Cook On Concord

As those in politics know, there is no joy like winning an election and, probably the second worst thing that can happen on an election night is to lose. The worst nightmare is to tie.On primary night, Sept. 14, as the television and radio signed off and the newspapers were put to bed, it appeared there might be three contests that were virtual ties in major races in the Republican primaries, those for U.S. Senate, and the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.When people woke up the next morning, both congressional races had been called, for Charles Bass in the 2nd C.D. and Frank Guinta in the 1st, but the results of the Senate election still were “too close to call.”The night before, Ovide Lamontagne led Kelly Ayotte for the Senate nomination. In the morning, Ayotte lead Lamontagne but the race was still too close given 15 percent or so of the vote yet to be counted.It was not until 2 p.m. on Wednesday that the secretary of state certified Ayotte as the winner by about 1,600 votes. Lamontagne, in a typically classy performance, had a press conference at 4 p.m. in which he said he would not seek a recount, but would support Ayotte. He would have had to have asked for the recount by 5 p.m.Lamontagne, the most conservative candidate among a field that had few differences in position on economic issues and things like immigration, but did differ on social issues, at least at the end of the campaign, appealed to the conservative voters and “Tea Party” activists. Ayotte got the endorsement of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Whether this helped or hurt her depends on the individual voter.Lamontagne’s showing was the surprise of election night. It was a testament to several factors.First, he probably was the most conservative candidate in the race and was known by conservatives throughout New Hampshire from other races. Second, he won the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, for whatever that is worth, and conventional wisdom says that it is worth more in the Manchester area than elsewhere, which certainly seemed to be the truth. Third, regardless of philosophy, Lamontagne is known to believe fervently those positions for which he stands and also is acknowledged to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk.”Regardless of whether they were going to vote for him or not, people acknowledged his integrity and stellar personal characteristics as well as his sincerity and devotion to his principles. That he did so well spending $500,000 or less in an election where others spent so much (Bill Binnie spent a reported $6.5 million, mostly his own money, Jim Bender spent a couple of million of his own money and Ayotte spent a reported $2 million) is a testament to organization, grassroots efforts, skillful use of free media and the strength of the most conservative voters in Republican primaries.Lessons: positive campaigning and organization pay off.Many longtime Republican activists commented on the different nature of the campaign this year, indicating that Binnie, Bender and various congressional candidates had neglected to contact them or ask to be shown around their places of work or be introduced to people they might influence.Whether this is an indication of naiveté or is an indication that candidates rely on money and media and mailing rather than personal contact, it is a curious development. The candidates who organized and made personal contact apparently did better.*****For those who follow such things, the election results seem to have augured poorly for proponents of expanded casino gambling in New Hampshire.Anti-gambling advocates noted that both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor are anti-casino to some degree and that in five Republican state Senate primaries, the anti-casino candidates defeated pro-casino candidates, although this probably was not the deciding issue in any of them.Perhaps the lessons of the primary will be instructive. Maybe candidates will proceed to the general election relying more on message than money, more on positive than negatives. But do not count on it.Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.