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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shea-Porter edges Guinta in tight rematch for 1st District

The race wasn’t the first between the familiar foes.

But the results, which still trickled in early Wednesday morning, put their previous meeting two years ago on its head. ...

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The race wasn’t the first between the familiar foes.

But the results, which still trickled in early Wednesday morning, put their previous meeting two years ago on its head.

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported Carol Shea-Porter victorious in her second fact-off with sitting District 1 U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, regaining the seat she lost in the 2010 election.

Early Tuesday night, New Hampshire voters first seemed to favor Guinta, 42, again to represent the 1st Congressional District in Washington over repeat rival Shea-Porter; with 14 percent of the results reported, Guinta lead Shea-Porter with a 5 percent edge in the results.

But as the night wore on, Shea-Porter, 59, crept back, and the results tightened to a tie, with 22 percent of the results reported. The race was too close to call by press time.

At 10:35 p.m., Shea-Porter held an air-tight lead, with 44,504 votes, or 48 percent. Guinta was only down by a few hundred, with 44,105, or 47 percent.

Supporters at Murphy’s Tap Room in Manchester, including former gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith, cheered on the former Manchester mayor, with a “Go, Frank, Go!” chant, sipping on beers in a room practically floating with red, white and blue balloons.

Over at the Portsmouth Country Club, about 60 supporters stayed loyal to Shea-Porter, a former social worker who made her name as an outspoken critic of the Iraq war and held the Congressional seat from 2006-10.

A little after 1 a.m., Shea-Porter proved victorious, taking 149,997 votes, or 49 percent of results reported to Guinta’s 140,526, or 46 percent of the results.

“I believe that we dream big dreams, we believe in each other and we get to work, it’s in our DNA to succeed,” Shea-Porter said to a cheering crowd.

Guinta called Shea-Porter Wednesday morning to “pledge his commitment to transition the congressional office with integrity and respect,” according to a press release.

“What’s important in these races is the future of New Hampshire,” Guinta said, congratulating President Barack Obama, Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Congresswoman-elect Anne McLane Kuster and Shea-Porter on their victories.

“I am committed to continuing my support of our constituents and a collaborative vision for a stronger America,” he said.

Hours earlier, Guinta had arrived in Manchester with wife, Morgan, to thank supporters for sticking it out despite the disappointing outcomes of other elections Tuesday night, and to rally any lasting enthusiasm for his chance at a victory later that night.

“I have been thrilled to serve this congressional district and to work with each and everyone of you,” Guinta said, ticking off unemployment numbers and the national debt and deficit as “serious, significant issues” still facing the country.

The mood was somber in Manchester Tuesday night, though supporters held out for a Republican victory late into Wednesday morning.

Harry Levine, of Merrimack, praised Guinta as the candidate who activists recognize for “doing what he says he’s going to do.”

“I just don’t see the very sensible people of New Hampshire sending someone back to Congress who has no concept of fiscal responsibility,” Levine said.

But New Castle resident Burt Cohen, who attended Shea-Porter’s party with 16-year-old daughter Margaret, called Guinta “an embarrassment.”

“I thought she was a terrific member of Congress,” Cohen said, referring to Shea-Porter. “I think she does a great job advocating on veterans’ issues and health benefits.”

In 2010, Guinta unseated Shea-Porter, part of a Republican tsunami in New Hampshire.

Likewise, six years ago, Shea-Porter surfed into Congress speaking out against the Iraq war and riding a Democratic wave.

But, after two Shea-Porter terms, public sentiment turned with the onset of the national recession, and Shea-Porter lost the seat to Guinta in a Republican surge.

Guinta declared early for that race, and he drew attention from the emerging tea party wing of the Republican party, among other GOP leaders, for strong fundraising numbers.

In the first general election, Shea-Porter tried to raise questions about Guinta, drawing attention to a bank account, holidng between $250,000-$500,000, he initially failed to include in his campaign finance reports.

The issue drew a lot of media coverage throughout the race, but it wasn’t enough to help Shea-Porter overcome the Republican surge, and Guinta won the seat by 12 percentage points.

Residents such as Sallie Mercer, of Merrimack, continued to stand strong for the man they perceive as a “constitutional conservative” Tuesday, after voting for him in 2010.

Mercer arrived at the Merrimack High School polls around 8 a.m. Tuesday to hold signs for the sitting Congressman, who first earned her support in 2010, when he provided more details about the affordable health care bill than Shea-Porter did, Mercer said; she ultimately ended up campaigning for him when she and her family got involved with the politics surrounding the bill.

Dean Clegg, of Rochester, said Shea-Porter is the honorable option for New Hampshire.

“I think she’s for the rest of us; she’s not about corporate interests,” Clegg said.

“Money is not a big factor I don’t think.”

Within months of the 2010 election, the former Congresswoman declared her intentions to run once again in 2012, and she hit the campaign trail early, targeting Guinta over the failures of the current Congress.

Guinta replied in turn, attacking Shea-Porter over her liberal voting record during her time in office.

But, as the race moved forward, the two embittered foes moved past the issues and squabbled about other, unrelated issues, including the debate schedule and staff salaries.

The heated exchanges furthered what was already a heated race. But, they did not appeal to voters, many of whom remained uncommitted through the final weeks.

Two days before the race, a University of New Hampshire poll, the last of the campaign, showed the two candidates locked at 40 percent apiece, with 20 percent still undecided.

Kaitlin Joseph contributed to this
report. Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com.

Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).