AMESBURY — Mayor Thatcher Kezer and challenger Ted Semesnyei will face off Nov. 8 for the mayor's seat after the two candidates won the top-two vote tallies in yesterday's preliminary election.
Kezer, 51, had the most votes, with 409 of the 769 ballots cast or 53 percent of the vote. Semesnyei, 36, a planning board member, had 289 votes or 38 percent of the vote, and former selectman and state banking official Jim Thivierge, 65, had 70 votes or 9 percent.
The mayor's race was the only contest on the ballot.
Turnout was low this preliminary race with 7 percent of the town's 10,877 registered voters casting ballots.
Shortly after the polls closed, the candidates who held signs on Friend Street came into Town Hall waiting for the results to be announced. Town Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin read the results shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m., after which Kezer and Semesnyei shook hands.
Despite the low turnout, Kezer said he's still getting the good numbers.
"Once again, it's a lot of hard work over the last two years and over the last six years moving Amesbury forward, and that's being reflected in the response from the voters," Kezer said.
Kezer said he's spent his time in the mayor's office working to get the town's finances under control, and he succeeded this past year in reducing overall property taxes.
"It's taken five years of getting the financial piece in a really good place so that we can start doing the positive investment in the infrastructure and physical plant areas so we can continue to provide services to our residents," the mayor said.
Semesnyei said the election results are a good first step, but he won't be able to win in November with those numbers.
"I think we've been out to build a little bit of excitement here. Hopefully, we can build on this," Semesnyei said. "It looks like we made a decent showing in each precinct. It wouldn't be good enough for Nov. 8, but we're getting there."
Semesnyei said he needs to "get out there" more and prove himself to the voters. He's also looking to debate Kezer.
"I'm going to give it the best I can. Obviously, I won't be able to do it all by myself. I'm going to need a lot of support and a lot of word of mouth, a lot of grassroots effort and go from there."
During much of the day, Thivierge spent time outside campaigning for the mayor's seat, something he's done seven times now.
"I always feel confident," Thivierge said earlier yesterday. "I always believe in the people knowing they have the highest residential tax rate in the area, the highest residential tax rate in the county, in the valley, in the North Shore, and one of the top 10 in the state."
Yesterday's preliminary results for Kezer were the lowest percentages he's received in his re-election bids. He received 78 percent of the votes in 2007 and 64 percent in 2009 during the preliminary races.
For the voters, who they voted for came down to taxes and the direction they see the town going.
Husband and wife Chris Galat and Jessica Rybicki said they both voted for Semesnyei for a couple of reasons: the first being because of their property taxes, and second, they usually vote against the incumbent.
"Career politicians are something I'm not a fan of," Galat said. He said he was looking for a "fresh point of view."
Jay Knapp, who owns a marine business in town and is part owner of Hatter's Point Marina, said he voted for Kezer.
"I think the town is starting to go in the right direction. Hopefully," Knapp said. "I'd like to see taxes go down a bit."
Dorothy Caverly, 67, voted for Kezer.
"I think if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain," she said.
2011 Preliminary Election Results
DistrictJim ThiviergeTed SemesnyeiThatcher Kezer