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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Voters usher in women leadership in seats representing New Hampshire, Nashua

This election was historic for New Hampshire and the city of Nashua.

When newly elected officials are sworn in, New Hampshire’s governor, its two U.S. senators and both U.S. representatives will be women, and it will make this the first state ever to have an all-woman federal delegation and governor. ...

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This election was historic for New Hampshire and the city of Nashua.

When newly elected officials are sworn in, New Hampshire’s governor, its two U.S. senators and both U.S. representatives will be women, and it will make this the first state ever to have an all-woman federal delegation and governor.

All but one, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, are Democrats.

In her second attempt, Democrat Ann McLane Kuster defeated incumbent Republican Charlie Bass to take the 2nd Congressional District seat. Likewise, Democrat Carol Shea-Porter defeated incumbent Frank Guinta, a Republican, to reclaim the 1st District seat she lost in 2010.

“I am honored to have the trust of the voters in the 1st District, and I pledge to work closely with congresswoman-elect Kuster and Sens. Shaheen and Ayotte to help move New Hampshire and this country forward,” Shea-Porter said in a statement Wednesday.

Kuster took the seat with 50 percent of the vote; Bass earned 46 percent. Shea-Porter also took 50 percent of the vote to win, defeating Guinta, who received 45 percent.

Also consider Nashua: After Tuesday’s election, both of the state senators and the executive councilor who represent the city are women.

These three Democrats join the mayor and six of the 15 city aldermen among the city’s elected leadership who are women. City elected offices are nonpartisan.

In another triumph for women in Nashua, three women candidates for state representatives replaced three men in the city’s Ward 1.

One reason for the success of women at the polls may be that the huge size of the state Legislature makes holding office “so accessible in this state,” said Bette Lasky, who won election to the state Senate on Tuesday in District 13.

In all her years as a public servant, “I have never felt that I wasn’t given the same advantages as males that were running,” she said.

Lasky served as a state representative for Ward 8 for 10 years. She was elected to the state Senate in 2008, lost her re-election bid in 2010, and won her Senate seat back Tuesday.

In 2008, New Hampshire became the first state to have a female majority in the state Senate, said Lasky, a Democrat. She and Peggy Gilmour, who also won back her seat Tuesday, served as part of that majority.

Lasky hedged on whether she believes women govern differently than men.

“Having preached equality all my life, and especially to my daughters, I’d hate to say there is a difference,” Lasky said.

She noted that South Carolina, for example, has never elected a woman to its state Senate. That state lacks role models for women who might aspire to office, she said.

“Here, we’ve got so many role models. Women feel welcome here to seek political office,” Lasky said.

She said she was proud that New Hampshire, and Nashua in particular, was on the forefront of electing women.

Debora Pignatelli, who served on the Executive Council for six years until she lost her seat in 2010, was grateful for Nashua for always supporting her through many elections.

“Nashua and Peterborough and a couple of the small towns out here pushed me over the top,” said Pignatelli, who won back her seat on the Executive Council on Tuesday.

The women’s vote was crucial throughout the nation, not just in Nashua.

In many cases, including her own, women defeated male candidates aligned with a conservative social agenda, Pignatelli said.

“I don’t think New Hampshire is very conservative socially; I think we are conservative fiscally,” she said.

Pignatelli believes her opponent David Wheeler’s socially conservative views “played a very large role in my race.”

“New Hampshire is a live and let live state. We don’t want the government involved in our personal lives,” she said.

Gilmour, who served in the state Senate before losing a re-election bid in 2010, also won back her job Tuesday. Gilmour lives in Hollis, but her District 13 also represents part of Nashua.

“Women in New Hampshire have mentored other women to step up to the plate, not just in politics,” she said.

Gilmour mentioned as an example a female FIRST Robotics team from Hollis Brookline High School.

Women govern differently than men in that women emphasize consensus building and sometimes take longer reasoning through the consequences of tough decisions, she said.

Women also may having different priorities, such as issues important to families, Gilmour said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow Meighan on Twitter @ Telegraph_PatM.