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Monday, February 15, 2010

Senate Dist. 16 contest heats up

State Senate District 16 gives New Hampshire Democrats a golden opportunity to grab back momentum from the Republican Party.

Tuesday’s runoff is likely to be the only big election left before the statewide electorate heads to the polls for primaries in September and the general election in November.

A victory for Rep. Jeff Goley, D-Manchester, would be considered a huge upset. But all signs still point to a win for Rep. David Boutin, R-Hooksett.

Goley has working-class roots, is related by marriage to a popular former Manchester mayor – Sylvio Dupuis – and has a proven ability to win in a Manchester ward that has routinely elected both Republicans and Democrats.

Boutin took the GOP nomination in impressive fashion by blowing out former Hooksett Rep. Terry Pfaff.

Boutin and allies hammered away at Goley’s past support for tax increases, including the LLC tax. Goley said he’s working to “reform’’ the LLC tax, and anti-tax groups and Boutin have charged Goley with misrepresenting his views.

But this special election, like all others before it, is all about turnout. Republicans are energized, Democrats less so and most independents could care less unless about this race unless they have an affinity for one or both men.

By one measure, it’s the seventh most Republican district in the 24-person state Senate.

What makes this seat more difficult is there is no single media market.

There are three Manchester wards in the district, but there are more votes coming from the outlying towns, including Candia and Hooksett, as well as Concord suburbs Bow and Dunbarton. The district even spans three counties.

One reason the race will stay close is the massive financial advantage the Democrats hold.

At the latest juncture publicly, Goley had $52,000 in the bank, while Boutin had $23,500.

To make matters worse for the GOP, the state Democratic Party already weighed in last week, paying $8,100 for two mailings that went out promoting Goley’s candidacy.

During the previous week, Goley’s side did at least five districtwide mailings, to two for Boutin.

The Democrats had a large cash cache to spend through the weekend on phone solicitations.

Firefighters across the state and outside New Hampshire poured money into Goley’s coffers, from the Manchester firefighters, $1,500, to the International Association of Firefighters and Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, $1,000 apiece.

Other labor groups to contribute included the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, $5,000; NEA-NH, $1,000; and the Teamsters $500.

The political action committee of late California congressman Tom Lantos chipped in $1,000, along with the PACs of Federal Express, $500, and the New Hampshire Auto Dealers, $250.

Former Education Commissioner Lyonel Tracy and Concord Mayor/lobbyist Jim Bouley came through with $300 each for Goley, while with the campaigns of Portsmouth Sen. Martha Fuller Clark and Durham Sen. Amanda Merrill trumped that with $1,000 each.

As of Friday, Boutin hadn’t filed his report, which was due Wednesday. Late donations to the GOP candidate of $1,000 apiece included New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre and his wife, General Electric, Granite State PAC and Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry. Former congressman Charles Bass and insurance lobbyist Peter McArdle each contributed $250.

Before this race is over, more than $100,000 could be spent for a special election to a $100-a-year job that voters will just have to fill again nine months later.

Hooksett is a critical bellwether. In 2006, Republican Sen. Ted Gatsas narrowly held onto his seat by beating Democrat Bob Backus by 300 votes.

Boutin may need an even bigger margin than that one, because Goley is expected to outperform Backus in Manchester, especially in Wards 1 and 2. If Goley could beat Boutin decisively in Bow, the win could be his.

Both parties were pulling out all the stops.

Former congressman Jeb Bradley and GOP candidate John Stephen engaged in a bitter primary battle in 2008, but they canvassed together for Boutin over the weekend. Bradley cut a radio commercial for Boutin that began airing Friday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hodes went door-to-door with Goley in Manchester wards Saturday, and Hodes canvassers worked the streets throughout the district for Goley.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or