Primary Source: Recount sought in NH Senate Democratic primary

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2020 9:44:46 PM
Modified: 9/9/2020 9:44:36 PM

With unofficial results showing her trailing by less than 70 votes, Lyme Democrat Beatriz Pastor on Wednesday said she has asked for a recount in her race against Lebanon City Councilor Sue Prentiss for the open District 5 New Hampshire Senate seat.

Pastor, a Dartmouth College professor and former state representative from Lyme, said the margin between the two candidates fell well below the 1.5% threshold of total votes cast for which a recount can be requested in a primary.

“The 68-vote difference from Tuesday’s primary constitutes roughly 0.8%, and that is well within the margin. This is why I feel that I owe this recount to my constituents and to the many people who have voted for me and shown their support. I want to be able to confirm for all my supporters that they can have faith in the process,” Pastor said in a statement.

She said in a phone interview that she had called Prentiss on Wednesday afternoon to let her know, and to explain why she had not conceded, and that they’d had a cordial conversation.

Pastor said she was also seeking the recount in light of the voting changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that the results could, in fact, bolster support for the system.

“This election, in the wake of the pandemic and massive adjustments to the absentee voting process, has forced towns to try on new processes to make sure each ballot is counted. And, with a momentous general election just around the corner, it’s important for us to nail down inconsistencies in the new process to ensure things go smoothly in November,” Pastor said in her statement.

“For me, asking for this recount is an opportunity to validate the process in all the towns so that each town is truly prepared for the upcoming election in November.”

Prentiss, in a phone interview Wednesday evening, said she wasn’t surprised.

“It’s part of the process. It’s a democracy. I respect Beatriz Pastor’s right, or anybody’s right, to ask for a recount,” she said.

In unofficial results to the Associated Press from all nine cities and towns in the district, Prentiss had 4,124 votes to 4,056 for Pastor.

The two Democrats were competing for the soon-to-be open Senate seat held by state Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, in one of the most progressive districts in the state. Pastor won big in Hanover (1,500-733) and Lyme (491-94), and also carried Cornish and Plainfield. But Prentiss, as expected, raked in votes in Lebanon (1,399-780) and also had sizable victories in Enfield (427-212) and Claremont (700-365). She also won in Canaan and Charlestown.

Whoever wins the primary — Prentiss had received congratulatory calls from party leaders on Tuesday night — will face Charlestown Republican Timothy O’Hearne in November.

Other legislative races

In another contested state Senate primary in the Upper Valley, state Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, easily turned back a challenge from Belknap County Commissioner David DeVoy, 5,582-1,352, in District 2. Giuda picked up 81% support in the 26-town district, which includes the Upper Valley towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford, Orange and Dorchester.

Giuda will again face a challenge from Plymouth Democrat Bill Bolton in November. Giuda defeated Bolton by about 3 percentage points in 2018.

As for the third New Hampshire Senate district in the Upper Valley, District 8, state Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, was uncontested in the GOP primary, and Sutton Democrat Jenn Alford-Teaster, was the lone Democrat in the primary. Ward defeated Alford-Teaster in 2018.

The district includes the Upper Valley towns of Grantham, Newport, Sunapee, New London, Croydon, Springfield and Unity.

In the four-seat Grafton 12 Democratic primary to represent Hanover and Lyme in the New Hampshire House, it looks like state Rep. Sharon Nordgren, with 2,094 votes, and Dartmouth professor Russell Muirhead, 1,488, are headed to Concord, as are real estate attorney Mary Hakken-Phillips, 1,272, and retired physician Jim Murphy, 1,151.

They outpaced five other Democratic primary candidates: Brittney Joyce, 1,125; Dartmouth student Riley Gordon, 976; Orian Welling, 710; Joanna Jaspersohn, 625; and Victoria Xiao, 402. Xiao, a Dartmouth student, pulled out of the race in midsummer but her name remained on the ballot. No Republicans filed for the seat.

Briefly noted

■Despite changes in voting laws and the COVID-19 pandemic that’s keeping some students back in their original states, turnout in the college towns of Hanover, Durham, Plymouth and Keene for the Democratic primary increased over 2016 and 2018 levels, according to the voting rights group NextGen New Hampshire, which has been registering young voters in the state in recent years. That could help Joe Biden against Donald Trump in November.

■In Vermont, North Springfield resident Keith Stern, the former owner of Stern’s Quality Produce in White River Junction, is back as a candidate. Stern, who lost in the 2018 GOP primary to Gov. Phil Scott, is now running as an independent for one of the three Windsor County Senate seats long held by Democrats. Stern said he got into the race because he opposes the Global Warming Solutions Act, a carbon emissions bill currently on its way to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk after the Legislature approved it Wednesday. Stern considers the bill bad for business. “I wasn’t going to run again, but when I read about the GWSA bill, I couldn’t stand on the sidelines. There is too much to lose this time especially,” Stern said via email.

John Gregg can be reached at

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