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Democrat wins a New Hampshire senate special election for the first time in 30 years

As Donald Trump and the right-wing ideologues in Congress continue to provoke public outrage, the tide of state politics — overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans during the Obama years — is shifting. Democrats have been cleaning up in local elections throughout the nation in 2017, and nowhere is this trend starker than New Hampshire. In May, […]

By Matthew Chapman - July 26, 2017
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Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh wins a special election in New Hampshire
Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh wins a special election in New Hampshire

Democrats have been cleaning up in local elections throughout the nation in 2017, and nowhere is this trend starker than New Hampshire.

In May, Democratic state house candidate Edith DesMarais won the election for Carroll County District 6, becoming the first Democrat ever to be elected to that seat. Two weeks ago, former political consultant Kris Schultz achieved a landslide victory in the special election for Concord Ward 9, keeping the seat in Democratic hands.

And this week, Democrats achieved another important victory in State Senate District 16.

This Manchester district, historically conservative, had narrowly elected a Democrat in 2016, local schoolteacher and labor leader Scott McGilvray. After McGilvray’s sudden death in March, the GOP expected David Boutin, the retired former senator from this district, to easily win back the seat.

Instead, Democratic candidate Kevin Cavanaugh crushed Boutin, outperforming the 2016 presidential margin by double digits.

Kavanaugh, a local alderman, was bolstered by a Daily Kos campaign that raised $16,000 from 1,200 grassroots donors, and produced massive turnout. This is the first time a Democrat has won a New Hampshire state senate special election since 1984.

In 2016, New Hampshire’s elections were a bittersweet affair for Democrats. A state famous for independent politics, New Hampshire narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton and replaced their Republican senator with a Democrat — but the GOP won the governorship and kept the legislature, turning the state into one of 25 Republican state government trifectas.

Consequently, New Hampshire has been treated to a farcical circus of right-wing policy debates. The state GOP passed a voter suppression bill requiring some voters to submit to random police inspections proving they live at the address on their registration. They also tried — and mercifully failed — to strip unions of some bargaining rights.

The recent spate of special elections wins put New Hampshire Democrats on solid footing to fight back. Local politics is every bit as important to people’s lives as the distant decisions of Washington, and twice as visible. As Democrats reclaim their footing in state legislatures like New Hampshire, the resistance will become that much stronger.


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