EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 7, 2012

Women take the reins in Granite State

Power makes a gender shift in N.H.

By John Toole jtoole@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Election Day became women’s day in New Hampshire.

Women soon will occupy all the state’s congressional seats, the governor’s office and the chief justice’s chair on the state Supreme Court.

Another woman is a contestant for speaker of the New Hampshire House, which her party now controls.

“Amazing,” said Laura Thibault, interim director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, surveying the election results. “It makes me so proud to live in this state that has reaffirmed its trust in women, its faith in women. This is the state we know and love.”

Sarah Gannon-Weston, Democratic chairman in Danville, thought women’s issues absolutely were critical to the outcome.

“The majority of women and families in New Hampshire do not want women to lose their ability to make their own health-care choices,” Gannon-Weston said.

The women in charge include U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, Congressmen-elect Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan and Chief Justice Linda Dalianis.

Terie Norelli soon could join them as Speaker of the New Hampshire House. Democrats won control of the House; Norelli formerly held the post and is interested in serving again.

Thibault said her group, which advocates for women’s reproductive, health and aborton rights, is thrilled.

“We felt Speaker (William) O’Brien’s antics and the extremism we saw was not the will of the people,” she said.

The lesson of the election for those who were championing restrictions on family planning and access to abortions is that is not the New Hampshire way, Thibault said.

Democrats successfully used women’s health issues to make gains in the election, according to Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry.

“They turned it into a women’s health war and beat us,” he said.

Rep. Sherm Packard, R-Londonderry, said he thought the issues affected the election outcome more than gender.

“If they had been male Democratic candidates, they probably would have won, too,” he said.

Packard said he wished Republicans had focused on the issues he tried to push for two years: creating jobs, cutting taxes and reducing spending.

“Way too much time was spent on social issues and that came back to bite us,” Packard said.

Some saw women winning races Tuesday because women had had enough.

“I think women have had their fill of people trying to tell them what they can do or not do,” said David Lang, president of the Londonderry-based Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.

“I think the Republican agenda was so harsh on women and women’s issues they mobilized, or helped carry, the Democratic tide to the heights we saw,” said Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, a candidate for Speaker.

Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, wasn’t willing to concede the GOP had failed on women’s issues. She was re-elected Tuesday and her sister will join her in the House, representing Salem

“I really think this had to do with the top of the ticket and continued down from there,” Garcia said. “The Democrats were very effective in their ground game and getting out the vote.”

Rep. David Kidder, R-New London, said he thought the vote had more to do with New Hampshire balancing the scale and moving toward the center.

The state has a history of putting women in positions of power, including former Speaker Donna Sytek from Salem, he said.

The women taking the top jobs in New Hampshire are there for a reason, in Kidder’s opinion.

“They are all people of great ability,” he said.