Race for 3 Upper Valley NH Senate seats takes shape; 9 vie for 4 Hanover slots in House

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2020 9:33:24 PM
Modified: 6/16/2020 9:33:18 PM

WEST LEBANON — The three seats representing the Upper Valley in the New Hampshire Senate will all be contested this year, with two possible rematches and a hotly contested primary for an open seat in the Lebanon-Hanover area.

Meanwhile, nine Democrats have filed to run for the four seats representing Hanover and Lyme in the New Hampshire House, an indication of increased activism heading into the 2020 elections.

Party leaders say they’re expecting a high turnout for the primaries, which will see plenty of political newcomers enter the fold.

In Hanover, only one of the candidates running for the House is an incumbent, and at least two are Dartmouth College students.

Deb Nelson, chairwoman of the Hanover/Lyme Democrats, said 2020 is turning out to be a “huge year” for participation.

While many people considered entering politics after the 2016 election, more of them seem to be acting on those thoughts now, she said.

“I think everybody is genuinely committed to serving a need that they see not being met in politics,” she said.

State Rep. Steven Smith, R-Charlestown, also said Republicans had little trouble finding people to run for Sullivan County’s 13 House seats.

“Turnout for getting people to run was perfect, 100%,” said Smith, the Sullivan County Republican chairman. “There’s a lot of people that are motivated to run.”

Senate District 5

Two Democrats with public-sector experience will go head-to-head in a primary for the District 5 Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, who announced she won’t seek a third term in May.

Lebanon City Councilor Sue Prentiss and former state Rep. Beatriz Pastor, D-Lyme, are seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, a Democratic bastion that stretches from Lyme to Charlestown.

Prentiss, a former two-term Lebanon mayor and executive director of the American Trauma Society, was first elected to the City Council in 2009. A former moderate Republican, she backed former New York Gov. George Pataki’s 2016 presidential bid. Prentiss has since registered as a Democrat and was a co-chairwoman of Pete Buttigieg’s New Hampshire presidential campaign.

Pastor, a Dartmouth College professor of Spanish and comparative literature, previously served six years in the House and served on its Science, Technology and Energy Committee.

Pastor has the backing of Hennessey, while Prentiss announced last week that former state Rep. Andy White, D-Lebanon, is chairing her campaign. Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara and City Councilor Karen Liot Hill also endorsed Prentiss earlier this month.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will ultimately go on to face Charlestown Republican Timothy O’Hearne in the general election.

Senate District 2

Farther north, State Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, is facing a primary challenge from Belknap County Commissioner Dave DeVoy for Senate District 2 nomination.

Giuda, a retired airline and Marine fighter pilot, could see his efforts for a third term in the Senate stymied by DeVoy, who’s finishing up his fifth year on the Belknap County Commission.

DeVoy, who lives in Sanbornton, is an Army veteran and owns several gas stations in the Lakes Region.

Whoever wins the Republican primary will go on to face Democrat Bill Bolton, chairman of the Plymouth Selectboard, in the general election. Giuda squeaked by Bolton, a former director of the state Division of Vital Records Administration, with 51.6% of the vote in 2018.

The district, which leans Republican, runs from the Lakes Region into Grafton County and includes the Upper Valley towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford, Dorchester, Grafton and Orange.

Senate District 8

The 24 Newport-area towns that comprise New Hampshire Senate District 8 will see a rematch in the general election this year as state Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, again faces a challenge from Jenn Alford-Teaster, a Democrat from Sutton.

Ward, a retired nurse practitioner, defeated Alford-Teaster, a Dartmouth College researcher, with 51.3% of the vote in 2018.

The district stretches from Grantham and Croydon to the north, Newport and Unity to the west and south to Bennington, Francestown and Weare. It also includes Sunapee and New London.

Grafton District 12

Meanwhile, the end of New Hampshire’s filing period last week revealed a nine-way race for four House seats representing Hanover and Lyme.

Three of Hanover and Lyme’s four-member House delegation — Reps. Polly Campion, Mary Jane Mulligan and Garret Muscatel — are not running for reelection this year, opening the door for several first-time candidates.

The slate of nine candidates seeking a two-year term includes incumbent Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, who is seeking her 17th term.

Also running are J. Russell Muirhead, a government professor at Dartmouth College; Mary Hakken-Phillips, a Hanover attorney and member of the town’s Finance Committee; James Murphy, the former chief medical officer at New London Hospital; Joanna Jaspersohn; Hanover resident Brittney Joyce, an education consultant; and Orian Welling, a Hanover resident who works at the White River Junction engineering firm Resource Systems Group.

Two Dartmouth students are also on the primary ballot. Riley Gordon, who just finished his sophomore year, launched his campaign in April. He’s received the endorsement of Muscatel, who graduated this year and resigned from his House seat over residency questions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also running is Victoria Xiao, who is in the same Dartmouth class as Gordon.

No Republicans had filed, though party officials have Wednesday to fill vacancies.

The four Democrats who represent Lebanon in the New Hampshire House are unopposed in the primary.

State Reps. George Sykes, Susan Almy, Richard Abel and Laurel Stavis filed last week for reelection. They’ll face Republicans Michael Balog and Joshua Flanders in November.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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