Municipal Candidates Seek Political Harmony at "Karaoke Night" in Manchester

Oct 19, 2015

Lisa Freeman, a candidate for Manchester school board, sings at “candidate karaoke night” at the Spare Time bowling alley and bar last Friday.
Credit Ted Siefer / NHPR

With presidential campaigns in full swing across New Hampshire, it’s easy to forget that municipal elections in several cities are just a couple weeks away. One candidate in Manchester recently came up with a novel way to try to get the attention of potential voters — a karaoke contest. 

Ed Sapienza, the impresario for “candidate karaoke night," took his turn with a Lou Rawls song. And no, the romantic balladeering was not a shameless attempt to court voters in his bid for Ward 8 alderman. 

Prior to taking the stage, Sapienza said — with shot-glass in hand — that the event was a way bring some humor and humanity to the local political scene.

“I picture this as a pin to the bubble, or the stuffed shirt," he said. "We’re pretty passionate about politics in Manchester, you know that. And you need a little relief.”

About a dozen candidates took the mic at the Spare Time bowling alley and bar in Manchester, a fraction of the more than 50 people vying for seats in the Nov. 3 election. Mayor Ted Gatsas didn’t show, but his challenger, Joyce Craig, did make an appearance; still, she said it was best for everyone that she not sing. 

And it’s safe to say none of the candidates will be getting record deals anytime soon.

But the fact that conservative and liberal candidates took part was in itself notable in Manchester. This is a city known for bare-knuckle politics. Three incumbent aldermen, for instance, are currently facing a lawsuit brought by Republican activists. 

Joseph Lachance, a Republican state representative and a candidate for school board, said he saw the event as a way to transcend politics.

“I think sometimes we lose focus," Lachance said. "The extremes of the parties, the left, the right, I think sometimes we need to sit down, have a beer, have a conversation and maybe — just maybe — we can get back to where we used to be, when you could make politics, decisions and ideas move forward collaboratively.”

And while it was all in the spirit of fun, some of the candidates clearly had chops.  

Lisa Freeman, who’s running for the Ward 5 school board seat, ended up being declared the winner of the candidate karaoke night. Time will tell if this boosts her chances on election day.