Here’s why the announcement from Berlin Senator John Gallus (District 1) that he will not seek re-election could very well change the dynamic of this fall’s Senate races in New Hampshire.
John Gallus is to the New Hampshire Senate what Olympia Snowe is to the United States Senate.
Both are Republicans in areas which most likely would elect Democrats without them.
However, whereas the Snowe decision to step down is not all that devastating to Republicans who have 23 of 33 chances to pick up seats and take control in D.C., the Gallus decision here in New Hampshire could well be pivotal since all 24 senators are up for re-election every two years.
Gallus becomes the sixth of 19 Republicans to decide not to seek re-election; only Democrat Matt Houde is leaving, and that's an automatic Democratic seat.
This is not an area like Derry, Londonderry, Bedford or Salem where Republicans almost always will win no matter the candidate nor like Keene, Concord, Durham, or Hanover (Houde) where Democrats will always be heavy favorites.
Of the 24 seats, District 1 is the most delicately balanced. In fact, both Republican insiders and I have different data which shows the district leans slightly Democratic.
I arrived at the data by comparing the five closest elections for the past decade. I chose the five statewide races in which--added together--Democrats and Republicans got 50 percent of the vote. Then, I added the results for each city, town, ward, and state senate district to create a comparison number. I placed a score of 100 on an area in which Republicans got 100 percent of the vote and 0 for an area in which Democrats got 100 percent (obviously such numbers would never occur, but you get the idea). I also did ran a similar exercise for the 1990s, and while it’s rather amazing how few changes there are from decade to decade, there are some.
I come up with New Ipswich (67.38) as the most Republican town and Hanover (22.98) as the most Democratic town in the state. Some day, I suppose I should release the numbers for every location and every Senate district, but for now, let’s just look at Senate District 1.
In 2001, my numbers showed a generic Republican candidate would have a 2.58 percent advantage. However, this is an area which has become more Democratic in the past decade, and if no changes had been made to the district, a generic Democrat would have a 4.24 percent advantage this year.
However, as we all know, changes were made due to redistricting, and I’ve also calculated numbers for the new districts. These are more relevant, and District 1 now has a 2.66 percent advantage for a generic Democrat.
How I arrive at that is rather complicated; you can either take my word for it or demand the data. Here’s the quick version. In the five close races I looked at in towns and wards which comprise this Senate district, Democratic candidates received 61,152 votes, Republicans 57,986 votes. (Again, statewide we get 50/50). Do the math, and see if you don’t came out with a 2.66 percent advantage for a Democrat.
I suspect Republican Senate numbers crunchers knew this when they did redistricting; they attempted to make the district more Republican, but they, like I, knew that as long as Gallus was running, he’d hold onto the seat.
He’s won five times in a row, in landslides every time except in 2008 when former Rep Martha McLeod, with Obama and Lynch strong at the top of the ticket and Democrats pouring big money into the district, lost by "only" seven points, 53.5-47.5 percent (13,395-11,662). Even in the Democratic sweep year of 2006, Gallus won by 17 percent.
Thus, when I made my predictions for 2012, I automatically gave this seat to Republicans. Even the best Democrat was not going to beat Gallus this year.
However, like Maine now going into the Democrat column without Snowe, any prudent pundit (and aren’t they all prudent?) would now have to move District 1 into the leans Democratic column, all the more so because there are at least two natural candidates for that party and none for Republicans.
Yesterday, I mentioned Lancaster Democratic Rep Evelyn Merrick as a natural, but in looking over things, I sense the surest winner for Democrats would be a Berlin Democrat. After all, Berlin is the largest voting bloc in the district (about 20 percent), and my numbers have it as one of the most Democratic areas in the state (33.89).
Gallus won five terms because he’s from Berlin, and was able to win that highly Democratic city.
The logical Democratic candidate now is Represenative Robert Theberge, from Berlin. He usually tops the ticket. He’s rather moderate and would play well in the rest of the district. In fact, he’s my kind of Democrat, no big spender for sure (although bigger than I am, but then everybody is!) and a social libertarian.
I am ready to declare Bob Theberge the new senator in district one should he choose to run. Even if McLeod decided to run again, Theberge would probably beat her in a primary. She’s from tiny Franconia and has made her share of enemies since 2008 (haven’t we all?)—just ask Edmond Gionet.
Where do I place this race in likely turnovers?
Glad you asked.
I had Democrats picking up six seats (Manchester 18, the new Dover seat, both Nashua seats, Meredith-Plymouth, and Laconia) with the Groen and Prescott seats as long shots.
I would say the odds now are about even of Democrats getting to 12-12 in the Senate. Donna Soucy in Manchester, Betty Lasky in Nashua, and the Dover Democrat would be slightly more favored than Theberge/other, but he would be the fourth favorite to pick up a seat for Democrats.
The Gallus announcement means that Republicans will have to focus all the more on knocking off one of the five incumbent Democrats, and only Manchester west sider Lou D’Allesandro looks vulnerable, so much so that two Republican Reps (Manchester Alderman Phil Greazzo and John Hikel from Goffstown) appear ready to go head to head in a primary.
Hikel cannot beat Lou; Greazzo might be able to; the Gallus announcement means that Republican Party leaders need to make talking Hikel out of running a top priority.
That’s how the dominoes fall, just like the Snowe announcement makes keeping the Scott Brown seat in Massachusetts all the more important for Republicans; he’s running, of course, against a Democratic one percenter, Elizabeth Warren who pleads poverty even as she releases tax returns showing an income north of $800,000…but that’s another story.
The Gallus announcement yesterday comes as a surprise and shakes up the landscape unlike any other decision could. Trust me on this one.