Election season – it’s now official

Yes, candidates for federal and state offices have been crisscrossing the state for what seems like months now – there even was a Democratic gubernatorial debate last week in Henniker – but there is still something special about the official start of the candidate filing period.

After all, why else would someone show up outside the secretary of state’s door at 5:50 a.m. for a chance to be the first official candidate of 2012, which is exactly what Hillsborough County Commissioner Carol Holden, of Amherst, did Wednesday.

But beyond the ceremonial aspect of the day, there is another reason why voters should pay attention to this year’s filing period, which runs through the close of business Friday, June 15.

Since this is the first state election since the 2010 census, it means the decennial redistricting of congressional, legislative and Executive Council districts will result in some candidates running in new districts this year.

And that means some voters will cast their ballots in different districts, too.

In the state Senate, for example, voters in Amherst, Milford and Wilton – which were part of a sprawling, 10-town district two years ago – will now be part of a reconfigured District 11 with the town of Merrimack.

Meanwhile, Ward 9 in Nashua will join with Wards 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 to make up a slightly modified District 13.

Assuming the House plan withstands a series of challenges pending in the state Supreme Court, the changes are even more dramatic. All told, the redistricting plan approved over Gov. John Lynch’s veto creates 204 districts, nearly double the number of two years ago.

Among some of changes in Greater Nashua:

• Nashua ends up with 27 representatives – one fewer than last time – spread equally among its nine wards. Previously, six wards elected three representatives each, while Wards 5, 8 and 9 shared 10 others.

• Hudson, which used to elect 13 representatives with Litchfield and Pelham, now will share 11 with only Pelham.

• Litchfield, on the other hand, will now elect two representatives of its own and share two with Manchester Wards 8 and 9.

• Similarly, Hollis will get two representatives of its own under the new plan and share a third with Milford, Mont Vernon and New Boston. Two years ago, it shared four representatives with Brookline and Mason.

• And Amherst and Milford, which used to share eight representatives, now get a few of their own: Amherst gets three and shares a fourth with Bedford, while Milford gets four and shares a fifth with Hollis, Mont Vernon and New Boston.

As of the end of the day Wednesday, 76 candidates formally had filed for office – 47 Republicans and 29 Democrats – ranging from governor (Democrat Bill Kennedy, of Danbury) to register of deeds (Republican Pamela Coughlin, of Amherst).

It was also confirmed that U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, of Manchester, will have a primary challenger in the 1st Congressional District.

Rick Parent, of Wolfeboro, who finished a distant sixth in an eight-man race with 1,051 votes in 2010, filed to run again. On the Democratic side, former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, of Rochester, made her election bid official, too.

And former Democratic state Sens. Peggy Gilmour, of Hollis (District 12), and Bette Lasky, of Nashua (District 13), confirmed they would mount bids to reclaim the seats they lost in the Republican landslide of 2010.

So welcome to the official start of Campaign ’12. The full list of the new districts and who filed Wednesday are available on the secretary of state’s website (sos.nh.gov/Elections.aspx).