New Hampshire primary results: Slate of sitting senators and representatives voted out

Monitor staff
Published: 9/14/2020 4:04:32 PM

State Sen. David Starr never got a phone call before Gov. Chris Sununu jumped in to endorse his opponent. He found out about that pivotal event through a mid-August press release.

“We didn’t talk,” Starr said in an interview Monday.

Now, a month after the governor of his same party backed someone else, the damage is done: Starr is out of power.

The first-term Franconia Republican lost a chance at re-election last Tuesday after Rep. Erin Hennessey stormed to victory, sweeping up 70% of the Republican vote after the governor’s blessing.

“I don’t quite know what happened,” Starr said. Hennessey was not available for an interview Monday.

It’s the latest upset in the dizzying recent history of Senate District 1, the expansive district that covers all of New Hampshire’s North County. Two years ago, the three-term tenure of Democrat Jeff Woodburn came to an end after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Woodburn declined to resign his candidacy, and Starr, a newcomer to elected office, took the seat and flipped it red.

For Starr, it’s the end of an unexpected and brief venture into state politics. But he’s not too upset.

“I don’t like losing; I don’t think anybody does,” he said. “On the other hand, Christ, I’m getting old. To the point where my eyesight is beginning to go, and the drive down to Concord is getting a little old. From that respect, I’m kind of happy just to put my feet up in front of the fire and relax.”

And he’s not alone. Tuesday’s state primaries saw a wave of elected representatives kicked out of their seats by voters of their own primary. And while Starr was the only state senator to get primaried out – a rarity in the upper chamber – he had plenty of company in the House.

Some of the ousted representatives, like Rep. Will Pearson of Keene, were Democrats. Pearson, 29, had served six years and been assistant majority leader in the House the last two. But he lost to incumbent Rep. Joe Scapiro and a newcomer, Amanda Toll, a young Democrat and teacher.

Rep. Henry Parkhurst, a Winchester representative known for dressing annually as “Mr. Pickle” at the town pickle festival, lost handily to Natalie Quevedo by nearly 15 percentage points.

Rep. Fred Davis of Nashua failed to join his fellow incumbents in Hillsborough District 31, falling behind Stacie-Marie Laughton, a new candidate. And also in Nashua, Rep. Ken Gidge narrowly missed out on a chance for another term, 47 votes away from making the three-candidate cut-off.

But most of the primary ousters were on the Republican side.

In Meredith and Gilford, Rep. Dee Jurius narrowly missed the four-candidate cutoff for the Republican nomination, after former representative Norm Silber ran again and won. Silber won alongside the three other incumbents.

In Belmont, Rep. John Plumer lost his spot in the two-seat district to newcomer Douglas Trottier, who took the nomination with incumbent Rep. Mike Sylvia.

Rep. John Graham of Bedford fell far from victory, coming in sixth for a four-seat district and falling behind two new candidates for the spot. Rep. Walter Kolodziej was 77 votes away from another term representing Windham. Rep. Abigail Rooney, meanwhile, lost her seat in Milton by 43 votes.

Rep. William Fowler also lost his primary. In late 2019, Fowler flirted with a run for the 1st Congressional District to take on Democrat Chris Pappas. But he dropped out, attempted to run for re-election in a crowded primary, and fell to near the back of the pack, losing his state seat.

In one case, one Libertarian incumbent pushed out another. Rep. Max Abramson moved districts in Seabrook, and took on his colleague, Rep. Jason Janvrin, a well-known conservative. Abramson won that one-seat district with just under 5% of a voting lead.

For most of the unlucky incumbents, the loss in a primary stings. But it stings a little less knowing that it came from the same side, Pearson said.

“Obviously I’m personally disappointed, but with primaries, it’s all kind of among friends,” he said. “It’s tough to feel negatively about it.”

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