A unique NH election story

And remembering Jack Kenny, a unique New Hampshire character

In the September primary election, once the smoke cleared and results from legislative races became apparent, a few more trends became clear, at least on the Republican side.

In Belknap County, where the GOP held all of the seats, some of the more colorful and controversial representatives, who had directed the attempt to replace management at the county-owned Gunstock Mountain Resort, were defeated in their re-election efforts.

In addition, a number of representatives who had bucked leadership or sponsored or supported legislation on certain subjects deemed inappropriate by leadership or had attempted compromise with Democrats, were ousted by more conservative candidates. This continued effort to purge the party of moderates should concern everyone who seeks middle ground.

One happy exception to this trend was the renomination of Rep. Dan Wolf, a Republican representing the towns of Newbury and New London. Wolf, a moderate, has bucked leadership and joined with like-minded representatives in supporting sensible proposals, while supporting the governor most of the time.

What is unique, however, is not that aspect of his service, but rather the tradition that Wolf continues of teaming up with the other representative from the district, Karen Ebel, a Democrat, in running for office together.

This tradition started with predecessors of the two current representatives, Democrat Randy Foose and Republican David Kidder, and reflects the generally moderate, calm and civilized nature of the towns in the district.

The late David Kidder was the son of longtime Rep. Bill Kidder Sr., who along with the late Congressman Jim Cleveland, represented the moderate Republican nature of the town’s majority and the 2nd Congressional District, at the time the safest GOP Congressional seat in New England.

But with the Republican Party’s swing to the right, with the resulting departure of so many traditional GOP voters to undeclared or Democrat, that has changed the nature of the Second District.

That same change in the character of the parties and candidates threatens the tradition which Wolf and Ebel represent, since voters who are not aware of the tradition or do not like supporting candidates of the other party could end it. Indeed, Wolf had stiff opposition from several Republicans in the primary to the right of him. It would be a good example for the state, albeit rare in this day of extreme partisanship, for the New London-Newbury tradition to continue. Time will tell.

Another facet of the recent primary was how smooth it went, with only a few recounts of races for state representative, all of which confirmed the election night results, and none of which was appealed. Candidates accepted the results, and no one, up and down the ballot, claimed fraud or irregularities, or questioned the integrity of the election. The question is whether that would have been the case if other candidates had prevailed and the winners had not won. In any event, it was a pleasant change from 2020.

Finally, and on a completely different subject, the recent passing of Jack Kenny of Manchester, should not go unnoticed. Kenny, 76, was a character known to many in the Queen City and New Hampshire from his writing on many subjects for different publications, including NH Business Review.

When writing on politics, he always stuck to the right end of the spectrum, holding Republicans to his view of what the party should believe and stand for, and excoriating those, like this writer, who urged moderation or compromise. Ardently pro-life, Kenny was tireless in defending the “rights of the unborn,” as he would term the issue, and just as tireless in scolding those who supported pro-choice candidates of either party.

Kenny, born in Connecticut, moved to New Hampshire after service in Vietnam, and attended St. Anselm College. He stayed here the rest of his life, and was active in Catholic organizations and several parishes. He could be hard on members of the clergy he felt strayed from proper positions. Always eager to engage in debate and friendly conversation, he often could be found at the garage run by the late Mayor Bob Shaw, at the corner of Webster and Union streets on a Saturday afternoon, where Shaw also sold sandwiches. If you happened by to fill up the tank and they were there, it could take hours to finish the task!

Jack Kenny was an original and a friend. May he rest in peace.

Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at bradfordcook01@gmail.com.

Categories: Cook on Concord