×

Ayotte and Hassan in dead heat 

  • Volunteers greet Governor Maggie Hassan at the Ward 4 at the Boys and Girls Club in Concord on Tuesday afternoon. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan hugs a friend at the Ward 4 voting poll at the Boys and Girls Club in Concord on Tuesday afternoon. GEOFF FORESTER /Monitor staff

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte greets supporters outside the Bedford High School polling place in Bedford on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte greets supporters outside the Bedford High School polling place in Bedford on Tuesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte greets supporters outside the Bedford High School polling place in Bedford on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Maggie Hassan Democratic supporters wait for results to come in about an hour before midnight at the Puritan Backroom. The event emptied somewhat as the presidential and U.S. Senate races grew closer and leaning closer to a Republican win. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Maggie Hassan campaign workers wait for results at her election party at the Puritan backroom Tuesday night.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Maggie Hassan speaks to supporters at the end of an undecided election just after midnight Wednesday.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan told supporters she was still positive about winning her close U.S. Senate race with incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Scenes from the election night party for Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the election night party for Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the election night party for Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Maggie Hassan remained locked in a tight battle for U.S. Senate Tuesday night, as the GOP, led by Donald Trump, made sweeping gains across the country.

With 84 percent of precincts reporting at 1 a.m., Ayotte, the incumbent, and Hassan, the state’s two-term governor, were separated by about 1,000 votes.

Both women addressed supporters at just after 12:30 a.m. and maintained a positive outlook, but predicted the final result wouldn’t come quickly.

“We feel really upbeat,” Ayotte told cheering supporters at the Grappone Center in Concord, her voice hoarse. “I believe strongly in the fact we want to have every vote counted in this race before we come out and really talk to you about a victory.”

Despite the available results from the polls, Hassan said she was ahead. “We all knew this was going to be close,” she told dozens of backers at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester. “We still have a small, but sustainable lead.”

The race has been one of the most competitive and expensive in the country, and was expected to tip control of the U.S. Senate. By 12:30a.m., several vulnerable Republican senators had held onto their seats and the party needed only two more wins to keep a narrow majority in the chamber.

New Hampshire’s election returns came in slowly Tuesday, leading to a nail-biting night at both campaigns’ election night headquarters. But the moods were decidedly different – jovial at the Ayotte watch party, deflated at the Hassan camp. By the end of the night, shiny star balloons began to outnumber people.

Following an early lead, Hassan lagged behind Ayotte as results trickled in from smaller communities in the state. By 1 a.m., both women had garnered more than 285,000 votes.

“I don’t think anyone’s counting on anything,” Rosa Spaeth, a Cambridge, Mass., resident, said at Hassan’s election party.

“It’s been stressful,” said Manchester resident Ron Gomes. “I wish it wasn’t so close.”

Just before the 10:30 p.m., the Puritan co-owner and Manchester Executive Councilor up for re-election, Chris Pappas, got on stage to ask Hassan supporters to “stick around” for the final results.

“We’re feeling good tonight but we need to count some more votes,” he said. When Hassan appeared, the mood shifted, and the room was suddenly full with supporters chanting for the candidate.

More than 20 miles away, the mood was lightening at the Grappone Center in Concord, the site of Ayotte’s campaign party, as returns began to show Republicans leading up and down the ballot.

GOP state party chairwoman Jennifer Horn took to the stage around 11 p.m. to announce the country may well have a Republican president.

“I’ve gotta tell you, it is a beautiful day to be a Republican in the great state of New Hampshire,” she said to applause from a crowd of more than 250 people.

“I’m feeling awesome,” said Chris Ager, an Amherst voter and Republican activist. “We’re still in the game across the board. I have never gotten so many texts.”

Spontaneous cheers broke out when the big screen TV’s flashed poll results showing Ayotte and Chris Sununu, the Republican candidate for governor, leading their opponents.

When Ayotte took the stage, supporters waved her campaign signs overhead.

The contest for Senate featured two of the Granite State’s most well-known politicians. Spending on the race reached more than $100 million by election day, making it the most expensive U.S. Senate race in state history.

Ayotte, 48, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 amid a national tea party wave. And many expected she would face an uphill battle in 2016, a presidential year, which tends to turn-out more Democratic voters in New Hampshire.

Ayotte struggled to contend with Trump’s candidacy throughout the campaign, earning ridicule from Democrats for supporting, but not endorsing the Republican nominee. Ayotte eventually renounced Trump’s candidacy last month when a 2005 video surfaced showing the businessman boast about groping women without consent.

But an unexpectedly strong showing for Trump helped propel Ayotte’s returns Tuesday.

Hassan, 58, often campaigned with her own party’ presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and President Obama, including in the final days. Clinton and Trump also remained in a tight race in New Hampshire Tuesday night.

On election day, the senate candidates dropped by local polling places. In Nashua, Hassan pulled up to the Amherst Street School at 5 p.m. as supporters holding campaign signs chanted the candidate’s name. She spent a few minutes taking photos, and shaking their hands.

“I’m feeling good,” said Hassan, who declined to make any predictions. “Just like everybody else, excited for the day to be here.”

In Bedford, Ayotte, wearing a white down vest and boots, ducked behind the rope lines at the polls to hold campaign with her supporters and greet voters.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Ayotte aggressively pitched herself to voters as the Republican next-door, working the drive-through window at a fast food chain and running in charity road races.

The message struck a chord with some voters.

“She’s a regular person,” said Lisa Rick, a Bedford republican who snapped a photo of Ayotte and her 8-year-old son at the polling place Tuesday.

Rick remembers seeing Ayotte and her kids during a busy weekend at the Cinemagic in Merrimack to catch the Star Wars movie. “She didn’t cut lines, she didn’t pull the ‘I’m a senator card’,” she said. “She waited like everyone else.”

Hassan ran to the middle, pitching herself as bipartisan problem solver and saying she was unafraid to break with her party on issues of national security.

“It comes down to women’s rights,” said Sheila Quick, a Bedford voter. “There’s too much in question about the U.S. Supreme Court, will Roe v. Wade get overturned?”

(Elodie Reed contributed to this article. Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)