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Mascoma Valley Republicans Blame Losses on House Speaker

West Lebanon — Mascoma River Valley voters chose this week to send half of their incumbent Republican legislators packing, while retaining the other half in an election that one exiled Republican blamed on House Speaker William O’Brien’s conservative agenda.

“It was a reaction directly attributable to O’Brien,” said state Rep. Paul Simard, a moderate Republican from Bristol who lost his bid against Democrat Catherine Mulholland in Floterial District 17 by 446 votes.

Simard said that House Republicans under O’Brien’s leadership proposed a number of socially motivated bills that “should have never seen the light of day,” and that moderate members of the party suffered as a result.

“I think that (voters) saw ‘Republican’ and ‘incumbent’ and didn’t like the direction government was going, so they cast their vote to change that direction,” he said.

Floterial District 17 includes the towns of Enfield, Grafton, Alexandria, Bristol, Bridgerwater, and Ashland.

In the race for Enfield’s other House district, Grafton 10, state Rep. Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, was ousted at nearly a 2-1 ratio, with 1,526 votes cast for Democrat Wendy Piper to 808 for Mirski.

In Grafton 11 — which includes the towns of Canaan, Dorchester, and Wentworth — state Rep. Chuck Townsend, D-Canaan, held off a challenge from Canaan Republican Joe Frazier, receiving 1,386 votes to Frazier’s 1,030.

In Floterial District 16, Carol Friedrich — the Wentworth Democrat who lost her seat in 2010 — ousted state Rep. Charles Sova, R-Orange, earning 2,620 votes to Sova’s 2,304. District 16 includes the Upper Valley towns of Orange and Canaan.

In Grafton 9 — the two-seat district that includes Grafton, Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater and Bristol — Republican state Reps. Jeff Shackett, of Bristol, and Harold “Skip” Reilly, of Alexandria, bucked the state’s leftward trend and kept their seats against challenges from Grafton Democrat Judy Wallick and former state Rep. Phil Preston, an Ashland Democrat.

In Grafton 6 — which includes the town of Orange along with Groton, Rumney, Ellsworth, and Thornton — state Rep. Lester Bradley, R-Thornton, held off a challenge from Rumney Democrat Marilyn Lieto, garnering 1,395 votes to Lieto’s 1,205.

According to a tally by state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who follows legislative politics closely, Democrats will hold a 20-7 advantage in the Grafton County delegation, compared with the 13-13 split of the past two years. The county gained a seat in redistricting.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.