Piper Tops Mirski In Enfield

Enfield — The Mascoma River Valley provided the stage for contentious New Hampshire House races yesterday, including an upset victory in Enfield for Dartmouth lecturer and centrist Democrat Wendy Piper, who defeated incumbent Republican state Rep. Paul Mirski by a dramatic margin.

Piper beat Mirski — a libertarian-minded legislator who sponsored two constitutional amendments that appeared on yesterday’s ballot — with 1,526 votes to Mirski’s 808.

After the results were tallied last night, Piper said she was exhausted but feeling good. She said that socially conservative bills filed by the Republican-led Legislature in the last two years may have helped swing Enfield back to the left side of the aisle.

“I think that the Legislature prioritized social issues in a way that I don’t think Enfield voters and New Hampshire voters were interested in,” Piper said.

Mirski said he wasn’t terribly surprised by the results.

“Politics is an endeavor in which there are no goal posts or baskets,” Mirski said. “It’s just this field that you’re on, and you move back and forth from one end to the other. This is all just a part of that.”

At the polls in Enfield yesterday afternoon, Mirski said he was feeling “50-50” about his chances, and that he had seen plenty of his supporters — but also plenty of Piper’s support

ers. Mirski headed the House redistricting committee earlier this year, and said he “probably” stacked the odds against himself when he signed off on the redistricting plans, which gave Democratic-leaning Enfield its own House district earlier in the year.

But Enfield lawyer Curtis Payne, who served for five years with Mirski on the town’s Zoning Board and supported Piper in the race, said that Mirski had the advantage.

“(Mirski) has a good base, he’s got a good machine,” Payne said. “He’s well liked, he’s well respected. He’s visible. He’s involved. (Piper) has an uphill battle.”

Payne described Piper as very intelligent, but wondered if her inexperience could cause problems down the line. “She’s a newcomer to politics, so we’ll see how she weathers the storm should she get in.”

Canaan And Dorchester

In the Grafton 11 district — which includes the towns of Canaan, Dorchester, and Wentworth — incumbent state Rep. Charles Townsend, a Canaan Democrat, is facing off against Joe Frazier, a fellow Canaan resident and longtime Mascoma Valley Republican with ties to the Upper Valley Tea Party.

With Canaan and Wentworth reporting last night, Townsend was leading with 1,292 votes to Frazier’s 939.

The two candidates consider themselves friends and have served together on the town Planning Board. Both arrived shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday, well in advance of the polls opening, and were bundled up in winter gear as they watched the voters trickle in at a steady rate.

Frazier said that at one point, the line for the polls at the Canaan Fire Station wrapped around the adjacent police station.

“I’ve never seen a line that long here before,” he said.

Townsend yesterday afternoon said that he felt good about the voter turnout, and that he felt he might benefit from his relationship with the townspeople as their incumbent representative.

“The bottom line is that they’re your constituents for the whole term, not just the three months before the election, and I hope that makes a difference for me,” Townsend said.

Grafton District

The Grafton 9 District is the Mascoma Valley’s only two-seat district, where two Democratic challengers faced off against two Republican incumbents to represent the towns of Grafton, Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater and Bristol.

The Democrats — former state Rep. Phil Preston, D-Ashland, and political newcomer Judy Wallick, of Grafton — looked to unseat first-term state Reps. Harol “Skip” Reilly, R-Alexandria, and Jeff Shackett, R-Bristol.

With two of the five towns reporting last night, the race was too close to call. Shackett had 1,273 votes, Reilly had 1,234 votes, Wallick had 1,057 votes, and Preston had 997 votes.

Orange District

State Rep. Lester Bradley, R-Thornton, faced off against Rumney Democrat Marilyn Lieto in the race for Grafton 6 — which includes the town of Orange along with Groton, Rumney, Ellsworth, and Thornton.

With only one of five towns reporting last night, Lester had 26 votes to Lieto’s 25.

Floterial Districts 16 And 17

The Mascoma Valley has two floterial districts this year, which are used to establish equal representation by including separate towns that would not be entitled to additional representation on their own, but whose populations combined allow for an additional seat.

The towns of Orange and Canaan fall under the umbrella of Floterial District 16, where former state Rep. Carol Friedrich, D-Wentworth, ran against state Rep. Charles Sova, R-Orange.

With three of eight towns reporting last night, Freidrich led Sova with 1,266 to 983 votes.

In Floterial District 17 — which includes the towns of Enfield, Grafton, Alexandria, Bristol, Bridgewater, and Ashland — former state Rep. Catherine Mulholland, D-Grafton, opposed state Rep. Paul Simard, R-Bristol.

With three out of six towns reporting last night, Mulholland led Simard with 2,657 to 2,033 votes.