EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 14, 2013

Pelham write-in votes lead to confusion

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM — Voters Tuesday elected Jack King to the School Board.

But this is one King who won’t have to abdicate, because he will never assume the throne.

School district moderator Paul Leonard, announcing the results Tuesday night from Town Meeting, told residents and town officials there are two John Kings in town, John E. King of Debbie Drive and John T. King of Overlook Drive.

John T. King could not be reached yesterday, but has said publicly he does not go by the nickname Jack and does not want to serve.

John E. King is more likely “Jack,” but he is ineligible to serve under New Hampshire law because he isn’t a registered voter. He was removed from the checklist earlier this year, Leonard said Tuesday.

Town property records show the colonial-style home on Debbie Drive is owned by the John E. King Trust. One online database gives a disconnected number at the address for a John D. King.

Town residents and officials agree the “Jack” in question is a regular, outspoken contributor to the town’s electronic message board.

It wasn’t his idea to mount a write-in campaign. It apparently took off after King commented on the message board and suggestions followed that he should run for School Board.

One such tongue-in-cheek comment came from incumbent School Board member Andy Ducharme: “Jack, want to be a write-in candidate for School Board?”

King’s tart response: “If I did, Andy, I would be your worst nightmare.”

So, think of King as a stand-in this election for the always popular Mickey Mouse on voter ballots. Only this time, Mickey emerged victorious.

One theory in town is that “Jack King” isn’t a real person, just a composite created by people who want to post anonymously.

But circumstantial evidence drawn from the 673 posts — he has averaged 0.55 per day — of “Jack King” point to the John King of Debbie Drive being the man.

He identifies himself as a part-time Pelham resident who also lives in Florida and whose neighborhood is Debbie Drive.

His residency status is a reason he has given for not getting into politics.

“I am only a part-time resident of New Hampshire, so running for office is not an option,” Jack King posted on the message board.

He weighs in on every political issue imaginable.

Taxes: “Since Southern New Hampshire is a Mall Mecca, we should steer clear of a sales tax. But we do need a modest income tax (2 percent) strictly earmarked for property tax relief.”

Cutting spending: “If property values go down 5 percent, have a 5 percent drop in every department in town.”

Public labor unions: “I have no beef with private unions. If they want to stick it to ‘The Man,’ who cares? It is all private money. But with public unions what we have is citizen against citizen, that never turns out well.”

On education: “Per pupil cost is not the measure of success.”

On evolution: “There are so many holes in Darwinian evolution, you can drive a truck through it.”

King’s sparring with fellow posters is legendary in Pelham.

To one: “Why are you even posting? You left in a huff a few months ago vowing never to post here again.”

To another: “Do you really think that comparing the school system of Lawrence, which is a virtual basket case, to Pelham is building your case?”

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz said Leonard was in consultation with the Secretary of State’s Office concerning what steps the school district could take.

Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said if town election officials determine which Jack King won, and he refused to accept the voter’s nomination, the School Board could act under state law to appoint someone to the post.

“A vacancy is declared,” Scanlan said.

Write-in runnerup Linda Mahoney, a former School Board member, would not be declared the winner, though the School Board could choose to appoint her, if she was willing to serve, Scanlan said.

She received 15 votes. Mahoney did not return a call yesterday about the situation.

The School Board last used its appointment authority in 2011, when Megan Larson was named to fill an unexpired term. Larson later was elected in her own right in 2012.