Not same old NH House Lynch recalls from 2006
CONCORD – On a basic level, Gov. John Lynch must feel like a man without a party.
This 57-year-old Hopkinton business consultant was the first in history to win a fourth term, but there were few fellow Democratic winners left to celebrate that milestone with, at the Statehouse on Wednesday.
Four years ago, Lynch walked in as a re-elected governor as Democrats owned both branches of the Legislature as well as the Executive Council for the first time since Reconstruction after the Civil War.
On Wednesday, Lynch returned to Republicans holding collectively their biggest super-majority in nearly a half century.
If they all show up and stick together, Republicans in the House of Representatives (298 of 400) and the state Senate (19 of 24) have a quorum; they can do business with no Democrats present and they can override any Lynch veto.
With Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand, an unflappable Lynch showed up after only a few hours of sleep, eager to meet a class of fourth-graders from Merrimack gathered outside his office.
“We’ll work to find common ground and together tackle the challenges we face as a state with the top priority helping everyone who wants a job to find one in this great state of ours,” Lynch said in an interview.
“I think I’ve shown over four years that I can work with people that have good ideas regardless of party.”
Lynch survived the Republican riptide with 52.6 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Republican John Stephen of Manchester.
The official vote totals were: Lynch, 240,346; Stephen, 205,626; Libertarian John Babiarz, 10,089.
Another 665, or two-tenths of 1 percent, wrote in someone else’s name.
Unofficially, the race confirms that the turnout exceeded Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s estimate and will break the mid-term election record set in 2002.
In the last Republican rout election here eight years ago, 453,078 cast ballots. On Tuesday, an even greater number, 456,726, voted in the race for governor.
The House GOP dominance surpassed the 297 Republicans elected in 1984 with the landslide re-election of President Ronald Reagan.
The last time Republicans had a 19-5 majority in the state Senate was after the mid-term elections of 1962.
All five candidates voters picked to serve on the Executive Council were Republicans, ending four years of Lynch working with a 3-2 Democratic body.
“This is just unbelievable. We just kept following the results and got one big victory after another, exceeding everyone’s expectations,” said GOP communications director Ryan Williams.
Losing candidate Stephen’s relentless assault against increases in total spending and fees under Lynch helped create the climate for GOP candidates down ballot to win their elections, Williams maintained.
Democratic State Party Chairman Raymond Buckley called Lynch’s victory “remarkable and well-deserved.” His party would bounce back in future elections as Democrats did after washout defeats in 1994 and 2002, Buckley said.
“This was just one of those wave elections. We were on the losing end this time but we’ll recover as we have before and come back even stronger in 2012,” Buckley told New Hampshire Public Radio’s “The Exchange with Laura Knoy.”
The contests for legislative leaders heated up Wednesday as veteran Republicans jockeyed to replace deposed Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, and House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth.
The official decision won’t come until the Legislature holds its Organization Day on Dec. 1.
Later today, the newly elected Senate Republicans will privately caucus and are expected to nominate Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon, 47, of Milford, as the next Senate president.
“I take nothing for granted, but success is always a good thing to fall back on, and after a lot of hard work by a great team, we had some great accomplishments on Tuesday,” Bragdon said.
After meeting privately with Lynch on Wednesday, Bragdon – elected to his own fourth term – is hopeful they can compromise on how to erase at least a $600 million shortfall in the next two-year state budget period that starts July 1.
“I would prefer that we work together. The people elected the governor and us,” Bragdon said. “This is the first time I’ll be involved in a legislative branch so big it could have an automatic override, so who knows?”
House Republicans will nominate their choice for speaker on Nov. 18.
The awesome size of the GOP bloc improves the upset chances of Mont Vernon Republican Rep. Bill O’Brien, elected to his third term.
Until the election results came in, the early favorite was former House Speaker Gene Chandler, of Bartlett, who soon begins his 15th term.
The other GOP candidates for speaker are Deerfield Rep. John Reagan, 64, and Rindge Rep. Susan Emerson, who begins her fifth term.
Chandler ran the House GOP political action committee that sent campaign checks to candidates, worked to rehabilitate himself from a 6-year-old scandal over unreported cash gifts and had strong backing among the House’s most experienced Republicans.
Meanwhile, O’Brien spent months meeting one-on-one with the new class of House Republicans-elect members, more than 165 in strength.
“I think we are going to have a leadership in the House and a Republican caucus that pays attention to issues that have always been of concern to the Republicans at the grass roots, attention to our constitution, adherence to the party platform and fiscal responsibility,” O’Brien said.
Chandler remains optimistic at getting the gavel back.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do but I’ve talked to many of those who have gotten elected and believe I can lead a House that’s focused first on the economy, the state budget and getting spending under control,” said Chandler, 63.
The conservative House Republican Alliance agenda calls for a host of socially conservative issues such as repealing the same-sex marriage law, parental notification before a minor girl has an abortion, and less restrictive permits to carry concealed weapons.
“The Democrats lost the majority because the last four years they took their eye off state finances and got distracted by social issues. I hope that doesn’t happen to us,” Chandler warned.
O’Brien agreed jobs and the state budget must be the top focus next year, but the House should over the two-year term tackle pressing social matter as well.
University of New Hampshire Survey Center director Andrew Smith said for their own future election security, those leading the Republican super-majority would be well-served concentrating on pocketbook issues.
“This election wasn’t a ringing endorsement for all the Republican candidates, it was enough voters saying they didn’t like what they were seeing in Washington and to a lesser extent in Concord,” Smith said
“They should not forget Republican voters in this state are fiscally conservative but socially moderate or socially liberal. They don’t like to talk about it for the most part.”
Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or email@example.com.