Primary Source: Red Patches in the Upper Valley

  • 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.

Published: 11/15/2018 12:23:18 AM
Modified: 11/16/2018 9:05:48 AM

The blue wave that swept Democrats back into power in the New Hampshire Legislature didn’t wash broadly through the Sunapee region.

State Reps. Sue Gottling, D-Sunapee, and Virginia Irwin, D-Newport, lost their seats, though the latter is subject to a recount.

And first-term state Rep. Dan Wolf, a centrist Newbury Republican, held onto his seat against a challenge from a former Democratic lawmaker in the two-seat Merrimack 5 House district that includes New London and Newbury.

“I was scared of the blue wave, and I was very appreciative of the fact that the voters saw the service I had put into the community,” said Wolf, the 71-year-old managing partner of the New London Inn and a former photographer for United Press International.

State Rep. Karen Ebel, a New London Democrat, took 2,250 votes to 2,012 for Wolf, which were both enough to hold their seats. Former state Rep. Andy Schmidt, a Democrat who had represented the Grantham area before moving to New London, fell short with 1,478 votes.

Wolf served for 12 years on the Kearsarge School Board and also has held other positions in Newbury. A member of the House Education Committee, he voted against the family leave bill because “I didn’t think it was funded properly,” but also ultimately voted against a school voucher bill backed by most Republicans.

“I have my opinions, but if I have to make a choice, it’s the constituents that win,” Wolf said.

Gottling, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Sunapee Selectboard, was seeking a sixth term in Concord but was unseated by Republican Gates Lucas, a 2016 Dartmouth College graduate. The 25-year-old Lucas is the son of former Republican gubernatorial nominee Jay Lucas, and tied himself closely to the Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s re-election campaign.

Gottling said Gates Lucas “knocked on a lot of doors” in the campaign. “I have to win by over 100 votes in Sunapee to counteract anything in Croydon,” she said. “I didn’t do that.”

A phone message left for Lucas was not returned on Wednesday. He won the seat in the Republican-leaning district on a 1,136-1,016 tally.

Meanwhile, Irwin, a retired educator, narrowly lost her Sullivan 6 seat by 30 votes to Unity Republican John Callum. A recount is slated for Friday.

The Democratic gains across the state, though, were so strong that even House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, lost his Carroll County House seat after 36 years in the House. Bartlett Democrat Anita Burroughs unseated him, 1,281-1,074.

In Kasich’s Corner

Outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich is due back in the Granite State today, with appearances at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, a meeting with supporters at a Concord law firm, and a speech at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications’ 16th annual First Amendment awards ceremony.

Is Kasich, who finished second to Donald Trump in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican primary and has stayed well-clear of Trump’s divisive politics, setting up a primary challenge in 2020? Too soon to say that, according to former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, a Kasich supporter.

“He’s not blind to what people are going to read into it. I think it’s premature to think anything serious is imminent or planned, but he has very clearly indicated that he would like to be part of the discussion going forward, depending on what that discussion is,” Rath said.

“He has friends here, and he has some assets on the ground here, and it makes sense to keep those assets and friendships going.”

Rochester Apology

A Stockbridge Republican who challenged Bethel-area state Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, has raised concerns about a dispute about a campaign sign outside the Rochester polls on Election Day.

Rob McFadden, a regional salesman with Timken Aerospace, said Rochester Town Clerk Joanne McDonnell improperly had his pickup truck towed from a parking lot near the polls because it had an unattended McFadden campaign sign in the cab of the truck. To add insult to possible injury, McFadden said Haas and supporters then wound up “standing at the exact spot where my truck had been parked.”

McFadden contacted the Secretary of State’s Office, which noted that while towns can have policies requiring handheld signs may not be left unattended, “signs may always be left on or in a candidate’s vehicle that is legally parked.”

To her credit, McDonnell apologized to McFadden, and said she would pay for any towing charges. And it didn’t affect the final result. Haas won the four-town district with 59 percent of the vote, 1,271-797. But McFadden intends to file an administrative complaint.

“I’m not looking for a recount. I’m not contesting the results. I’m looking for the town to receive a warning,” he said. “With all of this, it’s really fired me up to run again.”

John P. Gregg can be reached atjgregg@vnews.com.

 Correction

In both winning re-election to the New Hampshire House in the two-seat Merrimack 5 district, state Rep. Karen Ebel, D-New London, won 2,250 votes and state Rep. Dan Wolf, R-Newbury, won 2,012 votes. An earlier version of this column reversed their vote totals.




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