In NH, a big election year by the numbers, too

If you thought the dysfunction that marked Congress and the Statehouse these past two years would discourage people from running for public office this fall, think again.

Based on the first phase of the candidate-filing period that ended Friday, roughly 160 more Democrats and Republicans chose to file for federal, state and county offices this year than two years ago, an increase of
nearly 20 percent.

But the number of candidates running for major offices at the top of the ticket actually fell from last time, and not just because neither Kelly Ayotte nor Jeanne Shaheen are up for re-election this year to the U.S. Senate.

In all, 991 candidates – 565 Republicans and 426 Democrats – chose to file for seats in New Hampshire. That number is expected to swell by the end of the day Wednesday, which is the deadline for party leaders to fill open slots on the ballot.

For example, while Republicans put forward a full slate of candidates for the 24 state Senate seats, Democrats have yet to field challengers in Senate Districts 8, 11 and 19.

And keep in mind that 991 figure doesn’t include the 47 candidates who formally declared their intent to run as independents or third-party candidates in November.

While there is no shortage of compelling contests, the number of candidates who chose to run for governor or Congress is down from two years ago, from 31 to 17.

Consider:

Governor: Six candidates are in the running to succeed Gov. John Lynch – who chose not to seek a record fifth term – the same number that ran to unseat him in 2010.

Former state Sens. Maggie Hassan, of Exeter, and Jackie Cilley, of Barrington, are joined by pro-income tax candidate Bill Kennedy, of Danbury, in their bid for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Ovide Lamontagne, of Manchester, Kevin Smith, of
Litchfield, and Robert Tarr, of Manchester, will compete for the GOP nomination.

U.S. Senate: No race this year, unlike two years ago when Ayotte emerged from a field of seven Republicans and one Democrat to win the seat.

U.S. House / 1st District: U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, of Manchester, and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, of Rochester, will have to fight off a handful of primary challengers to earn the right for a rematch in November.

Guinta, who ousted Shea-Porter two years ago, is being challenged by retired barber Vern Clough, of Dover, and Rick Parent, of Wolfeboro, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the nomination in 2010. Shea-Porter is competing for the Democratic nomination against Diane Soracco, of Manchester.

Two years ago, Guinta emerged from an eight-person field to win the Republican nomination and ultimately the seat.

U.S. House/ 2nd District: The only thing preventing a rematch between Democrat Ann McLane Kuster, of Hopkinton, and Republican Rep. Charles Bass, of Peterborough, are four GOP challengers: Gerard Beloin, of Concord; Will Dean, of Amherst; Miroslaw Dziedzic, of Windham; and Dennis Lamare, of Lee.

Kuster, who is unopposed, earned the nomination two years ago by defeating Katrina Swett, of Bow, while Bass emerged from a five-person primary to reclaim the seat he lost to Democrat Paul Hodes in 2006.

So there you have it: Six primary-bound candidates for governor. Eleven candidates for the state’s two congressional seats. Nearly 1,000 in all.

In case there was any doubt, Campaign ’12 is officially under way.