Five state Senate races to watch on Election Day
Sen. Jeb Bradley (center), who is facing off against Bill Marsh in District 3, speaks on the Senate floor in May. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)
With less than a week until the election, candidates throughout the state are making a final push to boost their name recognition and sway undecided voters.
While the spotlight is largely focused on top-of-the-ticket races, those elected to serve in the State House over the next two years will shape local policies that have an outsized impact on the people of New Hampshire.
New Hampshire’s 24 state senators are especially influential, and the body will see significant change in the next session: So many incumbents decided not to seek reelection, at least a third of the senators will be new.
On top of that, the districts have been redrawn as part of the redistricting that happens every 10 years. Redistricting is meant to account for the changing population, arranging the maps so roughly the same number of people are in each district. But it’s a political process that the party in control uses to tilt the balance in its favor. In New Hampshire, Republicans have consistently drawn the state Senate to their advantage, which has given them about 10 percent more seats than a neutral map in the last four out of five elections.
The latest redistricting made two districts in particular – District 9 and District 16 – tilt more Republican. A recent analysis by New Hampshire Public Radio shows this could help Republicans win 15 seats in the upcoming election.
The 2020 election yielded a 14-10 majority for Republicans, flipping the 14-10 majority the Democrats had won in 2018, the only time the Democrats have had a majority in the past 12 years. The Republicans were the last party to win a super majority, clinching 19 seats in 2010. If either party wins 16 seats, they would have enough votes to override a veto by the governor.
While every state Senate race is important – especially to the people of the districts – here are five races to keep an eye on in the upcoming election.
District 1: Edith Tucker vs. Carrie Gendreau
In the North Country, Democrat Edith Tucker is facing Republican challenger Carrie Gendreau.
Tucker, a journalist for the Conway Daily Sun, has served as a state representative since 2016. In the House, she’s advocated for state action on solid waste issues in the wake of Casella’s proposal to put a new landfill in the North Country.
Gendreau is a business owner who has been on Littleton’s select board since 2018. In a letter to voters, she touted her support for limited government and said she’d focus on fiscal issues like gas, groceries, and affordable housing.
District 1 leaned Republican in the last election, and redistricting hasn’t changed its partisan makeup, shifting the district along the western edge of the state and elongating it so it stretches as far south as Rumney. It’s the state’s biggest and most rural district, which makes it a challenge to campaign there. But political observer Anna Brown of Citizens Count said that in the North Country, community connections can be more important than party.
“I think that the people who win the North Country, it has less to do with their party and more to do with are they really connected with the people who show up and are going to vote there,” Brown said.
District 3: Jeb Bradley vs. Bill Marsh
In District 3, incumbent Jeb Bradley, a fixture in New Hampshire politics, is facing Bill Marsh, a doctor who left the Republican Party during the pandemic to become a Democrat. That makes it a compelling matchup, but Marsh is still fighting an uphill battle in a red-leaning district.
Redistricting left the Republican tilt of the district unchanged. Voters there have sent Bradley to Concord seven times, where he’s been a key player in brokering compromises behind the scenes, earning him a reputation as an old-school Republican who will work across the aisle and also among various factions within the Republican Party.
Marsh served three terms as a Republican representative in the New Hampshire House but left the party in 2021 over leadership’s opposition to vaccine mandates.
District 9: Matt McLaughlin vs. Denise Ricciardi
District 9 has changed significantly as a result of redistricting, and it now stretches all the way from Bedford to the southwest corner of New Hampshire, giving a 5-point advantage to Republicans. It pits incumbent Republican Sen. Denise Ricciardi against Matt McLaughlin, a political outsider with military credentials who also served as a commercial airline pilot for more than three decades.
District 9 has been a true swing district in the past; in 2020 Ricciardi won by only 400 votes – but that was before the new map was drawn. Ricciardi has built a name for herself among Bedford voters, where she’s earned a reputation as a hard worker.
Name recognition could make a difference in the race, said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. McLaughlin also has deep ties to Bedford, where he was born and raised. He’s stayed involved with the community, volunteering as a driver for Meals on Wheels and coaching children’s sports.
District 16: Keith Murphy vs. June Trisciani
District 16 used to slightly favor Democrats but now slightly favors Republicans, according to a recent analysis by NHPR. That’s not the only reason it’s an interesting one to watch in the upcoming election. “This is my favorite pet race to be paying attention to because it was the weirdest set of New Hampshire conditions ever to bring these two candidates together,” Brown said.
What were those “weirdest” conditions? With the backing of the libertarian conservative group Americans for Prosperity, Michael Yakubovich beat out Rep. Barbara Griffin in the contested Republican primary, even though on paper she seemed like the favorite to win, according to Scala. But when Yakubovich dropped out due to health problems, Griffin wasn’t chosen as the replacement, Keith Murphy was. Murphy is a former state representative who served for eight years, from 2010 to 2018, and owns Murphy’s Taproom. He was endorsed by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, a coalition that supports libertarian candidates and causes. Murphy served as a board member of the Liberty Alliance from 2006 to 2007. Both Yakubovich and Murphy have ties to the Free State Project, a migration of libertarian-minded individuals to New Hampshire to consolidate political power.
June Trisciani, the Democratic challenger, ran a write-in campaign, quickly earning the party’s backing. She runs an interior design firm and is currently an alderman at-large for Manchester, where she’s also previously chaired the city’s planning board and worked on its heritage commission.
“This is suddenly becoming a much more competitive race than it was originally because they both have name recognition, but Trisciani got the jump on the earlier campaign,” Brown said.
District 17: Christine Tappan vs. Howard Pearl
District 17 is an open race between House Rep. Howard Pearl and Christine Tappan, who was the associate commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and also served on her local school board.
Pearl is a farmer from Loudon who has served for three terms. It’s not his first time running for state Senate, but his 2014 bid ended after he dropped out while facing charges of sexual assault for touching a minor. The charges were dismissed on a technicality and a motion to reconsider was denied, according to a Concord Monitor report.
District 17 leans Republican, as it did before redistricting.
Scala said Democrats would likely need the national winds at their backs to reclaim state Senate seats. He doubts that will be the case: “All the news over the last couple of weeks has not been great for Democrats nationally,” he said. “All indications are things are starting to shift the Republicans’ way.”
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