Primary Source: Democrats Win Big

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Like their colleagues in New Jersey and Virginia, New Hampshire Democrats were energized by election victories on Tuesday.

Along with seeing Grantham Democrat Brian Sullivan sweep to victory in the four-town Sullivan 1 New Hampshire House district, Democrats won another House race in Hillsborough County and now have won eight special elections in 10 legislative contests this year. That includes four victories in seats previously held by a Republican and five in districts where registered Republicans outnumber Demcorats, according to a Democratic Party news release.

Moreover, Democrat Joyce Craig ousted four-term Republican Mayor Ted Gatsas in Manchester, the state’s largest city.

“Gov. (Chris) Sununu should be shaking in his boots today. With a 7-point swing in New Hampshire’s largest city and Democrats outperforming President Barack Obama’s 2012 margins by 13 percent in special elections, there is no seat in New Hampshire that we can’t compete for,” New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement on Wednesday.

Whether Sununu, a first-term Republican, really has much to sweat about is debatable. No Democratic heavyweights have said they will take him on as yet, though former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who lost in a primary in 2016, is running again.

Still, grassroots Democrats were encouraged by the results and turnout, which was 25 percent in Grantham — high for a special election — for the House race in which Sullivan defeated Plainfield Republican Margaret Drye, 1,297-671. Sullivan also won all four towns, including Springfield, N.H., typically a GOP town.

It’s been a Democratic seat for several years, but Grantham Democratic Co-Chairman David Wood on Wednesday noted that ideology marked the difference between Sullivan and Drye. He said that both candidates were “clearly committed public servants” who “come across as people you can trust,” so it was about policies, not personalities.

“I happen to think a two-to-one vote ratio tells you there is a relatively significant portion of the voting population that shares at least a majority of the views that Brian believes,” Wood said of the Democrat.

“And I see the same kind of thing happening in Virginia and Manchester and so on. My sense is that (Drye) reflects what might be a conventional Republican viewpoint, and people are not happy with that, and they are willing to turn out and vote and say no,” Wood said.

For her part, Drye, who congratulated Sullivan on his victory, noted that it has become a “heavily Democratic district” and that damage from last week’s windstorm made it difficult to reach many voters who lost power or phone service, especially in Cornish and Plainfield.

Whether President Donald Trump was a millstone also is a question.

“I heard plenty of comments about Trump, both good and bad, during the campaign, and always tried to focus on the fact that this was a state race,” Drye said.

“Trump is kind of a wild card. People love him, people hate him. ... It’s not politics as usual.”

Nationally, Democrats on Wednesday tried to galvanize even more support, with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a prominent progressive voice from Minnesota, tweeting out, “OK, Dems kicked butt last night; now let’s go defeat the plutocratic Republican tax scam bill and organize in every zip code. Who’s down for it?”

But Republicans also may stick to some tried-and-true strategies in New Hampshire, such as pressuring candidates to promise not to raise taxes.

Orford Republican activist Tom Thomson said he feels Trump has tried to follow through with his election promises but needs and deserves more support in Congress.

“I think Republicans need to come together and work together with our president, particularly on the tax issues,” Thomson said/.

Thomson said he plans to again put the anti-tax pledge to candidates in 2018.

“The pledge will be out there. It goes to every single person that signed up with the secretary of state to run,” Thomson said.

Briefly Noted

Thomson and Orford-area veterans recently expressed concern that a plaque honoring veterans — which was installed in Memorial Hall in 1959 and removed more than 15 years ago as construction was starting at the new Rivendell Academy complex — might not be hung back in Memorial Hall. But Rivendell Superintendent Elaine Arbour this week said school officials will rehang the plaque, which had been held by Orford High alumni for safekeeping, in Memorial Hall.

Roddy Young, the former Dartmouth-Hitchcock vice president of marketing and communications who lost his job during the turbulence of the James Weinstein administration, has landed well. Young started earlier this month as vice president and chief marketing officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Even more happily for them, Young and his wife, Gretchen, sold their home on North Park Street in Hanover for $1.4 million, about $425,000 more than they paid for it in 2012. The buyers? None other than new Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO Joanne Mather Conroy a nd her husband, Douglas Johnson.

John P. Gregg can be  reached at jgregg@vnews.com.


A plaque honoring veterans was removed from Memorial Hall in Orford more than 15 years ago to prepare for construction at the new Rivendell Academy complex. It was recently returned to school officials after being held for safekeeping by Orford High alumni. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the timing.