Story of the Year No. 3: N.H. GOP takes control of state government, cast out of Washington

  • Governor-elect Chris Sununu speaks during the New Hampshire GOP victory dinner at the Radisson Manchester Downtown Hotel on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • This image provided by C-SPAN2 shows Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.. giving her farewell speech on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (C-SPAN2 via AP)

  • Scenes from the election night party for Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Hampshire residents split the ticket in the 2016 elections. Republicans took control at the state level – maintaining majorities in the Senate, House and Executive Council, while picking up the corner for the first time in a decade.

“I’ve got to tell you, it is a beautiful day to be a Republican in the great state of New Hampshire,” state GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn told screaming supporters at an election night party for Gov.-elect Chris Sununu.

But Democrats swept the congressional elections, knocking out Republican incumbents Kelly Ayotte and the embattled U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta.

Gov. Maggie Hassan defeated Ayotte in one of the country’s most competitive and expensive U.S. Senate races. It was decided by about 1,200 votes, or about one-fifth of 1 percent of all votes cast.

The loss was a stunning fall for Ayotte, who had been the state’s top Republican during her six-year term. In Washington, Ayotte carved a name for herself as a foreign policy hawk, signing a warning letter to Iran over nuclear talks and battling the Obama administration for information about detainees kept in the U.S military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

While speculation initially swirled that President-elect Donald Trump might tap Ayotte for a Cabinet position, he batted down the rumors in an interview, saying a simple “No, thank you.” After months of supporting but not endorsing Trump’s candidacy, the Republican withdrew her support altogether in October after a 2005 recording surfaced in which the businessman bragged about groping women. Ayotte hasn’t said what will come next.

And for the first time in history, New Hampshire will have an all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation. Hassan, the state’s two-term governor, won her first term in the senate. Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster won re-election in the 2nd Congressional District and Carol Shea-Porter defeated Guinta to win back the seat they have battled over for years. The state’s senior senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, was not up for reelection this year. The Democrats will contend with Republican control in Washington.

New Hampshire, similarly, will be run by GOP majorities. Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern in an open governor’s race. The current executive councilor will be the youngest governor in the country and the first Republican to hold the state’s corner office since Craig Benson’s single term in 2004.

Sununu’s name is familiar to many in the Granite State. His father, John H. Sununu, was the state’s governor in the 1980s, and his brother, John E. Sununu, represented New Hampshire as a U.S. Senator from 2002 to 2008.

Republicans held the state Senate with a 14-to-10 majority and maintained control in the House. Similarly, the GOP will maintain a 3-to-2 majority in the Executive Council, which votes on state contracts and appointments.

Sununu has said that further lowering business taxes, passing right-to-work legislation and expanding school choice are priorities in his first term.