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September 16, 2013

In Amesbury, interest in election seems high

AMESBURY — Voters will take to the polls tomorrow to narrow the field of mayoral candidates to two, and city election officials are hoping for a higher turnout in this year’s preliminary than it saw last election cycle.

This year’s mayoral field currently includes four-term incumbent Thatcher Kezer, political newcomers Jeffrey Hoover and Ken Gray, and former Selectman Jim Thivierge. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Amesbury High School cafeteria, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the citywide municipal election on Nov. 5.

There are no other races on the preliminary election ballot.

Going into Tuesday’s preliminary, City Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin said there are 11,081 registered voters in town, and her hope is that the city sees a turnout comparable to the last citywide municipal election in 2011, when 28 percent of the city’s registered voters came to the polls.

“Anything over 26 [percent] makes us feel like we at least worked for something,” Kitchin said.

Despite higher numbers in the main election, turnout in the last mayoral preliminary was very low, as only 769 out of 10,877 registered voters in town, or about 7 percent, cast ballots in the 2011 election. Kezer won handily with 53 percent of the vote, beating out Ted Semesnyei (38 percent) and Thivierge (9 percent).

There is reason to believe this year’s preliminary could attract more voters, however. At this point in 2011 there were no signs posted on front lawns and relatively little political activity, while this year there are signs posted for nearly a dozen candidates all over town.

In addition, far more money has already been raised than had been raised in the entire 2011 Amesbury election season, according to recently released campaign finance reports. As of Aug. 30, Gray led all candidates with $4,051 raised, beating out Kezer’s total of $2,150 and Thivierge’s total of $130.

Comparatively, Kezer only spent $1,836 on his successful election campaign in 2011, outpacing Semesnyei’s total of $1,626.

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