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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Kelly Ayotte takes stage to claim the New Hampshire U.S. Senate seat Tuesday night, November 2, 2010, along side her husband, Joe and children Jacob, 3, and Katherine, 6, at her campaign party in Concord.


  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Kelly Ayotte takes stage to claim the New Hampshire U.S. Senate seat Tuesday night, November 2, 2010, along side her husband, Joe, at a campaign party in Concord.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Kelly Ayotte takes stage to claim the New Hampshire U.S. Senate seat Tuesday night, November 2, 2010, along side her husband, Joe and children Jacob, 3, and Katherine, 6, at her campaign party in Concord.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

4. Republicans rebound Nov. 2

Everywhere you looked in New Hampshire on Nov. 2, Republicans were celebrating while the few victorious Democrats licked their wounds and were grateful they somehow survived the wreckage.

The slumping economy, President Obama’s sagging approval ratings and an unprecedented pro-Republican attack ad campaign from special interest groups combined to deliver the most sweeping rout for the New Hampshire GOP in modern history.

Republican and Democratic leaders later agreed that voters took out their frustration over events in Washington on the New Hampshire Democrats in charge at all levels of government.

As a result, former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, of Nashua, won in a landslide over two-term Democratic congressman Paul Hodes for the U.S. Senate seat to replace another Nashua native, retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg.

Charles Bass, of Peterborough, and Frank Guinta, of Manchester, won back New Hampshire’s two U.S. House seats that the Democrats had taken in 2006.

Left standing was Democrat John Lynch, who became the first governor in state history to win a fourth straight two-year term, overcoming a scrappy challenge from Republican nominee John Stephen and interest groups that aired $2 million worth of attack ads against him.

It became the only blemish for Republican State Chairman John H. Sununu, who as a former governor placed a top priority on taking back the corner office that Democrats have won in seven of the past eight elections.

Sununu said New Hampshire Democrats sealed their own fates at the polls by increasing state spending during a recession and adopting new taxes in 2009 on limited liability companies and campground rentals so controversial that Democrats voted a year later to repeal both.

In Concord, the magnitude of the triumph was seismic, as the Democratic majorities won four years earlier completely evaporated.

New Hampshire Republicans picked up more than 120 seats in the 400-person House, and its 298-102 majority became the largest since the mid-1980s.

In the state Senate, Republicans netted nine seats; 1964 was the last time their new 19-5 advantage was as big.

Two of the Senate pickups were in Greater Nashua, as Republicans Gary Lambert, of Nashua, and Jim Luther, of Hollis, upset Democratic Sens. Bette Lasky, of Nashua, and Peggy Gilmour, of Hollis, respectively.

In the House, Nashua’s delegation grew to 22-6 for the Republicans two years after voters had given Democrats a 23-5 advantage in the city.

This became the first time since World War II that the House and Senate both had Republican veto-proof majorities of 2-to-1 or better.

The story was the same in the Executive Council, which flipped to 5-0 Republican from the 3-2 Democratic majority that existed for the past four years.

Many of the lower-office gains Democrats recently won were lost, as Nashua lawyer Dennis Hogan became the new Hillsborough County attorney and Republicans unseated incumbents on several county commissions and other county posts across the state.

Area Republican lawmakers moved up in the new leadership ranks, as the newly selected House speaker and Senate president came from Nashua suburbs.

Mont Vernon GOP Rep. William O’Brien went from conservative bomb thrower sitting in the back benches to holding the gavel as the new leader of the 400-person House.

Starting just his fifth year in the Statehouse, O’Brien edged former House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett – a 28-year incumbent – to win his party’s nomination as speaker.

O’Brien moved quickly to create a leadership team populated with veteran and new-blood Republicans.

In the other chamber, there was no fight for the top as Milford Republican Sen. Peter Bragdon rose from GOP leader to Senate president.

The financial job in the state’s capital may be even more difficult than the one in Washington.

Republican legislative leaders and Lynch must fill the next two-year budget without more than $600 million of stimulus and one-time monies that were used to balance the current plan.

“We’re like the dog chasing after the car that’s just caught the bumper,’’ Bragdon quipped days after the watershed election. “Now what do we do?’’

– KEVIN LANDRIGAN