Election 2018

Democrats take control of Portsmouth Town Council

Cortvriend beats incumbent Mendonca for House District 72 seat


PORTSMOUTH — It was a big night for Portsmouth Democrats on Tuesday.

With 15 candidates running, Democrats apparently grabbed all but one of the seven available Town Council seats. Some results could change because more than 900 emergency and mail ballots were still unaccounted for when the polls closed.

Still, Democrats seemed giddy at the Portsmouth Portuguese American Citizens Club, their election night headquarters. 

Democrat Linda L. Ujifusa, with 3,676 ballots cast in her favor, was the top vote-getter among the Town Council candidates. 

“I think if you look at the candidates, they’re people who have contributed a lot to our community through public service,” said Ms. Ujifusa, who won a second term to the council. “They’re thoughtful and hard-working and I think just presented themselves to the public really well. And I think there’s so much more than needs to be done going forward, and I’m thrilled because these guys are going to do what’s right.”

Her husband, fellow incumbent and Democrat J. Mark Ryan, came in third place with 3,238 votes. Pointing to some political competition at home, he jokingly groused that his wife “shellacked him” by over 300 votes. 

“She’s mopping the floor with me,” he said.

Daniela T. Abbott, a political newcomer, was another Democrat who apparently won a seat on the council. Although Ms. Abbott wasn’t claiming victory — the seventh and last precinct was still out when we talked to her — she praised her campaign staff for her strong showing.

“We all worked really hard,” she said.

Leonard Katzman, a Democrat who took the seventh and last council seat (barring any changes due to the absentees) expressed cautious optimism regarding his party’s success. 

“We look to be in decent shape right now,” said Mr. Katzman before the high school precinct’s numbers rolled in. 

However, he said the absentees could flip some of the results in certain races. 

“I tend to be a exceptionally cautious person, so I don’t like to say a win’s a win. If you’ve lost by only 100 votes … who knows?” he said.

The mood was decidedly more downbeat at the Masonic Lodge on Sprague Street, where the Republicans (and some independents) were watching the numbers come in.

“If I’m going to comment on it now, I’d say it’s not very good. It’s myself and six Democrats,” Town Council President Keith Hamilton, a Republican, said after seven of eight precincts had reported. Mr. Hamilton appeared to have come in fourth among council candidates. 

Elizabeth Pedro, a Republican who’s been a member of the council since 2010, was one of three incumbents who may have been bumped from the panel Tuesday night. She finished 10th among the 15 candidates.

“I came in thinking it’s OK either way,” said Ms. Pedro, who hasn’t given any thought about running again. “I just got married. It’s probably a good thing because I have some more time now and I have other projects.” 

David Gleason, who ran as an Independent, took his loss in stride.

“It looks like it was a pretty serious marketing campaign by the Democrats,” said Mr. Gleason, who’s been a council member for six years. 

He said he’s not sure he’ll run again. He’s a member of the Portsmouth Water and Fire District’s administrative board “and there’s still the issue of dual office-holding,” he said. A future town charter review could ban him from holding both seats anyway, Mr. Gleason said. Plus, he said he’ll be turning 64 and has other things to do. 

“I kind of expected this to happen,” said Mr. Gleason, adding he spent “zero dollars” on his campaign.

“I got a friend who’s on the Middletown Town Council, where there’s nine people running for seven seats. Here, there’s 15 people running for seven seats. The odds were already against me,” he said, adding that running as an Independent also put him at a disadvantage.

Four elected to school board

There was less at stake in the race for School Committee.

With five candidates running for four available seats, only one person could go home a loser Tuesday night. That happened to be John Schlesinger, a Republican.

Incumbents Allen J. Shers and Thomas Richard Vadney, both Republicans, and Frederick W. Faerber III, an Independent, all retained their seats. 

They were joined by a newcomer, Catherine H. Holtman, a Democrat who was the second-highest vote-getter.

“I have kids in the school system,” said Ms. Holtman, explaining why she chose to run. “Also, my father was on a school committee (not in Portsmouth). He was very encouraging about the idea.”

District 72 to Cortvriend

Democrats also found success in the General Assembly races.

Terri-Denise Cortvriend defeated Republican incumbent Kenneth Mendonca for the House District 72 seat by nearly 500 votes. That race was perhaps the most intriguing of the local General Assembly contests.

“I feel very excited and relieved. I’ve been on pins and needles all day,” said Ms. Cortvriend, known to many locally as the chairwoman of the Portsmouth School Committee, a position she chose to relinquish when she ran for General Assembly.

“We worked really hard. I had a great team of women and we walked every street in District 72 — and it’s a big district. We had an upbeat, positive campaign,” she said.

In House District 69, incumbent Susan Donovan, a Democrat, beat Douglas Gablinske, who ran as an Independent. 

In Senate District 11, incumbent Democrat James Seveney easily outpointed his Republican challenger, Stephanie Calise, taking a whopping 62 percent of the vote.

Here’s how they voted

Here are the results of the local races Tuesday night. These numbers were updated Wednesday to account for the outstanding mail ballots.

Town Council

7 to elect

Candidate Total votes

Linda L. Ujifusa (D) 4110

Kevin M. Aguiar (D) 3873

J. Mark Ryan (D) 3629

Keith E. Hamilton (R) 3549

Daniela T. Abbott (D) 3533

Andrew V. Kelly (D) 3510

Leonard B. Katzman (D) 3360

Paul Francis Kesson (R) 3171

David M. Gleason (I) 3145

Elizabeth A. Pedro (R) 3102

Raymond Davis (D) 3050

Debra Cardoza (R) 2907

Lawrence J. Fitzmorris (R) 2765

Jeffrey L. Richard (R) 2508

Peter D. Roberts (I) 1957

School Committee

4 to elect

Candidate Total votes

Frederick W. Faerber, III (I) 4896

Catherine H. Holtman (D) 4800

Allen J. Shers (R) 4341

Thomas R. Vadney (R) 4192

John Amos Schlesinger (R) 3843

Senator, District 11 

Candidate Total votes

James Arthur Seveney (D) 6720

Stephanie L. Calise (R) 4046

Representative, District 69 

Candidate Total votes

Susan R. Donovan (D) 2515 

Douglas W. Gablinske (I) 2096

Representative, District 72 

Candidate Total votes

Terri-Denise Cortvriend (D) 3413

Kenneth J. Mendonca (R) 2835

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