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Democrats, Republicans make their pitches in fight for state Senate

  • Democrats hold press conference about their legislative agenda and why they should control the state Senate. Paul Steinhauser—

  • New Hampshire state Senate, shown in February 2018. Paul Steinhauser—

For the Monitor
Published: 9/18/2018 4:50:58 PM

With her fellow Democratic state senators and Senate hopefuls standing behind her, Donna Soucy made her case why her party deserves to be in charge.

“In November, voters have an opportunity to shape the future of New Hampshire,” the state Senate minority leader said on Tuesday as Democrats unveiled a plan they vowed to work to enact if they win back the majority in the chamber in the upcoming election.

Afterwards, the Senate majority leader had to disagree.

“Look at where New Hampshire is right now,” Jeb Bradley, the Republican leader in the Senate said. “We have the third lowest unemployment rate in the country. The lowest poverty rate in the country. The highest median family income.”

With Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, and with Gov. Chris Sununu in the corner office, the state’s economy has grown significantly, Bradley said.

“Gov. Sununu is going to be able to lead a unified Republican ticket talking about a growing economy, a state that has well-managed budget and a state that is addressing the problems that we confront,” the Wolfeboro lawmaker in an interview with the Monitor.

Bradley also spotlighted how the Republican-controlled legislature passed more resources for substance misuse prevention and treatment and for mental health funding, as well as “significant new resources for child protection at DCYF (the state’s Child Protection Services Division for Children, Youth and Families)

With the state’s primary now in the rearview mirror – and just seven weeks to go until November’s election – both parties are making their case to voters.

On Tuesday, the Democrats presented their “Granite State Opportunity Plan” and outlined their policy differences with the Republican majority, including paid family leave, wage increases, more renewable energy and protecting people’s healthcare.

Republicans have controlled the Senate since winning back the chamber in the 2010 election. They currently hold a 14-10 majority in a chamber where all but two incumbents – one from each party – are running for re-election this year. Democrat Sen. Bette Lasky of Nashua and Republican Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford are not seeking to retain their seats.

Soucy, a Manchester Democrat, said that while the economy’s healthy, “wages are not rising and too many families are trying to make ends meet by working multiple jobs.”

She said the Democrats’ proposals - an all-encompassing plan of many of their long-stated goals – will “help everyone, not just a few.”

Soucy said the Democrats are confident in all their top candidates, including Molly Kelly’s chances to topple Sununu, who enjoys very strong poll numbers and a solid record of legislative achievement.

“I think Molly Kelly, I think (First Congressional District Democratic nominee) Chris Pappas, I think (Second District Democratic Congresswoman) Annie Kuster, all being at the top of our ticket will be very impactful,” Soucy said. “And I think even more importantly, we have recruited some amazing state Senate candidates who have outraised their Republican incumbents two to one, who’ve already knocked on thousands of doors and who are working really hard to regain the majority.”

Neither Bradley or Soucy would point to specific Senate races where they see opportunity or peril, but the Democratic leader said she sees “at least six to seven opportunities for change in this coming election.”

Two big influences on the Senate races will be the national climate and the top of the ticket gubernatorial contest between Sununu and Kelly, a former five-term state senator from Harrisville.

The national climate seems to favor Democrats, who are also highlighting last week’s record Democratic turnout in the state primary.

A number of Democratic and Republican strategists pointed to up to six Republican senators who could face close calls as they run for re-election. They are, in alphabetical order, Sen. Kevin Avard (District 12), Sen. Harold French (District 7), Sen. Bill Gannon (District 23), Sen. Bob Giuda (District 2), Sen. Dan Innis (District 24), and Sen. Ruth Ward (District 8).

The strategists pointed to one Democratic incumbent who could face a tough re-election: Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh (District 16). The Manchester Democrats faces off in a rematch from last year’s special election against former Republican state Sen. David Boutin, in what’s considered a swing district.

Democrats could also have a fight on their hands as they try to hold Lasky’s Nashua area seat (District 13).

Lasky was one of two Democratic incumbents who didn’t attend Tuesday’s event. The other was Sen. Jeff Woodburn (District 1).

Last month the North Country lawmaker was arrested on multiple sexual assault charges. Eight of his nine Democratic state Senate colleagues immediately called on him to resign. While Woodburn stepped down as Democratic leader, he didn’t resign from the Senate. And last week he easily defeated a write-in candidate in the district’s Democratic primary.

Soucy said Democrats’ position on Woodburn hasn’t changed.

“Upon learning the situation that Jeff was in, (we) called for his resignation. We stand by that statement,” she said. “Secondly, there’s a judicial process that’s going to unfold.”

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