By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — A record turnout, new voters, coattails and a return of Trump backers who sat out the 2018 election produced a mixed bag of results for the state’s two political parties Tuesday.
Democrats held their grip on the four of five top-of-ticket positions they currently hold, while Republican Gov. Chris Sununu scored a resounding victory over Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes while setting a record for votes for governor.
In New Hampshire, Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden easily defeated incumbent President Donald Trump, unlike four years ago when Hillary Clinton eked out a slim victory.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had little trouble defeating Trump-backed Corky Messner, while Democratic incumbent 1st District Congressman Chris Pappas defeated Trump-backed former state GOP executive director Matt Mowers, and 2nd Congressional District incumbent Ann McLane Kuster defeated Steve Negron in a rematch from two years ago.
Pappas is the first 1st District incumbent to win re-election since 2008 while Kuster won her fifth term and Shaheen her third term to the U.S. Senate.
You would think with the Democratic near sweep at the top of the ticket, the tilt would continue down the ballot, but that did not happen.
Republicans swept the rest of the board winning majorities for the Executive Council, Senate and House, flipping all from Democratic control.
Sununu was by far the biggest vote getter on the ticket Tuesday garnering about half a million votes, which means thousands of voters who voted for Biden, Shaheen, Pappas and Kuster voted for Sununu.
Shaheen who usually is the top vote getter when she runs, received about 70,000 less votes than Sununu, which could signal trouble for U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan when she is up for reelection in two years if Sununu decides to run for U.S. Senate as many expect him to do.
This election, Sununu expended a great deal of effort transferring his popularity to Republican candidates as he appeared in ads and campaigned around the state with at least a couple of Republicans in tow. He spent more time campaigning for members of his party than most governors do.
The effort paid dividends up and down the ballot giving him the majorities he sought on the Executive Council, Senate and House.
Sununu had long coattails in this election Trump did not as his two hand-picked candidates at the top of the ticket lost.
Another reason the results are different in state as opposed to federal races is people often do not continue voting down the length of the ballot.
Using incomplete results from Wednesday afternoon with 94 percent of the vote counted, 766,000 votes were cast for president. However, the next race down the ballot is for governor where 756,000 votes were cast.
The U.S. Senate race saw a slight uptick of about 1,500 votes, but the two Congressional races had a drop off.
Going down the ballot, there is a significant drop off for Executive Council races at 700,000, and Senate races at 693,000.
With more Republicans receiving votes in these races, that means many Democrats voted for the top five races and then stopped voting.
They may not be comfortable voting for candidates they don’t know or are not familiar with their positions on the issues, or they are only interested at the top of the ticket.
What is clear is many of the traditional Republican-held seats over the last decade since the last redistricting, returned to GOP hands after being flipped two years ago.
Preliminary results indicate that Republican Joe Kenney reclaimed the District 1 seat Michael Cryans won two years ago, and former Councilor David Wheeler is poised to defeat incumbent Democrat Debora Pignatelli. The two have fought over the District 5 seat for almost two decades.
Republicans held on to the District 3 seat vacated by Russel Prescott with Janet Stevens defeating Democrat Mindi Messmer, and incumbent District 4 councilor Ted Gatsas defeated former union president Mark Mackenzie.
Democrats held the District 2 seat with Cinde Warmington defeating Jim Beard.
Republicans reclaimed four seats they have traditionally held in rematches with Democrats who claimed the seats two years ago, although several are likely to be recounted.
Former GOP Sen. Gary Daniels has a 200 vote advantage over incumbent Democrat Shannon Chandley in District 11, while former Sen. Kevin Avard has about 1,000 more votes than incumbent Democrat Melanie Levesque in District 12. Both seats are in the Nashua area.
On the Seacoast, GOP candidate Bill Gannon has a 1,600 vote lead on incumbent Democrat Jon Morgan in District 23
And in District 9, which stretches from Bedford to the Monadnock region, Republican candidate Denise Ricciardi leads incumbent Jeanne Dietsch by about 400 votes.
Democrats held on to open seats in districts 5, 15 and 21, while Republicans held its only open seat in District 1.
Republicans appear to hold a slim majority in the House although about a dozen seats are yet to be determined.
Much like the Executive Council and Senate, some of the seats Democrats flipped in the 2018 election, returned to GOP control.
With incomplete results, 34 incumbents lost their seats Tuesday, all but one Democrats, which wipes out their majority.
The losses were in typically strong Republican areas like Belknap and Carroll counties but also in places like Rochester which saw the return of several former Republican Representatives including Susan Delemus, Fenton Groen and Clifford Newton, while long-time Rep. Sandra Keans was defeated.
Two former GOP representatives, one a former speaker of the House and the other one of his lieutenants, will not be returning to the House as both lost their bids in Nashua districts.
William O’Brien finished fourth in the three-seat Hillsborough District 36 race by more than 400 votes, and Peter Silva also finished fourth in the three-seat Hillsborough District 35 race losing by more than 600 votes.
When the final results are known, the House and Senate will look much like they did after the 2016 election, when Sununu won his first term as governor.
That term released a log jam of Republican priorities such as eliminating the need for concealed carry permits for firearms, and a number of voting restrictions, but failed to pass the anti-union right-to-work legislation.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.