By Jo-Anne MacKenzie firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — The latest polls giving Democrat Maggie Hassan a slight lead over GOP contender Ovide Lamontagne were right: Hassan will succeed Gov. John Lynch, who’s leaving the governor’s post after four terms.
Hassan distinguished herself from Lamontagne by saying his views would be harmful to the state’s middle class. That must have resonated with voters, who favored her with 55 percent to Lamontagne’s 42 percent, with 61 percent of the statewide vote counted.
Hassan was declared the victor just an hour after most polls closed, although people were still waiting to vote in some towns, including Londonderry.
Lamontagne can add this failed gubernatorial bid to a list of lost elections. The Manchester lawyer, 55, lost an earlier bid for governor, as well as Congress and U.S. Senate. Most recently, he lost the GOP primary to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2010.
Hassan, a former state senator and majority leader in 2009, is a lawyer from Exeter. She lost her re-election bid in 2010, when Republicans took control of both houses of the state Legislature.
While both agreed the state needs expanded gaming, Lamontagne only wanted to see a casino in Salem at Rockingham Park. Hassan said the process for siting a casino should be a competitive one, given the competition the Granite State could face along the Massachusetts’ border.
Southern Rockingham County, known for its staunch Republican base, contributed to Hassan’s victory.
Derry may be turning a little blue. Not only did the traditional GOP stronghold elect two Democratic House members — from a total of 10, but Derry also went for Hassan — 7,871 to Lamontagne’s 7,125 in preliminary vote totals. A hefty 16,389 voters cast ballots in Derry.
Kingston, too, gave Hassan the edge, 1,646 to 1,606.
But there was plenty of support for Lamontagne along the southern tier.
Hampstead, for example, voted 2,819 for Lamontagne to 2,198 for Hassan.
Atkinson, too, went for the Republican, giving Lamontagne 2,343 votes to 1,710 for Hassan.
Hassan received crucial support from the state’s independent voters, according to The Associated Press. Some 40 percent of the state’s registered voters consider themselves independents.
In Londonderry, the AP had declared Hassan the victor before many had cast their ballots. To some, waiting in a long line, it still mattered.
“Absolutely, every vote counts,” Kelly white said. “I still think my vote mattered.”
About 80 percent of Londonderry’s voters cast ballots — and they gave the Republican the edge. In preliminary results, Lamontagne garnered 6,498 votes to Hassan’s 5,998.
Women, unmarried voters and those with family incomes under $50,000 also favored Hassan, AP reported.
One of those women was Carol Sylvestre of Windham, who not only voted for Hassan, but also for President Barack Obama.
“I think the state is headed in the right direction, the same thing about the country,” Sylvestre said outside Windham High School yesterday. “I don’t think now is the time to go backward.”
Lamontagne made much of Hassan’s refusal to support a constitutional amendment banning lawmakers from imposing an income tax. For her part, Hassan said she opposed an income tax, but didn’t support writing that in to the state Constitution.
Hassan wants to see funding to the state’s university system restored. The Legislature cut that by nearly 50 percent. She also has called for a tuition freeze at state universities.
She promised to restore funding in areas the Republicans in Concord had cut. She also said she would restore the cigarette tax, which the GOP Legislature reduced by 10 cents with a promise of increasing revenue through higher sales. That tactic failed, by most accounts.
Both Hassan and Lamontagne took “the pledge,” promising not to institute a sales or income tax. But Lamontagne took that a step farther, saying he would not raise taxes at all.
He may not have talked about it much on the campaign trail, but Lamontagne wanted to replace gay marriage with civil unions and would exempt religious institutions from a mandate requiring them to provide contraceptive coverage in its health-care plans.
Hassan had strong union support, believes in gay marriage, and women’s access to abortion and birth control.
Plaistow resident Scott Duhamel said choosing who to vote for in the governor’s race was his most difficult ballot decision.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with either,” he said outside the polls yesterday. “I ultimately sided with Lamontagne.”