Democrats make gains in New Hampshire House, retain federal seats

By: - November 9, 2022 3:16 pm
House members fill the House chamber

The party divide in the New Hampshire House shifted on Tuesday. (Ethan DeWitt | New Hampshire Bulletin | file photo)

Democrats defied pollsters’ predictions at both the federal and state levels Tuesday.

New Hampshire House Clerk Paul Smith was waiting on five House races as of midday Wednesday, but said in a tweet a 200-200 party divide was “very possible.” Republicans currently hold a 24 seat majority.

House Republicans lost a few high-profile members Tuesday. 

  • Rep. Karen Umberger of Kearsarge, chair of the powerful Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, won’t be returning after serving 12 years. Democrats claimed the three seats in Umberger’s newly drawn House district. 
  • First-term Rep. Melissa Blasek of Merrimack, named assistant majority leader in September, placed ninth in a district with eight seats. Blasek is also executive director of Rebuild NH, a liberty-minded group that led the opposition to pandemic lockdowns and vaccine mandates. While Blasek lost, most of the nearly 150 candidates Rebuild NH endorsed won their races.
  • Also defeated was Rep. Kurt Wuelper of Strafford, the vice president of New Hampshire Right to Life and head of the House anti-abortion caucus. Wuelper, in his eighth year, had planned to reintroduce legislation next session banning abortion after six weeks after seeing it fail this year.
  • Rep. Dawn Johnson of Laconia, serving her first term, was targeted by Citizens for Belknap County, a political action committee, for co-sponsoring a bill that would have given county officials control of Gunstock Mountain. The group also noted that Johnson shared a social media post from a neo-Nazi group. Johnson later apologized.
  • On the Democratic side, Rep. Jerry Knirk of Freedom, lost his bid to a fourth term. Knirk, a physician, helped lead the fight against colleagues and members of the public who questioned the validity of the COVID-19 vaccine, the virus itself, and government-imposed restrictions. 
  • Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Wolf of Newbury held onto his seat. Wolf had been targeted by anti-abortion groups for sponsoring legislation seeking to add exceptions to the state’s 24-week abortion ban for rape, incest, and fatal fetal anomalies. Only the fatal fetal anomaly exception passed.

In the state Senate, both parties flipped a seat, though it looked likely Republicans would retain their majority.

Former state senator Shannon Chandley defeated Republican Sen. Gary Daniels, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, by nearly 3 percentage points. Daniels, serving his third Senate term, lost the seat to Chandley in 2018 and won it back two years later. Both have served multiple terms in the House. 

Republican Keith Murphy of Manchester, endorsed by the Liberty Alliance, was leading June Trisciani, who ran a write-in campaign and was endorsed by the party. They are seeking the seat held now by Democratic Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh of Manchester, who stepped down to run for Executive Council. Cavanaugh lost his bid to unseat Councilor Ted Gatsas. 

If neither party flips additional seats, Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, 14-10.

Republicans appear likely to keep control of the Executive Council. With 80 percent or more votes counted, the council’s four Republican incumbents were ahead. As of early afternoon, two Republicans had won re-election, Janet Stevens of Rye and Gatsas, as had the council’s lone Democrat, Cinde Warmington of Rye.

At the federal level, the Democratic incumbents outperformed their Donald Trump-endorsed Republican challengers by considerable margins. Sen. Maggie Hassan beat Don Bolduc by nearly 10 percentage points, while 1st Congressional District Rep. Chris Pappas won his race against Karoline Leavitt by nearly seven points. In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Annie Kuster beat Robert Burns by nearly 13 percentage points. Bolduc and Leavitt appeared to accept the election results during their concession speeches late Tuesday night despite previously alleging the 2020 election was stolen.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]