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NH Elections: An Overview

Matt Rourke
AP Photo

Both of New Hampshire’s congressional districts, one of its Senate seats and the Governorship are all contested this year- and they’re all pretty tight races. Valley News local news editor John Gregg gave Vermont Edition an overview of election season in the Granite State.

The most high-profile race in New Hampshire is that for the US senate, where former governor and first-term incumbent Jeanne Shaheen is locked in a tight race against Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from Massachusetts.

"Whether Havenstein can get his message heard above the din of some of these other races is hard to tell, but again, the advertising there is running into the millions too," he said.

With all of this national attention, the New Hampshire senatorial race is getting a lot of funding, and most of it is going to TV stations. According to one Washington think-tank, more than $10 million have already been spent in this race, and more than 15,000 ads have already run.

This funding comes primarily from outside groups, such as the Koch-brother backed group Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, as well a Democratic PAC to retain the Senate majority, and several environmental groups.

These funds have helped Brown pull close in the polls. At this point, the two candidates are probably separated by a point or two, with Shaheen in the lead.

“His big thing is tying her lock, stock and barrel to President Obama by saying she’s voted with the president 99 percent of the time,” Gregg said. “He’s cast it as a referendum on the Obama presidency.”

Shaheen’s campaign has caught the attention of some noted Democrats. Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren was recently in New Hampshire campaigning for Shaheen against her old rival, Scott Brown, and the Shaheen campaign has also said that Hilary Clinton will be campaigning on her behalf in New Hampshire.

One person who is not coming to support Shaheen is President Obama.

“In a debate the other day, Senator Shaheen said that he’s in the White House, and that’s right where he needs to be,” Gregg said. “As in, ‘Please don’t come here—you’re an albatross.’”

Gregg says that Senator Shaheen is trying to make sure that women come out and vote in the polls. Even though Brown generally supports abortion rights, there might be “legitimate concern” if Republicans take the Senate, he said.

“Jeanne Shaheen is the only woman to ever have been elected to both the governorship of her state and to the US Senate,” he said. “And here she is, locked in a very close race with someone who moved to the state a year ago. That’s kind of hard to ponder on one level, but New Hampshire’s southern tier is full of a lot of people who moved up from Massachusetts because they weren’t happy with the tax or regulatory climate there.”

Races for Congress

In a race in one of the congressional districts, incumbent Carol Shea-Porter is facing a challenge from Frank Guinta, who held the seat before her.

“They do trade it back and forth,” Gregg said.

He attributes this trade-off to the swing between midterm elections and presidential elections.

“That’s certainly one of the reasons why, in Presidential elections, a lot more people come out to vote, including a lot of college students. That tends to help Democrats,” he said. “In the midterms, it’s more favorable to the Republicans and Independents, and that’s where we are right now.”

In another congressional election, U.S. Representative Annie Kuster is facing a challenge from 31-year-old Marilinda Garcia, conservative state representative from Salem.

“That race is fairly tight,” Gregg said. “Kuster, if you look at the polls, maybe by an average of seven points,” he said. “But you know, turnout is going to be a big deal there.”

Gregg says Kuster has tried to question both Garcia’s politics—she supported a lot of the “Tea Party bills” in the legislature two or three years ago—and her experience.

“[Garcia] hasn’t had a lot of full-time employment, still lives at home, that sort of thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Garcia is trying to ‘tie [Kuster] to President Obama’, pointing out that Kuster has supported the Affordable Care Act.

Race for Governor

First-term governor Maggie Hassan is running against Walt Havenstein, who says that New Hampshire is losing the “New Hampshire advantage.”

“That’s the sort of famous, no broad-based sales or income tax, low-regulation climate that New Hampshire tries to portray, in stark contrast to Massachusetts and Vermont,” Gregg said.

Havenstein, a former Marine and CEO of a big defense contractor, claims that his business knowledge will be helpful to the state’s economic development.

Hassan, has taken on some rather complicated issues—she helped pass a bipartisan, four-cent increase in the gas tax to pay for “chronically underfunded” highway funds, and also settled a mental health lawsuit, he said.

Gregg says Hassan is trying to paint Havenstein as someone who is going to give New Hampshire an income tax, and she says she will veto any bill that comes along on that.

“She’s been very clear that she’s not looking to raise an income tax,” he said. “Energy costs, electricity costs are spiking this winter for several utilities in New Hampshire because they’re much more reliant on natural gas than Vermont is. Because of the pipeline capacity issue, natural gas prices may spike.”

Republicans control the state Senate and it looks like they may take back the State House, picking up as many as 60 seats. Gregg attributes this massive potential swing to the “midterm phenomena” mentioned earlier.

He notes that campaign ads have been “pretty nasty”.

“The Associated Press had a story the other day about how Democrats have sent a mailer out against one state senator with a photo of a woman with a bruised face, saying that his vote on a landlord bill didn’t protect victims of domestic violence,” he said.

Another Republican state senator, Andy Sanborn reportedly sent out a mailer featuring a ‘hooded, dark-skinned man with a gun’, in an effort to cast his opponent as being soft on crime.

“It’s pretty nasty and brutish,” he said.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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