Et tu, Concord? Feltes’ loss in home city was historic

  • chart of Concord results in governors race, 2008 - 2020 —Monitor staff

  • Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, removes his face mask to speak at a press conference for his gubernatorial campaign at Colburn Park in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Feltes spoke about the need to protect the Affordable Care Act from Republican challenges. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)  James M. Patterson

  • New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner looks for charts as Senior Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan works in their office on Wednesday morning. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Published: 11/4/2020 5:35:37 PM

The city of Concord has long been a Democratic stronghold, especially in the governor’s race – until Tuesday.

A glance at vote totals in the city’s 10 wards over the past seven gubernatorial elections shows that win or lose in the general election, the Democrat always did well here. Sometimes really well, as when John Lynch beat Joseph Kenney more than 4-to-1 in 2008, and sometimes pretty well, as in 2018 when Molly Kelly topped Chris Sununu by 3,000 votes, but always well. It didn’t matter if they won the statewide race, they always won Concord.

Not this year: Dan Feltes lost his hometown by 1,100 votes. The number of votes he received was okay by historical standards, more than the Democrat in three of the past seven elections, but Sununu benefited enormously from Tuesday’s huge turnout. He received 40% more votes than any Republican candidate in recent memory.

Asked Tuesday why Feltes had fallen so far behind despite strong support for congressional Democrats in New Hampshire, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley took a long pause.

In the end, this election came down to Donald Trump and the coronavirus, Bouley said.

“I think there was such a failure on the federal government’s part, that governors across the country did exceedingly well,” he said in an interview outside the Concord Ward 5 polling place Tuesday. “Didn’t matter if it was in California, New Hampshire, Ohio or anywhere between – governors shined in the COVID moments from March and on.”

Simply by taking control, informing the public responsibly and setting up state pandemic relief programs using federal assistance, Sununu was able to do what Trump was not this summer, Bouley said. And that made a difference to voters, he argued.

Sununu’s sky-high approval ratings on his handling of the coronavirus helped him grab victories in blue strongholds from Keene to Concord to Exeter, wins thought unthinkable even with weaker Democratic gubernatorial candidates in recent years.

The Republican governor won Keene with 51% percent of the vote on Tuesday, where Kelly had won with 68%, and Exeter with 53% when Kelly took it with 56%, according to Associated Press data. Those places represented gains of 14%-16% of the vote share for the governor from 2018 to 2020.

With almost all votes counted, Sununu was cruising to a 65% victory in the state overall.

While this year’s results were particularly strong for the second-term governor, his re-election victory in 2018 was also not particularly close: 53% over Molly Kelly’s 46%.

Bouley, however, stressed that the past four years of governor’s races are not an indication of Democrats’ viability in the future.

“I think New Hampshire always is going to be – from school boards to city councils to counties to state, federal – I think we have become a very purple state,” he said. “And all the races are competitive.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at 369-3307, edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at  @edewittNH.)


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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