Whitley secures Democratic nomination for District 15 state Senate seat 

  • Democratic State Senate candidate Paul Hodes waves to voters at the Boys and Girls Club polling site on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Democrat Becky Whitley with her husband Steven in Hopkinton on Tuesday. Whitley will represent Democrats Nov. 3 against Republican Linda Banfill. Courtesy

  • Democrat Becky Whitely greeting voters outside Ward 1 in Penacook Tuesday. —Courtesy

  • Democratic State Senate candidate Candace Bouchard holds her sign at Ward 7 on West Street in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/8/2020 11:13:32 PM

Becky Whitley secured the Democratic primary for District 15’s state Senate seat in a close three-way race that was separated by just a few hundred votes.

The win is the first step toward succeeding Sen. Dan Feltes, who stepped down this year to run for governor. Whitley will face Republican Linda Rae Banfill in the general election, though the seat has traditionally been filled by Democrats.

If successful in November, Whitley said she will prioritize protecting vulnerable families and ensuring all children in New Hampshire have access to quality education.

“This was an absolute huge grassroots effort,” Whitley said after being declared the winner by the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “I’m incredibly, incredibly grateful and really excited to get to work.”

Whitley faced two experienced opponents during this campaign: former congressman Paul Hodes and Candace Bouchard, both of whom have deep political roots in Concord.

Throughout her campaign, Whitley presented herself as the candidate for working families.

Whitley has argued that now is the time to keep supporting the programs that help children and families and to think bigger about how to fund areas in the state, which she said she hopes to do as a state senator.

As a staff lawyer at the Disability Rights Center, Whitley argued she has not only crafted policy, but fought for it. The Hopkinton attorney dealt firsthand with the state’s low-income assistance programs. Later on, she would work to change them.

After moving to Concord after law school, Whitley dove into representing Granite Staters in need. The cases she took on were systemic, relating to access to Medicaid and social services. The work also involved taking up policy on behalf of the DRC, which brought her into contact with the State House.

One bill Whitley worked on addressing was the use of child restraint in schools. She also worked in advocacy, helping launch a project through the Environmental Defense Fund called Moms Clean Air Force, dedicated to talking to parents about climate change and mobilizing them.

As her son entered school, Whitley returned to policy, leading the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative at New Futures to reform children’s mental health system.

Voters kept Whitley’s opponents close Tuesday.

Bouchard finished with about 27% of the votes. Her political resume includes time on the Concord City Council and years as a state representative, where she chaired the delegation responsible for approving budgets for the county nursing home and county jail.

She helped make Loudon Road safer for pedestrians through Concord Safe Communities.

Hodes kept the race close, trailing Whitley by about 600 votes, with about 90 percent of the precincts reporting.

Hodes served as a congressman for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District from 2007 to 2011, during which time he pioneered “Michelle’s Law,” a bipartisan effort that allowed children in college to stay on their parents’ health care policies. It was the precursor to a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until they reach 26.

In 2019, he campaigned and organized for Marianne Williamson’s Democratic presidential bid. He traveled across the state, listening to residents’ concerns about an amalgam of topics – school funding, health care costs, climate change – which emboldened him to try and make an impact through the state Senate position.

Hodes attributes Whitley’s win to split vote between the two candidates from Concord, Bouchard and himself. Still, he said Whitley is a strong proponent of Democratic values and that he will gladly back her in the general election.

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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