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Hassan unseats Ayotte in race for U.S. Senate



Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Gov. Maggie Hassan officially won the U.S. Senate race, defeating Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte by a mere 1,023 votes, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Hassan claimed victory in the competitive race hours before the official results were announced, and called for the state to unite.

“We are stronger when we are working to ensure that every person has an opportunity to share in our nation’s success,” she said in a press conference behind the State House as supporters chanted her name. “Together we will work to heal the divisions that this election has exposed.”

The contest, which drew more than 736,000 votes, was among the closest in the state. Although some speculated Ayotte would request a recount, the Republican conceded the race late in the day, saying in a statement it was a “tremendous honor” to serve the state.

Hassan’s victory completes a Democratic sweep of the state’s three congressional races, a rare win for the party in an election where the GOP, led by Donald Trump, made major gains across the country.

It also marks a historic first for New Hampshire – an all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation. U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster won re-election Tuesday in the 2nd Congressional District, and Carol Shea-Porter defeated Republican Frank Guinta to win back her seat in the 1st Congressional District.

Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, the state’s senior senator, was not up for re-election this year.

Ayotte didn’t make a public appearance Wednesday, but she addressed the election in a statement.

“This is a critical time for New Hampshire and our country, and now more than ever, we need to work together to address our challenges,” Ayotte said. “The voters have spoken and now it’s time all of us to come together to get things done for the people of the Greatest State in this Nation and for the Greatest Country on Earth.”

The late result did not affect control of the Senate, which Republicans had won by Tuesday night. A few vulnerable senators were able to fend off Democratic challenges, and the chamber has at least 51 Republican members.

Hassan, the state’s two-term governor, said Wednesday she will work with President-elect Donald Trump when it is in the best interest of the country, but will stand up to him when it isn’t.

She had been highly critical of his candidacy during her campaign, slamming his attacks on a Gold Star family and warning that he would be unfit to lead the country.

“This election exposed very serious divisions in our country and it’s up to all of us, elected leaders, citizens, to come together now and focus on our common challenges and our common opportunities,” Hassan said, standing on the steps behind the State House accompanied by husband, Tom, and Kuster. Dozens of supporters held campaign signs behind her, chanting “Maggie!”

“There is a lot that binds us and unites us as Americans,” she said.

The outcome is a stunning fall for Ayotte, who had become a major Republican player in Washington since getting elected to the Senate in 2010.

Many expected Ayotte to face an uphill battle, as presidential election years tend to turn out more Democratic voters in New Hampshire. But it may have been Ayotte’s tepid support of Trump – the Republican nominee – that led to her downfall.

After months of condemning Trump’s most controversial statements – but still supporting him – Ayotte denounced the businessman’s candidacy last month, angering some members of her base.

At the time, Ayotte said setting an example for her 12-year-old daughter was more “important than winning any election.”

Third-party candidates pulled more than 30,000 votes away from Ayotte and Hassan, but they likely hurt the Republican more.

Aaron Day, who jumped into the race an independent alternative to Ayotte, finished with more 17,500 votes. Libertarian candidate Brian Chabot won nearly 13,000 votes.

Ayotte ran to the middle, as an independent problem solver, but some conservatives defected over her stances on guns and environmental issues.

“She bailed on the gun owners,” said JR Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican voter who left the U.S. Senate bubble blank.

“The no-fly list – she stabbed the gun owners in the back,” he said, referencing a bipartisan bill Ayotte supported to keep people on the federal no-fly list from buying guns.

Historic first

New Hampshire elected the first all-female congressional delegation in 2012, but this year is the first time voters sent an all-Democratic female delegation to Washington.

“It’s a big deal,” Kuster said. The Democratic group will be in the minority in Congress, but Kuster said the women will work across the aisle to pass legislation.

“If you can raise toddlers and deal with teenagers, you can deal with Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress,” she said. “That’s something we have the skills for.”

Shea-Porter said the state has a “very strong tradition” of electing female candidates.

“I think (voters) are very comfortable with women leaders,” she said. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire over Trump. Kuster, Shea-Porter and Hassan all endorsed Clinton’s candidacy, but said Wednesday they will work with Trump.

“Now’s the time to come together, help to heal and move the country forward,” Kuster said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)