The 2022 ‘Granite State Guru’ predicts Republicans will net one new seat in the New Hampshire Senate this year, bringing the makeup to 15 Republicans with 9 Democrats. Optimistic Republican observers believe a particularly large Red Wave could result in a 17-7 Republican upper chamber.
Here are the top 5 races Republicans believe they can win to get there:
State Senate District 24 – Hampton, Rye, Exeter Area
Tom Sherman’s quixotic bid for governor left a vacancy in the state Senate, and Republicans think Hampton Falls businessman Lou Gargiulo has a real shot at winning the bluish district in a potential Red Wave year. They are helped by Gargiuilo’s deep pockets and the far-left progressive politics of Democratic nominee Rep. Debra Altschiller of Stratham.
Gargiulo has ponied up more than $180,000 in his second bid for the seat, and he has more than $100,000 cash on hand as of Nov. 2’s filing on the secretary of state’s website.
Altschiller, as of October 19, had spent a little less than one-fourth of that amount, at $41,460. At time of publishing, Altschiller’s November 2, 2022 report was not available.
One advantage for Democrats is the previous Senate 24 map was slightly less blue than the new one. Republican Dan Innis edged out Sherman in 2016 by about 1,500 votes. Under the new map, Innis would have lost by 1,300.
Bottom line: While the seat would have stayed in Democrat’s hands in 2016, a Republican wave could push Gargiulo over the top. Altschiller is known as one of the more progressive Democrats, and candidate quality matters. Likely Republican flip.
State Senate District 18 – Manchester & Litchfield
When politicos sense a wave election approaching, they tend to look for incumbents to wash out who would normally be out of reach. Democrat Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy is on the local GOP’s map. She served as Senate President in 2019-2020, so picking off her seat would be a political prize.
However, she has easily won reelection in Red Waves, including 2014, when she edged out George Lambert by just under 1,000 votes, or 6.4 points. And Lambert, a perennial Republican Senate candidate, has only raised $13,000 and spent just more than $2,500 of it. If he is running to win, it’s not showing.
Republican optimists still believe, however, that if the 2022 tide is strong enough it will carry Lambert’s boat safely to the upper chamber.
Bottom line: Soucy is well-known in the district and has survived other waves. Lambert isn’t running a serious campaign. Likely Democrat hold.
State Senate District 11 – Amherst, Milford, Merrimack, and Wilton
Senate District 11 has flipped and flopped over the last decade. It was largely left untouched by redistricting. In 2020, it was the closest Senate race in the state when Senate Finance Chair Gary Daniels (R-Milford) defeated former Sen. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst) by just 159 votes.
Democrats have been targeting this seat as a pick-up opportunity for months. They have put campaign troops on the ground to knock on doors and drop off literature, and entire forests have been depleted to produce the mountains of campaign mail filling local mailboxes.
Bottom line: The conventional wisdom is anyone who won in 2020 is safe in 2022 — but not by much. A margin of 159 votes is no firewall, but a Red Wave would help. Leans Republican hold.
State Senate District 16 – Hooksett, Goffstown, Raymond, Candia, Manchester Ward 1
A once-reliable Democratic district got a makeover during the redistricting process, drawing incumbent Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh (D-Manchester) off the map and into a race for Executive Council. That opened up an arms race in the Republican primary, during which Rep. Michael Yakubovich (R-Hooksett) swept over Rep. Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown), even beating her in her hometown of Goffstown.
Then came news that Yakubovich is facing a life-threatening health issue. He dropped out and was replaced on the ballot by former GOP state Rep. Keith Murphy. So, why are Republicans optimistic about picking up this seat?
Because Democrats failed to even recruit a candidate during the filing period. Political newcomer June Trisciani stepped up during the primary and got herself nominated via write-ins on September 13.
Bottom line: While the “Blue Summer” surge of Democratic polls helped put a candidate on the ballot and a spring in their step, this district is a safe Republican seat outside a blue-wave year. Likely Republican flip.
State Senate District 8 – Sunapee Area
Ruth Ward, a Stoddard Republican, has held this seat since 2016 and survived the Republican wipe-out midterms in 2018. But at 85 years old, she is facing a former Republican state Rep. Charlene Lovett, who also served as mayor of Claremont.
Lovett won a House seat in 2010 in the Tea Party wave.
Now that she has switched parties, the newly-minted Democrat is hoping her name recognition in the district’s largest city can help her defy the odds. But if polls are right and there is a Republican surge, she may have picked the wrong year to jump ship.
Bottom line: If this were 2018, it would be an easy call for Lovett. But it’s 2022 and the tide has turned. Ward has the advantage, but this seat could be in play for 2024 Democrats. Likely Republican hold.