Two Democrats may seek open Senate seat

  • James Murphy John W. Hession—Copyright 2010 John W....

  • Beatriz Pastor

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2020 9:23:36 PM
Modified: 5/6/2020 9:23:27 PM

HANOVER — At least two Hanover-area Democrats are expressing interest in the open state Senate seat in the heart of the Upper Valley, setting up a likely primary for the reliably Democratic district that extends from Lyme to Charlestown.

Beatriz Pastor, a Lyme Democrat and Dartmouth College professor, and Dr. Jim Murphy, a retired orthopedic surgeon, both said Wednesday they are likely to run for the seat, which has been held for the past two terms by state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover. Hennessey said earlier this week she wasn’t going to seek a third term.

“I’m definitely running,” Pastor, a former state representative, said in a phone interview, noting that she had served on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee during her six years in the House and was concerned about issues such as energy and transportation, especially as they relate to the global climate.

“Those are the two areas I’m most interested in because they have a direct impact on whatever we are able and willing to do to address climate change,” she said.

A professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Dartmouth, Pastor, 71, was active on such issues as clean energy districts and oversight of the proposed Northern Pass hydropower project before she left the House in 2014 after three terms.

She said social justice issues and voting rights were also topics she would focus on.

Murphy retired last year after a long career at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and New London Hospital, where he served as chief medical officer.

The son of a New England Telephone worker, the 67-year-old Murphy grew up in such New Hampshire cities as Manchester, Concord and Berlin and said he believes a “broad spectrum” of issues including food insecurity, transportation and education has to be addressed.

“The social determinants of health that I have been involved in for many years are about to come under stress,” said Murphy, who serves on the board of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

“I’ve never held elected public office, and I’m not sure I look at that as a deterrent, necessarily,” he said.

Both Pastor and Murphy said they would not rule out supporting an income tax, noting the inequities in New Hampshire’s heavy reliance on property taxes to fund education.

“This is something I would be willing to consider,” Pastor said. “I would not take any pledge not to touch the current tax system.”

And Murphy said, “I strongly feel that we need to consider an incremental sales and/or income tax in the state of New Hampshire.”

Former state Sen. Clifton Below, a Lebanon city councilor who had considered a run if Hennessey were to step down, said this week he is working on municipal and county power issues and won’t seek his old seat.

No Republicans have stepped forward to express an interest in the seat, which has been held by Democrats for more than 20 years.

It’s possible that candidates could emerge from Sullivan County, since the district includes such municipalities as Claremont, Plainfield and Cornish.

The filing window runs June 2-12.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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