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NH Politics

In N.H., candidates tie again in bid for city council seat. A coin toss may decide the race.

Rochester officials and the candidates themselves couldn’t help but laugh at the highly unlikely outcome

New Hampshire State Representative Chuck Grassie (left), a Democrat, and longtime City Council member David Walker (right), a Republican.Ryan David Brown/The New York Times, M. Scott Brauer/The New York Times

Voters in Rochester, N.H., have a really tough time deciding between David Walker and Chuck Grassie.

When the two local leaders faced off in November 2022 for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, their race ended in an even tie, with 970 votes apiece.

Now, a year later, their showdown for a spot on the Rochester City Council has ended in another tie, with 406 votes each, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.

Not even the local officials who announced the tally could control their giggles.

Grassie, a Democrat, ultimately won the state lawmaker seat in a runoff election in February, with a margin of 117 votes, or 11.5 percent, in the low-turnout tiebreaker.

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Walker, a Republican, has extensive experience on the city council. He even served as the city’s mayor in the mid-2000s.

Reached by phone, Walker laughed and said he knows he wasn’t the only one shocked by the addition of Tuesday’s tie.

“One was bad enough,” he said. “Now I got two!”

Walker and Grassie have decades of history in Rochester. They live on the same street and have described each other as friends. They are well known in the city, particularly in their ward.

Clearly their popularity is roughly equal, Walker said.

Grassie said in a phone interview that he heard from community members who had wished they didn’t have to choose between the two candidates because they like them both and wanted both in office.

“I expected it to be close, quite honestly,” Grassie said, crediting Walker for an energetic door-to-door campaign strategy. “I’ve been busy working in my legislative job in Concord. ... I did as much work as I could.”

If an automatic recount confirms the tie, then the city charter calls for a coin toss to decide the race.

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Grassie said the coin toss system avoids the unnecessary cost of a runoff election and prevents either candidate from having an advantage. He has some experience with the process. For one, he said he wrote the city’s policy in consultation with the city attorney. For another, he said the coin toss was used to decide the outcome when he tied with Ralph W. Torr for a city council seat in the early 1980s.

“I’ve won all my tie votes so far,” Grassie added.


Steven Porter can be reached at steven.porter@globe.com. Follow him @reporterporter.