'Janeway, Sgambati to retire'

Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010
Two incumbent Democratic state senators said yesterday that they won't run for re-election, improving Republican chances of picking up a pair of swing districts in this year's legislative races.

State Sens. Harold Janeway of Webster and Kathleen Sgambati of Tilton, both serving their second terms in the Senate, said they were ready to return to private life after four years in the Legislature.

Both arrived in the Senate in 2006 in their first runs for office, part of a historic sweep that gave Democrats control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time since the 19th century.

With Democrats now enjoying a 14-10 majority in the state Senate, the loss of both districts - and no other changes in partisan makeup - would result in a 12-12 deadlock between the two major parties and would necessitate a rare power-sharing agreement.

Both Janeway and Sgambati brought to the Legislature unique expertise from long careers - Janeway in finance, Sgambati in health care. Janeway worked as an investment adviser for many years, and Sgambati spent more than 20 years as an administrator and policy expert in the state Department of Health and Human Services, including several years as deputy commissioner.

Once in the Senate, both often assumed hefty responsibilities in their respective realms of expertise. Fellow senators yesterday said such knowledge would be missed with Janeway's and Sgambati's departures.

'They both brought enormous experience, and they are just everything you would want in a colleague,' said Sen. Maggie Hassan, the Senate's majority leader.

Janeway's and Sgambati's retirements also rob Democrats of the advantage of incumbency in two pivotal districts in November. Before Sgambati's election, her seat - Senate District 4 - had been held by Republicans for decades. The GOP enjoys a strong advantage in voter registration in the district - about 13,300 Republicans to 9,700 Democrats - although independent voters outnumber voters of either party. District 4 includes most of the communities south of Lake Winnipesaukee, including Laconia, Belmont, Alton, Gilford, Gilmanton and Tilton.

Janeway's seat, in District 7, has tilted between the two major parties over the years. It stretches from Antrim to Loudon and includes Canterbury, Boscawen, Bradford, Salisbury, Northfield, Warner, Henniker, Weare, Deering, Hillsboro and Webster.

While yesterday's retirement announcements weren't entirely out of the blue, they left Democrats hustling to find candidates to replace Janeway and Sgambati on the ballot. Tomorrow is the end of the candidate filing period, and as of yesterday evening, no Democrats had signed up in either district. If a political party has no candidate for a race by the end of the filing period, the party may name its own nominee to fill out the ballot.

Andy Sanborn, a Henniker man who owns The Draft bar and restaurant in Concord, has filed to run for the Republican nomination in District 7. Sanborn lost to Janeway two years ago by about 1,000 votes out of 27,000 cast.

In District 4, two Republicans are likely to compete for the nomination: George Hurt of Gilford and Jim Forsythe of Strafford.

In interviews yesterday, Janeway and Sgambati struck similar themes in explaining their departure from the Senate. They said they wanted more time for personal interests and obligations. Both said they were proud of their records but noted that legislators face bleak financial challenges in the next session.

Sgambati said she needed time to earn an income by continuing the health consulting work she had put on hold four years ago. Sgambati had been a champion within the Democratic caucus of social service programs, especially children's health care and services for those with disabilities. She emerged this term as a supporter of expanded gambling as part of a deal that would earmark the first $50 million raised by gambling licenses to restore cuts at the Department of Health and Human Services. She said the financial downturn forced unwelcome decisions, such as the establishment of a waiting list for child-care programs for low-income families.

'There's still a lot of work to be done,' Sgambati said. 'I wish the economic environment had been a little easier for us to make those decisions over the last few years. In that environment, you spend a lot of time just protecting what's already in place.'

Janeway, whose career in business often put him at the center of debates on thorny financial matters, said he was most proud of his work trying to reform the state's retirement system as well as his efforts to increase environmental protections. He said lawmakers should take another strike at finding a way to reduce the increasing cost of retiree benefits.

In teary farewell remarks to their fellow senators yesterday, both Janeway and Sgambati urged their colleagues to not settle for short-term fixes at the expense of future goals.

'For those of you who will be returning here,' Sgambati said, 'I ask you to be very careful with this state and with the people of this state.'