Now on to November

September primary results set the stage for the general election

On Sept. 13, New Hampshire voters, with only a moderately strong turnout, selected candidates for the November election for all offices other than president. In presidential years, strong turnout often influences the results of races for state office and control of the Legislature, but recent polls indicate the top of the ticket race to be quite tight in New Hampshire, a situation many find puzzling. 

The top primary races resulted in expected results. 

For the U.S. Senate, incumbent Kelly Ayotte easily won the Republican primary with 79 percent of the votes to 17 percent for Jim Rubens. Ayotte will face Gov. Maggie Hassan, who was unopposed in the Democratic Primary.

The race already has attracted unusually heavy spending. What is interesting about the ads is that the characterizations of the positions of both candidates by outside groups are clearly nonsensical. Nevertheless, this kind of fiction is hurled at voters on behalf of two candidates, each of whom is a fine person, good attorney and experienced officeholder. Hopefully, the voters will see through all the static and evaluate the candidates on their merits.

In the Republican governor’s race, the situation was a little less certain, with Executive Councilor Chris Sununu winning a 1 percent victory over newcomer Frank Edelblut with 31 percent of the vote. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas got 21 percent and NH Sen. Jeanie Forrester 18 percent. This was a somewhat surprising result, not in the Sununu victory, but in the strong showing by Edelblut, who ran a positive and well-financed campaign. Edelblut benefited from the turnout, and his identification by many as the most conservative of the candidates. Sununu, with a strong family name and experience as executive councilor, now faces Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord for the governorship.

Van Ostern easily won the primary with over 50 percent of the vote, beating New Castle businessman Mark Connolly and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand. Van Ostern had the best financed campaign and will run a spirited race against his fellow executive councilor. Both Sununu and Van Ostern are young and will bring a new generational attitude to the corner office, regardless of the winner.

Clearly, they vary in philosophy, although both took “the pledge,” and, if elected, will face life in one of the weakest governorships in the country. 

The lack of contests in the Democratic Senate and 2nd Congressional District race may have had some effect on the turnout for governor. 

For Congress, perhaps the most surprising result of the evening was the victory of incumbent Frank Guinta in the Republican Primary in the 1st Congressional District. Guinta, muddied by reports of campaign contribution violations and hostility from statewide press, including the Union Leader, survived the primary by winning just 700 more votes than Rich Ashooh. Many observers thought Ashooh would have a relatively easy time defeating Guinta. 

Guinta now faces former Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter against whom he has run many times and between whom the 1st C.D. seat has been exchanged often. Several independent candidates also appear on that ballot. 

In the 2nd C.D., Republican Jim Lawrence won a relatively anonymous primary and will face incumbent Democrat Ann McLane Kuster, who ran unopposed in the primary and seeks her third term. Kuster is given the edge in that race, regardless of other races. 

For Executive Council, that unique New Hampshire body that shares the executive duties with the governor, in the 1st District, Michael Cryans of Hanover will face Joseph Kenney, the Republican incumbent, for the third time. In District 2, seeking to replace gubernatorial candidate Van Ostern are Democrat Andru Volinsky, an attorney from Concord, who will face Sam Cataldo. In District 3, Democrat Beth Roth will run against Russell Prescott to replace Sununu. In District 4, incumbent Chris Pappas will face colorful Manchester Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur. In District 5, Democrat Dan Weeks, an experienced activist for campaign reform, will face incumbent David Wheeler, a conservative Republican from Milford.

In the State Senate, some of the candidates who will be watched are Republican Dan Innis on the Seacoast, and Democrats John Garvey of New London and Jay Kahn of Keene.

The results of the NH Senate elections will determine control of that body which is controlled by the Republicans rather narrowly.

In the New Hampshire House, with 400 seats, it is impossible to report significant results, other than the major question which will be whether the Republicans retain control or if there will be a “tidal” election sweeping Democrats into office. 

As stated before, if you didn’t vote, don’t complain about the results. 

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. 

Categories: Cook on Concord