Turnout in Bedford’s town elections was impressive. Brian Shaughnessy’s win in the Town Moderator race was not.
According to town officials, 5,133 people voted on Tuesday, a turnout rate of more than 30 percent. For a town election, that is an extremely high number.
However, just 3,293 of those voters backed Shaughnessy, the only candidate for moderator on the ballot. Nearly 2,000 voters chose not to give him their vote.
More than 650 of those people wrote in Hanan Wiseman, who ran a long-shot, last-minute write-in campaign. And, according to outgoing moderator Bill Klein, “There almost 100 more write-ins for that office, the majority of which were silly things that people put in, unfortunately.”
Shaughnessy narrowly outperformed fellow Democrat Andrea Campbell, who got 2,832 votes despite facing two other candidates on the ballot.
Now Shaughnessy faces a much smaller, and significantly more Republican, group of voters: The five members of the Executive Council. A hearing on his nomination for circuit court judge is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Shaughnessy has already lost one of the four GOP members of the council. Dave Wheeler has called on Shaughnessy to withdraw or for Gov. Chris Sununu to pull the nomination. And state Republican National Committeeman Chris Ager has urged Republicans on the council to reject the nomination.
According to multiple GOP sources, there is a full-court press by Shaughnessy’s backer, Bedford businessman Bill Greiner, to keep Republican legislators quiet and at least two GOP executive councilors on board. (Councilor Cinde Warmington is expected to support her fellow Democrat, State House sources say.)
One person who has not stayed silent is former Bedford Town Councilor Kelleigh Murphy, who served in town government with Shaughnessy.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter respectfully requesting that you do not confirm the nomination of Brian Shaughnessy to the bench,” Murphy wrote to the Executive Council. “I passed the New Hampshire Bar exam in 2004 and have never spoken out against a judicial nominee in this state in my career.”
She went on to recount Shaughnessy’s problematic behavior during the 2020 Bedford ballot fiasco. (The entire letter is here.) Then she added:
“The judiciary is the last place for histrionics. The success of the judicial branch relies heavily on a judge’s ability to assess facts and evidence, determine credibility of witnesses, and otherwise assimilate a vast amount of information in a relatively compact period of time. An individual undertaking this task must remain impartial from the task at hand.
“Attorney Shaughnessy’s conduct in the public realm does not reflect a demeanor of calm impartiality or civility,” Murphy wrote.
Republicans concerned about ballot security and election integrity are watching the Executive Council closely on this nomination. It is possible Republicans who back Shaughnessy could find themselves facing primary challenges from the Trump-supporting wing of the party.
Some Republicans puzzled by the governor’s decision to nominate a Democrat — particularly one with Shaughnessy’s troubled record — note how silent Sununu has been on the nomination, even as the criticism has mounted. He has yet to make any public comments in support of Shaughnessy, a stark difference from the governor’s outspoken advocacy for then-Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. When a Democrat-controlled Executive Council rejected MacDonald for the state Supreme Court, a clearly-angry Sununu denounced their vote and refused to fill the vacancy on the court.
If Shaughnessy’s nomination is a priority for the governor, he has yet to show it. One Sununu ally described the current attitude toward Shaughnessy’s nomination this way: “If he goes down, he goes down.”