State Senate 2016

This election season, NHPR's State of Democracy team is focusing on New Hampshire's state Senate. We're exploring the campaign politics of the various races, as well as the policy implications of this key legislative body.

Heading into November, New Hampshire Democrats talked a big game when it came to their hopes for retaking control of the state Senate.

But when the Republicans ended up maintaining the same 14-10 margin they’ve held for the past two years, Democrats placed at least part of the blame for their losses on gerrymandered district lines.

As it turns out, they might have a point.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Riding an unexpectedly strong showing at the top of the ballot, Republicans appeared poised to hang on to their advantage in the New Hampshire state Senate.

With 86 percent of the vote counted, Democrat Scott McGilvray led Republican state Rep. Joe Duarte by three percentage points in the Senate District 16 contest. If McGilvray hangs on, Democrats will pick up one seat, cutting the GOP’s Senate majority to 13-11.

The race for control of the New Hampshire Senate is playing out across the state’s 24 Senate districts.

But, thanks in part to years of partisan gerrymandering, the majority of those districts are not terribly competitive, with either Democrats or Republicans all but guaranteed a victory.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

State Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton has a little more at stake this election than most of his State House colleagues. If he wins re-election, and his fellow Democrats manage to secure a majority in the Senate, Woodburn is poised to become Senate President, the second-highest ranking official in state government.

But first Woodburn must win re-election to his seat representing the North Country, where he faces an opponent running on a single, very local issue: the Northern Pass energy project. 

Earlier this year, it seemed a commuter rail line could really happen for Southern New Hampshire.  

Polling had shown 74 percent of residents support it, and lawmakers were voting on whether to use $4 million in federal dollars to connect Boston’s commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester.

Scott McGilvray of Hooksett is President of NEA-New Hampshire, the state’s largest teachers union, and that’s a job he says he’ll keep if he wins a seat on the state Senate.  McGilvray says there’s no conflict of interest, because he stopped doing any lobbying work. 

Wednesday is the deadline for candidates for state elected office to file campaign finance reports, detailing how much money they’ve raised and spent since the primary.

 

But these reports will give us only a glimpse of how the political dollars are flowing this year.

 

Following trends in recent elections, outside groups are expected to make a considerable investment to try and sway voters before they go to the polls less than three weeks from now.

 

New Hampshire is still considered a swing state, despite a trend toward Democrats in the last few presidential elections. But when you look further down the ballot, there are relatively few districts that can still be called battlegrounds—most are reliably red or blue. One of the last ones left is a long slice of the Seacoast—State Senate District 24. NHPR’s Natasha Haverty reports on how two candidates are working to tip the scales there.


Marc Nozell via Flickr CC

Control of the New Hampshire Senate in January is up for grabs after primary voters cast ballots for their party’s nominees yesterday. The results provided some clarity to general election races that will define many of the state's political and policy debates over the next two years.  

Natasha Haverty

July 20, 3:36 pm. Republican State Senator Nancy Stiles sits in her favorite Portsmouth coffee shop, wearing a summer dress and a necklace of big yellow beads. After serving three terms in Concord representing District 24, she’s decided to step down: time to give someone else a turn. Within weeks of Stiles’ retirement, a quartet of eager Republicans stepped in the race to replace her.

Stiles looks up over a half-eaten piece of cake and makes a wish. “I’m hoping the campaign doesn’t get overly nasty,” she sighs.

Do You Know Who's Running For N.H. State Senate?

Aug 17, 2016
Mark Goebel via Flickr/Creative Commons

One third of New Hampshire's state senators are retiring this year, leaving eight seats vacant. That's a lot by recent standards, but the races have received little attention in comparison to the Presidential contest. Yet it is the state senate that has settled policy matters most directly affecting the daily lives of Granite Staters. Dean Spiliotes of SNHU is guest host.


Natasha Haverty

Let’s just get this out of the way: it’s okay if you’ve been so distracted by the presidential race that you forgot about the state primary coming up in September. But now that we’re good, let’s look at one big question hanging over those smaller, state races:  what impact will the top of the ballot—the campaign everybody is thinking about—have on local elections? 

Allegra Boverman/NHPR

One-third of New Hampshire’s 24 senators are retiring this year, leaving 8 vacant seats. That’s a lot by recent standards, and it puts a big question mark over New Hampshire politics after Election Day. But those state Senate races haven’t exactly been in the spotlight in this busy election season.

Even the candidates acknowledge it.

Sara Plourde / NHPR

The classic gerrymandered map you learned about in high school civics class is full of oddly-shaped legislative districts, drawn with obvious intent to boost one party.

But in New Hampshire, that’s rarely the case: It’s very hard to see, just by looking at the election maps, which districts might help or hurt a certain party’s chances.

So has gerrymandering been a factor in the state’s politics? And if so, how much?

Digitization supported by the Cogswell Benevolent Trust. / Image obtained via the New Hampshire Historical Society

Here’s a confusing reality about New Hampshire politics today:

Democrats are having success like never before, scoring wins that would have been unimaginable just two decades ago.

But despite that shift, there’s one place where Republicans still have a leg up on Election Day: the state Legislature.