State Democrats seek a rebound in 2012

Smaller number of Democrats are running for re-election, while more Republicans are running for re-election of the Senate out of necessity.


 My last column reviewed Republican incumbents running for re-election to the State Senate ("Election 2012: Senate Republicans," July 27-Aug. 9 NHBR). Since the present Senate has 19 Republicans, the list of Democrats running for re-election by necessity is smaller. Likewise, with no Democrats on the Executive Council, the Democratic candidates seeking election to that body are all "new" although two of them are seeking to regain seats held prior to the Republican sweep of two years.

In the Executive Council races, Beth Funicella of Jackson seeks the nomination to oppose incumbent Raymond Burton, an institution unlikely to be toppled.

In District 2, there are three candidates, former Councilor John Shea of Nelson who was a surprise winner a number of years ago, Colin Van Ostern of Concord and Shawn Mickelonis of Rochester.

When considering the residences of the candidates, Nelson being near Keene, Concord in central New Hampshire and Rochester in Strafford County, the strange shape of the district becomes apparent. It allegedly was designed to include more Democratic strongholds. Perhaps this is why no Republican — including incumbent Councilor Daniel St. Hilaire — has filed for that seat.

Bill Duncan of New Castle has filed in District 3, the Seacoast district, Christopher Pappas of Manchester in District 4 to attempt to replace retiring Councilor Republican Raymond Wieczorek, and in District 5, Nashua resident Debora Pignatelli, a longtime officeholder and former councilor, seeks to regain her seat.

There could be a very different Executive Council next year. With District 2 appearing to be a Democratic district, Districts 3, 4 and 5 are possible swing districts and District 1 appears to be safe for Councilor Burton, absent a political earthquake.

Moving to the Senate, Democratic incumbents running for re-election include three of the five present senators. In District 10, Sen. Molly Kelly of Keene seeks re-election to a relatively safe Democratic seat. Former Senate President and Democratic leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord seeks re-election to the District 15 seat she has held for a long time, and District 20 Sen. Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester seeks to return to his seat.

Like Burton, D'Allesandro is a fixture in the State House and, although his district has elected Republicans in the past, observers would be surprised if he were not returned to Concord.

Democrat Amanda Merrill in District 21 is retiring, and a former senator, Martha Fuller Clark, seeks to return to the Senate there. Sen. Matthew Houde is retiring in District 5, and Sandy Harris of Claremont and David Pierce of Hanover both seek to replace him in what should be a Democratic district, as well, in one of the few contested primaries.

In all the other districts, Democrats seek to replace Republicans, whether incumbents or not.

Well-known activist Jeff Woodburn of Dalton seeks the Coös County seat in District 1. Robert Lamb of Holderness seeks the position in District 2 and Jeff Ballard of Brookfield seeks the Carroll County seat in District 3 — which would be a surprise since Carroll County is the most Republican of the New Hampshire counties. David Watters of Dover seeks the open seat in District 4, and this undoubtedly will be a competitive election.Richard Leonard of New Durham seeks the seat in District 6, Andrew Hosmer of Laconia in District 7, Christopher Wallenstein of Bennington seeks the District 8 seat and well-known attorney Lee Nyquist of New Boston seeks the District 9 seat, which has been reconfigured.

Nyquist has raised significant money and is seen as a formidable challenger to represent this traditionally Republican district. The son-in-law of former Senate President David Nixon, Nyquist is one to watch.

Another former senator, Peggy Gilmour, seeks to return in District 12 and longtime Democratic activist Bette Lasky seeks the District 13 Nashua seat. Katherine Messmer of Hudson seeks the District 14 seat, and former Manchester School Board member Kathleen Kelley seeks the District 16 seat in a rematch against incumbent Republican Sen. David Boutin.Nancy Fraher of Chichester seeks election in District 17. Donna Soucy, a Manchester school board member and political activist and former state official, seeks the Hillsborough County District 18 seat.

Interestingly, another school board member, Arthur Beaudry, seeks to run as an independent in this race, some observers thinking he does so to hurt Soucy's chances because of their disagreements on the contentious Manchester School Board. Christopher Reisdorf seeks the District 19 seat from Derry, a traditionally Republican district, Victoria Czaia of Atkinson, the District 22 seat, again a traditionally Republican seat, Carol Croteau of Kingston the District 23 seat in Republican Rockingham County and former Senate President and Executive Councilor Beverly Hollingworth seeks to return as the Senator in District 24. The popular and gracious Hampton resident is well known and is a formidable candidate in that section of the state .

It should be interesting to see how these candidates will do in attempting to restore political balance to the State Senate. It is also interesting how few contested primaries there are among Democrats seeking these offices.