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I recognize you! Nearly 65 Democrats who lost House seats in 2010 are back on ballot

  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French  spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. Whenever someone is not home she leaves a handwritten note with the fliers on the door. <br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Eighty-six year old Barbara French spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. Whenever someone is not home she leaves a handwritten note with the fliers on the door.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent  Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. <br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH. <br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH. <br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

    Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French  spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. Whenever someone is not home she leaves a handwritten note with the fliers on the door. <br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent  Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. <br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
  • Eighty-six year old Barbara French is a long time Democratic Representative who lost her seat in 2010. She spent Tuesday, October 23, 2012 campaigning from door to door in her neighborhood in Henniker, NH. She said that though many people have certain party allegiances on the national level, they do not always vote along party lines locally.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
  • Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH. <br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)
  • Barbara French talks to her neighbor Yolande Nicknair about her campaign for state representative, as well as other democratic candidates running for office in New Hampshire. Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Henniker, NH. <br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/Monitor Staff)

Barbara French of Henniker might be one of the most determined Democrats trying to win back the House seat she lost in the 2010 Republican tsunami. Even at 86, French is campaigning the old-fashioned way, going door-to-door with her promise to support public education, protect women’s health care and civilize the tone at the State House.

She ticks off her concerns with the pace of an auctioneer, and twice in two days, French left the same message on a reporter’s answering machine just to be clear: “I don’t believe the current Legislature is representative of New Hampshire. That is one of the big things for me.”

French has a lot of company this election.

Sixty-four Democrats who lost their House seats in 2010 are running again this year. An additional 11 former Democratic House members who lost or gave up their seats years earlier are also on the ballot. Asked why they want to return to the House, they cited two things. They want to halt what they say is a right-wing agenda on important issues. And they hope to bring back a bipartisan cooperation they say vanished when Republicans won a 3-1 majority in the House and Senate in 2010.

“I truly lost respect for the House as a governing body,” said Leigh Webb of Franklin, who served in the

House from 2006 to 2010. “I keep hearing Live Free or Die in the House. That does not mean, ‘I can do anything I damn well please.’ When individual rights take precedent over collective rights, something is terribly wrong.”

Ditto for Katherine Rogers of Concord, who served in the House from 1992 to 1998, when she resigned to become a Merrimack County commissioner. Like now, the Democrats were greatly outnumbered then, she said. And while Rogers copped to being a “proud Democrat” capable of partisanship, she said the tone in the House over the last two years has disturbed her.

“There were partisan moments, but on a majority of issues, when you were (in session) you were not a Republican or a Democrat,” Rogers said of her time in the House. “You were there to work on things together.”

Rogers said she delayed her resignation a month in 1998 at the request of then-House Speaker Donna Sytek, a Republican, and thanked Republican Neal Kurk of Weare for his legislative help in her goodbye speech from the House floor.

She doubts that would happen today. “The tone now is, us-against-them,” Rogers said.

Locally there are about 10 Democrats back on the ballot after being knocked out in 2010. In addition to French and Webb, the list includes Frank Davis and Dianne Schuett of Pembroke and Sally Kelly of Chichester. Mary Beth Walz of Bow, Joy Tilton of Northfield and Beth Arsenault of Laconia are on it, too. So are Delaney Carrier of Franklin and Gilman Shattuck of Hillsboro.

Davis, who served from 2006 to 2010, said voters are telling him they want more balance in the next House.

“They want a change in leadership in the House,” he said. “The first few calls I got (after deciding to run again), some of them were from Republicans who wanted my signs on their property.”

Both parties are campaigning against many of the same issues: a state budget that was balanced by cutting money to higher education, hospitals and the needy; efforts to restrict abortion and loosen gun laws; right-to-work legislation; repealing gay marriage; and the intersection of religion and legislation.

The Republicans, led by House Speaker Bill O’Brien, are touting their achievements on many of those things. They also blame Democrats, especially those they defeated in 2010, for leaving them a bloated budget destined to doom the state.

O’Brien has provided all Republican representatives two documents for the campaign trail. One compares the new or increased taxes passed by both parties in recent years: Democrats 100; Republicans 0, it says.

The other is a six-page list of “session accomplishments.” O’Brien created a digested version with instructions on how to fold it into a booklet that can be handed to voters. In an email to House Republicans, O’Brien even identified a person to contact if the folding proved to be a problem.

O’Brien’s tally highlights budget cuts and numerous taxes the House reduced or reformed, including a reduction of the cigarette tax and the elimination of the auto registration surcharge.

The campaign handout identifies over 80 bills that O’Brien said helped make the state more business friendly, and it ends with nine things he said the Legislature did to increase personal freedoms.

At the top of that list is a bill that allows parents to keep their kids out of schools that teach material they find objectionable.

O’Brien’s handout is probably just as valuable to the Democrats trying to get back into the House.

One of them is Beth Arsenault of Laconia, who served in the House from 2006 to 2010. At the top of her list of concerns are the budget cuts made to the state’s universities, community colleges and hospitals.

Arsenault is running against Rep. Harry Accornero, a Laconia Republican, and the two couldn’t be further apart on the issues.

Accornero voted for the budget cuts and looser gun laws as well as restrictions on abortion and a repeal of gay marriage. Accornero also backed allowing employers morally opposed to contraception to drop it from their health plan. And he made headlines when he tried to keep President Obama off the ballot on the grounds that Obama is not a “natural born citizen.”

The two are vying for a newly created seat that represents Laconia and Belmont, reliably Republican communities.

Accornero said he wants to go back to Concord to “finish the job that we started.” That includes passing right-to-work legislation to make New Hampshire more appealing to businesses looking for a new location, he said. He’d like to pass another balanced budget without raising taxes.

“I think there are probably higher priorities than the universities,” he said.

Accornero also favors the new education tax credits that allow employers to put money toward scholarships for private and religious schools.

While he accepts that legal abortion “is the law of the land,” he believes women should have a “48-hour cooling down period” before having an abortion.

Arsenault said she disagrees with all of Accornero’s positions. She hopes to convince voters that Accornero’s approach won’t save them money in the long run. Budget cuts at the state level hit residents at the local level, she said. Increasing the cost of higher eduction makes it harder for in-state students to get the degree that will allow them to get a good job, she added, and a state budget that closes courthouses denies speedy justice to those when they need it most.

“I think we both want what’s best for Laconia,” she said of Accornero. “But we run things on a shoestring in New Hampshire as it is. We are all frugal. But there is a point that you can be so frugal that you don’t serve your constituents. You can lower people’s taxes, but you can cost them a very high price on a personal level.”

French is trying to spread a similar message to voters in Bradford and Henniker. While voters have told her they dislike the tone set by O’Brien and right-wing Republicans, she’s discovered that some don’t really know what they’ve voted for – or against.

This week, French was talking to a woman in a Henniker mobile home park about the state’s decision to cut state money to Planned Parenthood for its non-abortion services.

“She was really aghast,” French said. “Those services meant something to her. I’m really concerned because there were a lot of things we accomplished and some of those things are in jeopardy.”

French cited state support for public kindergarten and women’s health care.

“I’m getting a good response,” she said. “This past (session) I was sort of glad I wasn’t there. But I was terribly concerned about what was going on, so I was really torn about running again. I’m just counting on the fact that the makeup will be different.”

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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