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Monday, December 31, 2012

Voters swing Dems back into control big time Nov. 6

Once again with feeling, New Hampshire became the scene of a political tidal wave election with historic results in 2012.

Two years ago, Republicans were celebrating one of their biggest victories in history after capturing seismic, 3-1 supermajorities in the Legislature, every federal office and all five seats on the Executive Council. ...

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Once again with feeling, New Hampshire became the scene of a political tidal wave election with historic results in 2012.

Two years ago, Republicans were celebrating one of their biggest victories in history after capturing seismic, 3-1 supermajorities in the Legislature, every federal office and all five seats on the Executive Council.

Gov. John Lynch was the only Democrat standing amid the carnage.

After this Nov. 6 vote, however, Milford Republican and Senate President Peter Bragdon was the only prominent GOP survivor as his Senate kept the most narrow partisan advantage, 13-11, after 2010 had delivered a 19-5 spread.

Republican-crafted redistricting of Senate district lines helped three GOP senators hang on to new look seats they likely would have lost had they run according to the 2010 maps.

Meanwhile, Democrats everywhere else were victorious, President Barack Obama again winning New Hampshire’s four electoral votes by a solid margin over former Massachusetts Gov. and New Hampshire primary winner Mitt Romney.

Obama joined Bill Clinton as only the second Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt 60 years ago to win back-to-back New Hampshire contests.

In impressive fashion, former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan replaced Lynch, and for Democrats, she continued a streak of eight gubernatorial victories in the past nine elections.

Months earlier, Republican Ovide Lamontagne was the favorite in that race that became one of the three most competitive corner office contests in the nation.

“I thought Ovide’s image had sufficiently moderated that he might make it,’’ said Michael King, a Democratic lawyer and longtime political operative.

But the Democratic Governors Association bankrolled a record $7 million in attack ads tagging Lamontagne as too extreme on abortion, education and health care for seniors.

Hassan, 54, overcome GOP Governor Association Commercials that harped on a 2002 statement in which it sounded like she had favored the concept of income tax. Hassan has vowed to veto any broad-based income or sales tax.

In a first-time rematch in both congressional districts, Democrats Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter avenged 2010 defeats to beat Republican congressmen Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, respectively.

Locally, Nashua Democrat Bette Lasky and Hollis Democrat Maggie Gilmour returned to state Senate seats each lost two years earlier.

For the third time in the past four elections, the giant 400-person House of Representatives flipped to the party out of power with former Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, returning to take control of a 221-179 majority.

Nashua’s own House delegation went from 22-6 Republican to 24-3 Democratic.

Across the country, Democrats won a net 190 legislative seats while in New Hampshire alone they took 114 spots away from Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, whose run as one of the strongest movement conservatives in state history ended after two years.

Greg Moore was House chief of staff and a veteran GOP strategist.

“I’ve told anybody who’s asked about 2014 that if you want to run, you better buy a surfboard,’’ Moore said. “We’ve seen one wave election after another happen here: 2006, 2010 and now 2012. Who’s to think there won’t be another wave two years from now?’’

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley waged a two-year war against O’Brien’s conservative politics and leadership style.

The election karma started badly for O’Brien when his right-hand man, Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, resigned near the end of the legislative session after a colleague claimed that Bettencourt falsified work he’d done on a law school internship. Even as he posted Facebook pictures claiming he had, Bettencourt did not graduate from the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Despite a furious public relations campaign to defeat him at the polls, O’Brien managed to hang onto his House seat, in part thanks to that redistricting. Changes had whittled O’Brien’s precinct down from five towns to just his hometown and neighboring New Boston.

After losing the gavel as speaker, O’Brien was content to return to the back bench seat in the rear of Representatives Hall he occupied before staging his stunning rise to power in December 2009.

Former Speaker Gene Chandler of Bartlett replaced O’Brien as the top House Republican for the next two years.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).