Party Leaders: Democrats Control New Hampshire Legislature

Associated Press
Thursday, November 08, 2018

Concord — The midterm “blue wave” may not have been the nationwide tsunami many had predicted, but in the New Hampshire Statehouse, it appears to have splashed through every chamber but the corner office.

Though Republican Gov. Chris Sununu won a second term, he and the leaders of both political party organizations said control of the state House, Senate and Executive Council all have flipped to Democratic from Republican control. The Associated Press has not yet called multiple races.

The state’s last five Democratic governors found themselves in the opposite situation for at least part of their tenures, but Sununu will be the first Republican governor of New Hampshire in modern history to face a Democratic Legislature. He said on Wednesday that the new landscape won’t change his approach.

“We brought stakeholders to the table, we let them drive a lot of the changes they wanted to see in policy and regulation and economic freedom, and we got results off of that. So we’re not going to change our philosophy at all,” he said in an interview. “We’re going to keep doing what we do. It’s a great recipe for success. Regardless of politics, regardless of who’s in the House and the Senate, we’re open to working with everybody.”

Four other legislative chambers flipped to Democrats on Tuesday: the Colorado Senate, New York Senate, Minnesota House and Maine Senate. But in each of those states, there will be a Democratic governor as well.

In New Hampshire, state Rep. Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, said the House has a history of cooperation among the parties. He noted that between 80 and 90 percent of bills that pass the House do so with little or no debate.

“On most things, we are able to reach agreement. Sometimes we’re looking to end up at the same destination but want to take a different path,” said Shurtleff, the Democratic minority leader who is now seeking to become House speaker. “We want to work with our friends across the aisle.”

Shurtleff said he hopes the shift will mean greater success for legislation aimed at helping people with mental illness and implementation of a paid family medical leave program. When Sununu first was elected, he periodically met with Democratic House and Senate leaders, “but after a while, those meetings fell off,” Shurtleff said.

“I hope it’s something we can do in the new biennium,” he said.

Sununu disputed the claim that he had become gradually less welcoming in the last two years.

“The Democratic minority leadership always had the option to come sit with us; we never stopped inviting people,” he said. “We’re always there to talk about issues, and they know that door is open. It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on anything, but that door’s always open and we’re happy to move forward to get the job done.”

Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the state Republican Party, was less optimistic in his assessment.

“Over the next two years, Granite Staters will witness the lack of serious policy proposals presented by the New Hampshire Democrats,” he said in a statement.