This year there are nine state senators not returning to their seats. Most of the chairs are being vacated by Republicans, and that’s got Democrats banking on winning some of those seats back. And in district 7, one traditionally red seat is up for grabs.
With eight incumbent Republicans leaving their seats, and only one Democrat, even Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley will tell you it’s not an ideal situation.
Bradley: No question about that, incumbents almost always have an advantage because they have better name recognition. So in several districts, we’re starting from scratch.
And as for that nineteen seat super-majority Republicans won last time around...
Bradley: Duplicating that, which hasn’t happened, in I think fifty years, I doubt that we’ll be that fortunate.
… they are almost certainly going to lose some of those seats. The question is, how many?
One empty seat that both parties say might flip is District 7, which includes Laconia and Franklin. The republican in that district is newcomer Joshua Youssef. He owns a franchise of computer repair shops and is a total political unknown.
Youssef: I’d characterize myself as a fiscally conservative, Republican Candidate for Senate
But as much as Youssef might like to be known for his politics, many voters probably have heard of him because of the media storm that’s surrounded his personal life. He had a messy divorce, the aftermath of which played out publicly before the state’s new Redress of Grievances Committee. And it recently became public that a court has ordered Youssef to pay $17,000 dollars in under-paid child support: a decision that he has decided not to challenge.
Youssef says his personal life and finances should not be a part of the race.
Youssef: I really don’t believe that the voters are interested in the mudslinging.
Youssef would like to keep the focus on his politics: he was endorsed by a libertarian group, the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and took the Cornerstone Families First Pledge, which is in opposition abortion and gay marriage.
But even so, media coverage of the mud-slinging may be the only time most voters ever hear about Youssef.
That’s especially true since his campaign is being run on a shoestring budget, and his opponent, Democrat Andrew Hosmer, has raised nearly 15 times as much funds.
Hosmer, who helps run a car dealership owned by his wife’s family, pitches himself as a centrist New Hampshire Democrat.
Hosmer: People in district seven are spiritedly independent. They want issues addressed in a thoughtful manner not in a partisan way.
He says he’s business oriented, fiscally conservative, and opposed to an income or sale tax. That matches his district: Belknap County has never been the kind of place to elect progressive types. Another tick in his column is that Hosmer has already run, so voters have seen his name before.
All of this is not to say that Youssef doesn’t stand a chance. He did make it through an acrimonious primary where he was also out fund-raised, and he has an undeniable can-do attitude.
Youssef: We wanted to prove to people that we could cut pennies in half, and spend them like $100 dollar bills.
But Republicans know they are in for a tough race in district seven, as chairman of the State Committee, Wayne Macdonald, concedes.
Macdonald: Andrew Hose-mer, I’m told -- I hope I’m pronouncing his name correctly -- is well thought of by many. I guess he has a local business up there. And after a spirited primary sometimes it takes a while for people to come together.
Democrat Hosmer has mostly kept aloof from the issues swirling around his opponent.
Hosmer: So I look forward to resolving those issues in a manner that’s satisfactory to the citizens of this state, I don’t think he’s done so yet but when he does that we can get back to the issues that are important to folks.
With the legal proceedings around Youssef’s finances still underway, none of these issues will likely be finalized before the election.
But Youssef says if any voter doesn’t know what to make of all these allegations, they’re free to give him a call.
Youssef: 603-520-1400. It rings on my hip, you could catch me at 11:30 at night you could probably catch me at 12:30!
He says he’s been making this offer since the controversy erupted, but so far his phone hasn’t been ringing.
**Clarification: Youssef says that while he did sign the Cornerstone Families First Pledge, he would not vote to repeal gay marriage**