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Shea-Porter, Guinta race for 1st Congressional District too close to call

The winner of the 1st Congressional District race between Rep. Frank Guinta and former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter was still up in the air early this morning.

With 84 of 113 precincts reporting, Shea-Porter of Rochester was carrying a lead of 7,000 votes out of 266,000 counted. She said she was very optimistic but was waiting to see “what voters have to say across the district.”

Votes from Exeter and seven of the 12 wards in Manchester, Guinta’s hometown and where he formerly served as mayor, had not yet been accounted for by the Associated Press by 12:45 a.m.

With a full room of supporters watching returns on TV at the Portsmouth Country Club at that hour, Shea-Porter said she was “honored to have so many wonderful people around me for so late at night.”

Guinta campaign representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

The race was the last major contest in the state, with returns from the liberal-leaning Seacoast coming in late, and Shea-Porter’s showing in Republican-leaning towns strong enough to stay competitive in the meantime.

Durham, where reports of record voter registration led to long lines throughout the day, reported election results shortly before midnight. The results there – 4,501 for Shea-Porter to 1,958 for Guinta – widened Shea-Porter’s lead to 3,000 votes, and it kept growing from there.

When the Durham results came in, “we were jumping up and down,” she said. “Of course, we did the same for the president.”

Libertarian candidate Brendan Kelly of Seabrook had more than 10,000 votes, about 4 percent.

The main race was a rematch of the 2010 election, when Republicans around the country swept into office on a tide of dissatisfaction with the economy, the Affordable Care Act and stimulus spending.

In 2010 Guinta’s margin of victory was more than 26,000 votes, unseating Shea-Porter after two terms.

Shea-Porter, in an interview in October, said she should have stood up for the controversial votes at the time and run her 2012 campaign on a message of getting things accomplished.

“Whether you like it or not, the health care law is a major achievement,” she said.

She also tried to link Guinta to the Tea Party, and to gridlock in Washington. Guinta, however, stressed his bipartisan credentials during the fall campaign.

Some Shea-Porter supporters said last night they saw the 2010 results less as a referendum on the candidates and more about voter turnout and frustration.

“I think we fell asleep” in 2010, said Roy Strasser of Stratham.

He voted for Shea-Porter then, but it was seeing a more right-wing Congress over the past two years that led him to campaign actively for Democrats this year.

“I think it was, this time, people were disappointed in how bad things had gotten. People realized by now the answer is not the extreme politics of the Tea Party. . . . We need to bring moderation and sensibility to government.”

As of Oct. 29, outside groups had spent more than $5.1 million on the race.

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