Rich Girard, the host of the Girard at Large radio and television programs, continues to be a staunch supporter of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas’ veto of the teacher contract that was approved by a 7-3 vote by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA). An attempt to override Gatsas’ veto by BOMA members failed by the same 7-3 vote. On his August 14 radio broadcast, Girard said he was being unfairly characterized on social media as a “villain” by teachers who claimed he was opposed to him.
Rich Girard is running for the position of at-large member of the Manchester School Board Committee. Prior to filing for the School Board, Girard had been toying with the idea of running for the position of alderman-at-large, the only elected position in which he has served, and that for one term from 1999 to 2001. He began to reconsider that plan after incumbent Alderman-at-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur offered to nominate him to the School Board after the resignation of David Wihby back in April.
The proposed nomination was surprising because, although both Girard and Levasseur are Republicans, they have a long history of animosity towards one another. Their antagonism reached a crescendo in 2013 when Levasseur criticized Girard after he was caught in a sexting scandal. Girard accused Levasseur of forwarding the texts of a social media dialogue between himself and a young woman who was not his wife to multiple people in order to smear him.
Before declaring his intent to become a member of the School Board, Girard had been forecasting a scenario by which his would-be-benefactor Levasseur could be defeated. Alderman-at-Large Daniel O’Neil, the chairman of the Board of Mayor and Alderman (BOMA) is a shoe-in to be reelected to his ninth consecutive term as he regularly racks up more votes than the winning mayoral candidate. Thus, Girard’s scenario was rooted on the decision by Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau to run for alderman-at-large.
The Democrat Corriveau’s decision to run at-large was based on his having bought a new house outside Ward 6 to fit the needs of his growing family. That meant there would be two Democrats, O’Neil and Corriveau, in the race for alderman-at-large. Girard’s electoral calculus, which he shared on his Girard at Large radio and television shows, was based on former six-term Alderman-at-Large Mike Lopez running to reclaim the seat he had lost to Levasseur in 2011. Since Lopez was a Democrat, that would mean he, O’Neil and Corriveau would cannibalize the Democratic vote and compete for moderate to liberal independents.
Girard stated his belief that if he, a Republican, entered the alderman-at-large race, then fellow Republican Joe Kelly Levasseur could be defeated as he would siphon off Republican votes from the controversial iconoclast, who widely is perceived as the #1 enemy of Mayor Ted Gatsas. Due to this being Corriveau’s first city-wide race, and Lopez having come in second in the balloting for the City Charter Commission in the November 2012 vote, a tandem of the Democrat Lopez and the Republican Girard could thus bring an end to Levasseur’s BOMA career.
While Girard said he would surely lose in either the primary of general election, a weakened Levasseur would be beaten by Lopez in November. In the Charter Commission vote, Lopez had racked up 13,846 votes, a total topped only by State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro’s 15,398. Girard and his media partner Will Infantine, who used to be the co-host of Levasseur’s public access TV show, came in 8th and 9th with 8,007 and 7,848 votes, respectively, for the last two seats on the nine-member board.
Anyone familiar with Joe Kelly Levasseur knows it is highly unlikely that he listens to either Rich Girard’s radio or television shows, so no one but Levasseur is sure whether he heard of Girard’s strategic plan to knock him off BOMA. What is public knowledge is that Levasseur offered to nominate Girard to replace Wihby, Girard took the offer seriously, and then dropped out when Levasseur revealed he could not get anyone on BOMA to second the nomination.
But a seed apparently had been planted in the brain of Richard H. Girard. He decided to give it a shot.
As he runs for a position on a School Board that seemingly is against the mayor, Girard has positioned himself as a die-hard champion of Gatsas and his hard line against the teachers. In the wake of Gatsas’ veto of the contract, the Board voted 10-2 to approve a “No Confidence” motion put forward by Ward 10 School Board Committeeman John Avard, who also is a Republican.
The no confidence vote was intended to show the School Board’s displeasure with Gatsas’ behavior as Board chairman, in that his veto of BOMA’s approval of the teacher contract effectively undermined all the work that Board members, including Avard, had made in crafting a deal with the teachers’ union. The no confidence vote was coupled with a request that BOMA reconsider the contract and mandate that Gatsas recuse himself from the vote as his twin tenure as heads of both BOMA and the School Board was a clear conflict of interest.
Mayor Gatsas is a frequent guest on the Girard at Large radio program, appearing at least once a week. Gatsas denies there were political considerations behind his veto, arguing that the backlash proves that it was based on principle. It is highly unlikely that the mayor and the radio show host will back down over the veto or to their opposition to the teacher contract. Whether that stance will help the Girard at Large host win the at-large seat on the School Board is up to voters.
Rich Girard and his fellow Republican Joseph LaChance are squaring off against incumbents Kathy Staub and Nancy Tessier, who took Dave Wihby’s spot on the School Board after she was chosen for the position by BOMA. Since there are only four candidates vying for the at-large position in the non-partisan municipal elections, and four candidates make it onto the final ballot, the results of the September 15 primary are inconsequential.
The primary vote will, however, serve as a bellwether as to whether Girard can garner enough votes to make it onto the School Board come November. Also, seeing as he is serving as a surrogate for Ted Gatsas, Girard’s vote tally in the primary likely will be used by political prognosticators to predict whether the incumbent in the mayor’s office will be turned out by Queen City citizens or enjoy a fourth term.