Rep Steve Vaillancourt


76 Primary Contests In The NH House; 9 In The Senate

This is unofficial, but barring any more filings which arrive at the Secretary of State’s office with a Friday postmark, we now know exactly how many primary contests there will be come September, and the number appears to be higher than usual.

            The parties still have another 24 hours to fill seats which individuals failed to file for; the Deputy Secretary and I are in accord that this is the excess number:

            For State Representative, Republicans will have 59 primary contests in the 203 districts; Democrats will have 17 contests in the 203 districts.  You would have to check on the number of Reps in each district to get a better breakdown, but it appears that Republicans have an excess of 83 candidates for State Rep; that’s how many will lose in the primary.

            Among those with a primary challenge will be House Speaker Bill O’Brien.  Both he and his former Chief of Staff Bob Mead have filed for the two member Hillsborough 5 seats including Mt. Vernon and New Boston.  However, a third filing came in at the same time, John Quinlan, also of Mt. Vernon.  One of the three will be eliminated in the primary.  The other two will advance to face two New Boston Democrats, Kary Jencks and David Woodbury.

            Are people talking about these races?  Well, as most of you know, I usually stay in and read over the weekend, but with my brother here this weekend, I was engaged in a major outdoor project (it’s called mowing and trimming), and as neighbors walked by, the topic of politics seemed to be on the mind of at least one man whose number one priority is to get rid of O’Brien.  Of course, this is in highly Republican Ward 8 (south Manchester), not Mt. Vernon, so as they say in German, “Wir warden sehen.”

            Of the 24 State Senate districts, Democrats have only on primary, in the “can’t lose” Democratic district 5 (Hanover, Lebanon, and Claremont) where Matt Houde is stepping down.  Hanover Rep David Pierce would have to be considered a favorite over former Claremont Rep Sandy Harris in that one.  I happen to like both of them; and during some quite time, remind me to tell you a story of how Rep. Harris put me in my place (rightly so) on the House floor one time.  Hint—How I can count the ways.

            For the thankless task of advancing in District 5, Republican Represenative Joe Osgood is being challenged by Cynthia Howard, both of Claremont.  Claremont is about the same size as Lebanon, but even with fewer people, Hanover is likely to drive this district since its turnout is so much heavier.

            Prediction—Senator—if not President—Pierce.

            Just like O’Brien in the House, Senate President Peter Bragdon gets a primary challenge.  In District 11 (Milford, Merrimack, Amherst), the Milford President will face Daniel Dwyer from Merrimack (which has about twice as many people).  Democrats were unable to file any candidate in this district.

            The other six Republican primaries are mostly in districts in which incumbents are stepping down including a three way race to replace John Gallus in District 1 (the North Country) and a three way race to replace Senator White in District 9 (Bedford).  I would favor Littleton psychologist Debi Warner over Mark Evans of Berlin and Frank Dumaine of Colebrook.

            Representative Ken Hawkins faces former District 7 Senator Andy Sanborn (who has moved) and Michael Kenney in this one.  All three are from Bedford which dominates this district even as it has moved westward giving Democrat Lee Nyquist an outside shot come November.  Prediction—Senator Hawkins.

            Former Senator and Rochester Mayor Dick Green has entered the District 6 race (Groen is retiring).  In fact, his entry has driven State Rep Peter Bolster, of Alton, out of the race back into a State Rep race.  Green would have to be considered a heavy favorite against Representative Sam Cataldo of Farmington.

            Also dropping his bid for a Senate race and returning to a crowded House race is Goffstown Rep. John Hikel in District 20 (polegate, and I don’t mean pole as in the ballot box, most likely had a great deal to do with this decision).  That leaves Manchester Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo uncontested to face long-time incumbent Lou D’Allesandro in what should be rated a toss-up.

            For the newly created District 7 seat, William Grimm, of Franklin, faces Joshua Youssef, of Laconia, for the right to meet Democrat Andrew Hosmer, of Laconia, in November in what should be another toss-up.

            To replace Jack Barnes in District 17, House Human Service Chair John Reagan, of Deerfield, is being challenged by Howard Pearl, of Loudon.  Reagan should become the next senator here.

            Finally, in District 23, which has become much more Republican due to redistricting, incumbent Russell Prescott is challenged by Dennis Acton whom I’ve got to like.  He reads this blog on a regular basis…or so I’m told.

            There are two Republican races for the five Executive Council seats and one on the Democratic side.  The venerable Ray Burton, of Bath, has drawn a challenge from Gerard Thibodeau, of Rumney, in district one.  No odds maker would even take bets on that one.  That’s how far off the charts it is.  (Is this the same Thibodeau who was Manchester City GOP chair in a former life?  I believe it is…That name recognition won’t help much against King of the North Country Burton).

            Three Democrats from different parts of the new and highly Democratic District 2 have stepped forward—insider (not a compliment by the way) Colin Van Ostern from Concord, former Councilor John Shea, of Nelson (remember he didn’t even know he’d won a few years back), and Shawn Mickelonis, of Rochester.  The Concord area should dominate this, so give the edge to the insider.

            To replace Ray Wieczorek, a retiring venerable one, it’s State Senator Tom DeBlois against Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns and Gatsas-backed businessman Chuck Rolecek.  As much as I like and admire Ted, his endorsements have more often turned out like the kiss of death, so I’ll go with DeBlois here to face former Rep Chris (he of the Back Room Pappi) in November.

            The only surprise at the top of the ticket was Ward 5 School Board primary loser Robert Tarr’s quixotic run for Governor on the GOP side (don’t expect him to be invited to any debates).

            Frank Guinta faces two opponents and Charlie Bass for in GOP Congressional primaries.  Democrat Carol Shea Porter has drawn one opponent (name him or her for extra points); only Ann McLane Kuster gets a pass in the primary.


            Tomorrow, a look at who’s not running in the House.

            The answer is Diane Soracco, of Manchester.  Next question—Anybody know her?  Not I said the cat.


Rating System Explanation

With the statewide election season upon us and with new electoral districts (I hear the Supreme Court will issue its redisricting law suit decision tomorrow) in place, it's time to reveal my numbers system.  Tomorrow, I'll post the margins in the 24 Senate districts, but first let's get to know the system I use.

Methodology of My Rating System

            If we want to discover how Democratic or Republican a particular city, town, or ward is—based on actual voting history and not based on the less reliable voter registration tables—the fist thing we need to do is establish a baseline.

            In 2002, I discovered that if we used the five closest statewide races for the previous decade, the parties virtually split the votes cast in those five races statewide.   (I always disregard third or fourth party candidates).  The races were 1992 for President and U.S. Senate, 1996 for U.S. Senate, and 2000 for President and U.S. Senate.  Statewide in those five races, Republicans received 1,214,890 votes while Democrats received 1,212,805 votes.  That amounts to 50.04 percent for Republicans; 49.96 percent for Democrats, close enough to 50-50 so that we can then add up totals in any town, city, or ward and get a number to judge just how much any advantage one of the parties would enjoy in that location, all other factors being equal.

            The exercise worked so well that I decided to do it again for the last ten years.  Data from one close race is hardly enough, so I sought out five of them and discovered that we had a large share of blowouts the past then years.  So the best I could come up with was four statewide races (for U.S. Senate in 2002; for President and Governor in 2004; and for Governor in 2010).  For the fifth, I did something I would prefer not to do, but it works fairly well…I used the two Congressional races of 2010.

            If you add the numbers for Democratic candidates in those five races, you get 1,329,197; for Republicans, it’s 1,319,928.  That breaks down to 50.17 for Democrats to 49.83 for Republicans, not quite as close to 50-50 as we were in 2002, but it’s good enough for this exercise.

             Here are the numbers:

2002 Senate—John Sununu 227,224, Jeanne Shaheen 207,478.

2004 President—John Kerry 340,511, George W. Bush 331,237

2004 Governor—John Lynch 341,299, Craig Benson 325,981

2010 Governor—John Lynch 240,346, John Stephen 205,616

2010 1st CD—Frank Guinta 121,655, Carol Shea Porter 95,503

2010 2nd CD—Charlie Bass 108,610, Kuster 105,616

Using these same races, we can get a total for any town, ward, or city, and then we can add these numbers to get a number for any race we desire (it’s limited only by the amount of time you want to spend running the numbers; or creating a computer program if you're into that) from all State Rep districts (including floats) to the 24 State Senate districts to Executive Council districts…to anything.

Not only that, we can compare the number from 2002 to 2012, and if we really want to create more work, we can look for example at how an unchanged Senate district would stack up to how the ones approved for this year look.   Remember I did that last week to show how Republican Senate mappers had made District 17 less Republican (Jack Barnes didn’t seem to need the help; now, he’s decided not to run, the decision could come back to haunt Republicans) in order to make District 23 more Republican (to help Russ Prescott).  Be careful what you wish for.

I’ve run the numbers for all 24 Senate districts, and it’s simply amazing (albeit not really surprising) on how Democrats have been stacked into five specific districts (5 around Lebanon-Hanover; 10 around Keene; 15 around Concord; 21 around Portsmouth-Durham; and to a somewhat lesser extent the new district 4 around Dover-Somersworth).  It's a real eye opener.

This will become more evident in chart form, and I’ll post the chart separately.

For the purpose of consistency, Republican totals will always be listed first, Democrats second.  The higher above 50, the more Republican an area is; the lower the number, the more Democratic the area.  I arrive at an advantage by subtracting the two numbers.

Let’s run just one example here, and I’ll use my own Manchester Ward 8 which just happens to be the most Republican ward in the city (note that it’s the only ward which gave more votes to Stephen than to Lynch for Governor in 2010).

Ward 8 Totals For The Five Races

2002—U.S. Senate—Sununu 1804, Shaheen 1321

2004—President—Bush 2613, Kerry 1983

2004—Governor—Benson 2598, Lynch 1959

2010—Governor—Stephen 1603, Lynch 1576

2012 1st CD—Guinta 1768, Porter 1298

Five Combined Races—Republican 10,386, Democrat 8137

That’s 56.07 percent for Republicans, 43.93 percent for Democrats or a GOP advantage of 12.14 percent.  (The 2002 number for ward 8 was 54.15-45.85 for a GOP advantage of 8.30.  Thus, Ward 8—in these five races at least—has become quite a bit more Republican in the past ten years.  Republicans should be winning more down ballot seats here.  That's why it was especially sad for Republicans that they could only come up with two candidates to run for three state rep seats two years ago; it might not matter to get Republicans to run in highly Democratic ward 3, but it's a missed opportunity to fail to fill the slate in Ward 8).  This knowledge will obvioulsy prove useful throughout the state. 

As a quick example, Rochester is just about 50-50, so races should be close there in a "normal" year.  The fact that Democrats won most seats there in 2006 and Republicans in 2010 shows that those were not "normal" years.  I suspect 2012 will be fairly "normal"; in other words, neutral at the top of the ticket.

A great thing about this system is that actual raw numbers are used.  Thus, when it comes to creating a Senate district tally (for District 18 for example),Ward 8 with a fairly high turnout would contribute much more than low turnout ward 5.  (The Ward 5 totals are 4649 for Republican candidates in the five races; 5380 for the Democratic candidates thus a ranking of 46.36 for the inner city ward).

Since so many numbers are involved, my assumption is that I’ve made a few mistakes, but I trust they are minor.  You can run the numbers for anything.  Let’s make Litchfield a test case.  Dig out the red books for the five elections.  Fill the numbers into the chart, and see what you come up with.  If it’s not 59.38 (a very strong Republican number indeed), either you or I have erred.  Ten years ago, Litchfield was 54.14, so it’s gotten much more Republican…again based on top of the ticket close races.

Go for it.  Let me know what you get and I’ll verify any numbers sent in.


It's The Party's Turn To File; O'Brien Forced To Run Locally

            The filing period for state offices didn’t really end Friday at 5 p.m.

            For the next three days, the parties are authorized to find (“dig up” might be more appropriate phrasing) candidates to fill vacant spots on the ballot.

            In other words, no new primary contests can be created now, but the parties have this extra time to try to fill spots which no one (in that party) chose to file for individually.

            If it sounds confusing, it’s even more so because while candidates for office at the top of the ticket must file in person at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord, State Rep candidates file in their local cities and towns which then use snail mail (not the Internet) to forward applications on to Concord.

            As of 5 p.m. Monday, the Secretary of State’s office was adding in names which arrived in Monday’s mail, but it’s not usual to see mail drifting in from more remote tows as late a Wednesday.

            The best suggestion is to just wait a few days until the dust settles.  That’s why I had no problem avoiding web sites over the weekend and reveled in taking my brother and sister-in-law to Weirs and Hampton Beaches instead.

            A quick glance reveals that Republicans have a challenger for every State Senate seat (of course, there are only three incumbent Democrats seeking re-election—Molly Kelly in Keene; Sylvia Larsen in Concord; and Lou D’Allesandro in Manchester-Goffstown).

            At this time, three Republican Senators appear to have a free ride in November—Bob O’Dell in District 8, James Rausch in the Derry area, and President Peter Bragdon in District 11 (although he faces a primary challenge).

            I would be surprised if Democrats did not find three “warm bodies” to fill these spots in the next three days—not that the Republicans are vulnerable, but bragging rights seem to matter these days.  “We filled all the slots,” doesn’t really mean much, but the parties seem to take pride in saying it.

            Since parties cannot create any primaries now, we definitely know what the lay of the land will be in that regard.  As I reported last week, it seems we are destined to have primaries in underlying districts (wards in Manchester for example) even while floterial seats go unfilled.

            For example, both parties now have three candidates for the two Ward 2 seats in Manchester.   Democrats also have an excess of people in Wards 5 and 7, but could come up with only one candidate for two Ward 6 seats (Ben Baroody is running in the float).

            Let’s not go into any more details here until later this week, except to look at Speaker Bill O’Brien’s district.

            Wrong were the rumors Republicans would clear the way for O’Brien to run in the floterial which includes highly Republican terrain of Milford and Hollis along with the underlying towns of Mt. Vernon and New Boston.

            The reason is simple.  More people than ever before are running in Milford, so many in fact that there’s a spillover from that town into the float.

            Milford (Hillsborough District 23) deserves four seats of its own, but even as of last Thursday, five Republicans had filed there.  The single seat float already had two Milford candidates running (Labor Chair Gary Daniels and Benjamin Linn).

            Had O’Brien decided to run for the float, he most likely would have been the underdog since Milford’s population is five times that of Mt. Vernon.  Thus, he…and his fired (or resigned?) Chief of Staff Bob Mead, also from Mt. Vernon…are running for of the two District 5 seats; Democrats Kary Jencks and David Woodbury, both of New Boston, have filed.  Although New Boston’s population is twice that of tiny Mt. Vernon, my rating has both towns rather Republican, enough to make the Speaker a slight favorite at the starting gate.

            With 50.00 meaning absolute equality between the parties, my rating is 52.61 for Mt. Vernon, down from 54.46 ten years ago, and 57.17 for New Boston, up from 56.24 ten years ago.  (I have Amherst at 53.12, down from 55.95 ten years ago; and Milford at 52.92, down from 53.57 ten years ago).

            Of course, candidates and issues and effort put forth all matter, but these numbers as a basis of strength certainly matter as we hit the starting gate.

            Sooner of later, I’ll post numbers for all cities and wards and towns in the state along with an explanation of how they were arrived at.  For now, just consider the higher the better for Republicans; the lower the better for Democrats.  For example, I have New Ipswich at 67.38 (up from 63.67 ten years ago) and Hanover at 22.98 (down from 31.54 ten years ago).  As is often the case, the rich get richer.  In other words, areas are often becoming even more Democratic or Republican than they were when I ran a similar exercise in the wake of 2002 redistricting.



The Reading Room--A Kinder, Gentler Aaron Burr

The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr












Decades ago having waded through Gore Vidal's lengthy--make that extremely lengthy--novel "Burr" and having also navigated Nancy Isenberg's more recent biography "Fallen Founder", I thought I was done with Aaron Burr, perhaps American history's most complicated and least understood persona.  Then along came author H.W. Brands with a bravura performance on CSPAN's Book Notes, and I thought, "Oh why not?  Maybe another look at Burr would is warranted."

It certainly is.  Brands has portrayed Burr in a kinder, gentler form without bending over backwards to do so (my main quibble with Isenberg's more detailed biography).  "The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr" is not a traditional biography.  Sure, the three great moments of Burr's life are covered (the controversial election of 1800; the duel with Hamilton; and the treason trial).  However, this book is really the story of a great relationship between a man (Burr) and his beloved daughter (Theodosia).

With the Isenberg book, we learned that Burr was without a doubt the first great American feminist.  He believed in equal opportunity for women and insisted that his daughter be educated to the fullest extent which most men, even the enlightened founders, would have provided to only their sons.

Letters between the two of them form the basis of this short book (only 175 small pages with big type--you can easily read it in a day; perhaps even one sitting).  In choosing this means of telling the story of Burr, Brands gives us an all-too human being.  It's hard not to like this Aaron Burr, even if you had been led to believe he tried to steal the 1800 election from Jefferson (he's most likely not guilty of that charge) and even if you thought he engaged in treasonous behaviors in his subsequent adventuring in Western lands (he was indeed found not guilty of that charge, thanks in no small part to the instruction of Chief Justice John Marshall in a trial Jefferson was way too intimately involved in).

Brands introduces us to the Burr who, after being set free, was still rather despised in this country and sets off for Europe.  He becomes fast friends with the great utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham, but winds up virtually destitute in Paris when he decided to return home in 1812.

Then comes the heartbreak.  He quickly discovers that his grandson has died (death often came without notice to young people back then), and Theodosia herself is lost at sea as she attempts a voyage from South Carolina (her husband is governor of the state) to visit her father in New York.

If you want to know the details of Burr's life, this book is not for you, but if you want to acquire a more vivid picture of a man history has come (probably wrongly so) to view as a scoundrel, "The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr" is worth a read.

CSPAN's session with Brands not only prompted me to pick up this book, but I'm also going back to read other things he's written (a biography of Ben Franklin and the rather famous "A Traitor To His Class" on the life of FDR).

Two asides from this book.

In this age of instant communication and the headaches of being delayed a few hours at an airport, it's a real eye opener to once again discover how dangerous getting from point A to point B could be as recently as 200 years ago.

Then there's Burr the charmer.  Here's what he said upon his departure from the Senate where he presided as Vice President even after the death of Hamilton.

"I am sensible that I must at times have wounded the feelings of individual members.  I avoided entering into explanations at the time, because a moment of irritation is not a moment for explanation.  If any have been...My errors, whatever they may have been, were those of rule and principle, not of caprice.  If, in the opinion of any, the discipline which has been established approached to rigor, you will at least admit that it was uniform and indiscriminate."

"This house is a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order and of liberty.  It is here, it is here in this exalted refuge, here if anywhere that resistance will be made to the storms of political corruption and the silent arts of corruption...Though we separate, we will be engaged in the common cause of disseminating the principles of freedom and social order."

Words as important today as when Burr uttered them (as captured by Brands) in 1804.

Mark this down as a good quick read.


Filing From A Hospital Bed

File this one under the "You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up" category, and just to be totally fair, I'll offer it totally without editorial comment.

In checking out the latest filings at Manchester City Hall today, I just happened to be present when Ward 4 Republican State, the venerable Rep Leo Pepino, called the mayor's office from his hospital bed, complaining that he couldn't make it down to City Hall to file for office (the deadline is Friday).

Could the City Clerk possibly send someone up to the hospital to file Leo?

The answer.

Yes.  In fact, you don't need to file in person at all (as long as your form is notarized).

I didn't hang around to see whether he planned to file for one of two seats in Ward 4 (thus creating a Republican primary) or for one of the three seats in the Ward 4-5-6-7 floterial (rather Democratric territory).  I'll guess the former.

Oh by the way, at last check, Leo's rating with the House Republican Alliance was 63 percent (mine is 73 for comparison purposes); he was present for 49 percent of the votes (100 percent for me).

Just the facts m'aam, just the facts!

Expect strange things to transpire on the filing front in the next few days, but it does apper, at least if Manchester is any example, that Democrats have a filing edge, especially in sorting out who is running in wards versus the floats.

For example, the three ward 1 Democrats have split it up this way--Jeff Goley (90 percent attendance) and Peter Ramsey (46 percent attendance) will run in the ward; Dan Sullivan (88 percent attendance attendance) will join Pat Long (of Ward 3--66 percent attendance) for the float which covers Wards 1, 2, and 3.

Just the facts m'aam, just the facts!