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Democrats Unopposed For Hanover Seats

Hanover — Four Democrats appear to be running unopposed in November for the New Hampshire House seats representing Hanover and Lyme, though two of the candidates would be new to the Legislature.

State Reps. Bernie Benn, of Hanover, and Beatriz Pastor, of Lyme, are stepping down, after seven and three terms, respectively. Pastor, who served on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, is a professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Dartmouth College. Benn, an architect, sat for many years on the House Finance Committee, and will retire to Vermont, according to state Rep. Patricia Higgins, a Hanover Democrat who is running for her second term.

State Rep. Sharon Nordgren — the Hanover Democrat who has served in the House for more than 25 years and is a senior member of the House Finance Committee — is seeking a 14th term.

No Republicans filed for the Grafton 12 House district, but before Benn decided not to run again, he found two Democratic replacement candidates, Higgins said.

One of them is Chris Brown, a Hanover carpenter and long-time track and field coach. Brown said that though he was running for the first time, he had thought of doing so earlier.

“About five years or so ago, I sort of patted my head and said, ‘You know, I could do that if a spot ever opened up,’ ” he said.

When Benn decided not to pursue an eighth term, he asked Brown whether he was interested, Brown said, and after discussing it with his family, the answer was yes.

In office, Brown hopes to join the House Education Committee. Funding education is something New Hampshire “really wrestles with,” he said, versus “the historical aversion to paying taxes.”

Besides education, Brown said he had no special agenda, though he aligns himself with the Democratic Party “99 percent of the time,” he said.

Martha Hennessey, a new candidate, has deep roots in Hanover and New Hampshire politics. Her mother, Jean, who died in 2004, was a top Democratic activist in the Upper Valley, and her father, John Hennessey, is the former dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Hennessey has a doctorate in developmental psychology and practices out of her home on Webster Terrace. She also earned an MBA from Wharton, and if elected, would like to work with the Finance Committee or the Environment and Agriculture Committee. The environment is of special interest to Hennessey, whose family has long involved itself with the issue.

Hennessey said that Benn encouraged her to run, but watching her mother’s work in politics was an inspiration as well.

For more than a decade, one of the four Grafton 12 representatives has lived in Lyme. Pastor does, and so did her predecessor, Democrat Ruth Bleyler.

Even though this year’s candidates are all from Hanover, Higgins said the tradition of selecting a Lyme resident is not a long-lived one. Furthermore, Higgins made an effort from the beginning to get to know Lyme, its citizens, and its Selectboard, she said.

As for Pastor, her decision to leave the Legislature may only be temporary. Working three to four days a week in Concord left little time to see the effects of her work on her community, she said. In April, Pastor told her colleagues she needed a two-year break, but if a seat opens up in 2016, she may well run for it.

“I think that it’s a good idea when you’ve done it for three terms to step back to look at the local issues,” she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.