which he says will work in the State House too.

He talks about automating appointments at the DMV and building light rail into Southern New Hampshire. With the exception of his strong support for - and from - Planned Parenthood, Chynoweth focuses mostly on ideas that cross party lines.

He says at the end of the day, this race is about old politics versus new ideas.

"People are hungry for new ideas," he says. "Especially in politics - they feel like our politics are broken, and so they want to see somebody who will bring new ideas to the table, and be willing to talk to everyone, no matter what party they’re in."

This message resonates with Julie DeCosta, a resident of Deerfield who is at the Blasty Bough to sample the latest brews and meet Chynoweth.

"I think he’s open to hearing ideas from people," she says. "And his experience - I didn’t realize he worked for Dyn, and I know the company is very progressive."

When I ask what DeCosta what she means by “progressive,” she says: "Progressive in terms of innovative."

That pretty much sums up how Chynoweth would like voters to see him.

And despite the differences between his vision and Gatsas’, both candidates have invested a lot of their life into Manchester and a lot of their own money into this race - about $25,000 each.

Now it’s up to the voters, to decide which candidate they'll invest in on November 6th.