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In Sullivan County, Trump Claimed Voters Who Supported Obama

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump casts his ballot, in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Richard Drew

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/16/2016 12:06:43 AM
Modified: 11/16/2016 12:49:11 PM

Claremont — Donald Trump’s message on jobs, trade, fighting terrorism and other issues such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act resonated with Sullivan County voters, county Republicans said Tuesday, a week after Trump stunned the nation by defeating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College vote.

“People wanted to see change, and I think he had a stronger message,” Cynthia Howard, chairwoman of the Sullivan County Trump for President Committee said Tuesday. “It was jobs, trade, Obamacare, the growth of ISIS, right down the line.”

Trump defeated Clinton in Sullivan County by 3 percentage points, winning in 11 of the county’s 15 communities, including Claremont, where his margin of victory was also three points.

Howard said she was not surprised by Trump’s win, as many others were.

“I could see the groundswell growing for a long time,” she said. “We built a strong ground game here early on, holding ‘debate watch parties.’ I had yard signs and they were flying off the shelves. We gave out probably 500 of them.”

Incumbent Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, who won re-election to his District 11 House, said on Tuesday he was perplexed as anyone with Trump’s win in the county.

“Honestly, I don’t have an answer, but I think in Claremont, an old manufacturing town, the working Democrats were feeling left out in the cold,” Smith said. “I think the focus on manufacturing jobs, that really hit people.”

Trump’s win in Sullivan County was surprising if for no other reason than President Obama’s strong showing in both 2008 and 2012, where he won in Claremont by more than 20 percentage points each time.

State Sen.-elect Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, said there was merit to Howard’s assessment of Trump’s victory, but she saw other factors playing a role as well.

“I think there was a rallying cry for ‘non-Washington’ people and (as being part of Washington for more than 20 years) Hillary can’t do anything about that,” said Hennessey, who defeated Marie Lozito, R-Claremont, for the District 5 Senate seat which includes several Sullivan County towns. Hennessey narrowly won in Claremont, but handily won the rest of the district, which stretches from Lyme to Charlestown.

As far as the Claremont presidential results, Hennessey said they reflected a mood seen in many other parts of the country that propelled Trump to victory.

“The cry from so many was for something new,” she said. “They just saw Hillary as business as usual. I think there was a suspicion in general of people who have been around a long time.”

Longtime state Rep. John Cloutier, D-Claremont, who won a 13th term in the House, agreed that many of the working-class voters in the county and Claremont in particular were looking for change.

“Claremont has had its economic challenges and the people I talked to were fed up with the status quo,” Cloutier said on Tuesday. “Hillary Clinton was not perceived as the candidate of change. She represented the status quo and Trump, despite his flaws, represented change.”

What Hennessey said was confounding about the Sullivan County results was that she believed New Hampshire has done well under Obama and national polls suggest the country is satisfied with the president’s performance.

“Frankly, I think some voted against their own best interests,” Hennessey said.

Even though she saw Clinton as the best candidate for the Democrats who had her candidacy partly “sabotaged” by FBI Director James Comey’s announcement on her email probe days before the election, the party still must heed the signs sent on Election Day, the senator-elect said.

“A lot of people feel disenfranchised and I think it is very important we listen to that,” Hennessey said. “The solution is not to cry foul or say our candidate was flawed. Many feel they are not included and are angry.”

While Trump’s message was a deciding factor, Howard said, the Clinton email investigation also hurt the Democratic candidate.

“People knew there was something there. You can’t cover that up,” Howard said.

Incumbent state Rep. Ray Gagnon, D-Claremont, who won re-election in the District 5 House races, said he heard from several voters at the polls who voted for Trump.

“They were sort of apologetic,” Gagnon said. “They know he is flawed, but they saw Hillary as the ultimate status quo establishment candidate.”

To win back the white, working-class voters that were a big part of Trump’s coalition, Gagnon said, the party needs to return to what used to be its base.

“We need to talk about jobs and not sound like a bunch of elites,” he said. “There is a huge amount of people who don’t feel connected to their leaders.”

Gagnon said the posturing during the campaign about how the Democrats were winning the college educated vote and Trump, the “high school white guys” came across as a “pretty insulting statement.”

Smith said he had never seen a campaign go after the other candidate’s supporters the way Clinton did.

“I was standing at the polls and some voters said to me, ‘I’m here to vote and I’m a deplorable,’ ” Smith said with a laugh, referring to Clinton’s statement that Trump voters were “deplorables.”

While the GOP may have done well nationwide, Smith said New Hampshire Republicans should temper their enthusiasm despite having unified government in Concord with the election of Gov.-elect Chris Sununu.

“We were the only legislature in the country with a Republican majority that actually lost seats,” he said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at


Hanover Democrat Martha Hennessey won 18,809 votes in the Senate District 5 seat, which stretches from Lyme to Charlestown, handily defeating Claremont Republican Marie Lozito, who won 9,998 votes. An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Hennessey's margin of victory.

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