The Bulletin Board

Merrimack Republican Boyd wins House seat

By: - April 14, 2021 10:02 am
A view of the State House in Concord.

Senate Democrats said that while they have no specifics yet on the compromise language, when it comes to “divisive concepts” no compromise would be acceptable. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

Republican Bill Boyd captured one of the New Hampshire House’s 400 seats Tuesday evening, beating back a high-intensity Democratic challenge to succeed the late Republican Speaker Dick Hinch.

In a 2,531 to 2,144 vote, Boyd prevailed against Democrat Wendy Thomas to win one of eight House seats in Merrimack. The town held a special election Tuesday to fill a vacancy left by Hinch, who died of COVID-19 in December.

“I am grateful to all of the voters in Merrimack that turned out today,” Boyd said in an interview Tuesday evening after the win. “Whether they voted for me or they didn’t vote for me. We were able to elevate the level of discourse in this community about the specific issues: clean water, the turnpike expansion, a balanced budget, emerging from the pandemic and being able to emerge from it safely so that people are able to get back to an ordinary course of life, access to the vaccine.”

The race emerged from tragedy. Hinch, a fiscal conservative who led the Republican minority from 2018 to 2020 and steered his caucus to victory in the 2020 election, died suddenly Dec. 9, one week after taking the speaker’s gavel. An autopsy conducted by the state’s medical examiner found that the cause of death was COVID-19.

A real estate title examiner and Merrimack town councilor, Boyd positioned his candidacy as a continuation of Hinch’s legacy and said he would help carry Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s agenda.

“I miss him,” Boyd said Tuesday of Hinch. “Because he was not just the political giant to a lot of people in this community that understand the value that he brought … to the Republican Party here. He quietly did work for Meals on Wheels. He quietly did work for the Scouts. You know, it’s that kind of leadership that I hope to aspire to.”

Boyd also drew on local issues. Speaking to the town’s drinking water crisis brought on by a contamination of perfluorinated chemicals, Boyd touted his membership on the New Hampshire Drinking Water and Ground Water Advisory Commission, and his help delivering relief money to the town in that role.

The special election provided a test for the Republican Party after Donald Trump – and for enthusiasm among Democrats under the Biden administration.

And the fundraising matched that. Thomas secured around $30,000 in personal receipts and Boyd raised around $15,000, but both were helped by outside organizations and attention. In the end, voter turnout exceeded expectations.

For Thomas, the campaign was an attempt at a redo. Thomas was elected to the seat in 2018 but was ousted in 2020, when Republicans recaptured the State House.

Last year, only one Democrat was able to secure one of eight seats in the town: Rep. Rosemarie Rung.

Throughout her campaign, Thomas framed her efforts around her own part in the yearslong fight against water contamination from PFAS in the town. In Merrimack, Thomas helped form the “water warriors,” a group of activists in the town frustrated by inaction against PFAS contamination in the town’s well water. As a lawmaker, she supported and sponsored bills imposing new restrictions on PFAS and well water.

Reacting to the loss, she vowed to stay in politics.

“In spite of tonight’s results, I know that we have succeeded in advancing awareness for the issues we care about most,” Thomas said in a statement. “Our campaign has been a huge triumph. This water warrior is not done yet!”

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel. Email: [email protected]