State Republicans set sights on House seat
By Katie Gonzalez, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, June 1, 2009
In what may be an early sign of the political storm surrounding the 2010 mid-term elections, the race for Lebanon, N.H., state representative has seen increased spending and has been given added significance by state and local party officials ahead of the vote in a special election on June 2. The Lebanon state House seat was vacated in early March when Democrat Gene Andersen resigned for financial reasons.
“[Andersen] was a casualty of the economic downfall himself,” Lebanon city councilor and former mayor Karen Liot Hill ’00, a Democrat, said. “He had to resign from the state House to pursue more paid work.”
State representatives are paid $200 every two years, according to the state House web site.
Sources from outside Lebanon are contributing an unprecedented amount of money to the local election, Liot Hill said.
Democrat Andrew White, a fire captain, estimates that Randy Wagoner, his Republican opponent and an emergency dispatcher, is outspending him “four or five to one.”
“There is a big imbalance of resources,” Liot Hill said. “[Chair of the New Hampshire Republican party and former Gov. John H.] Sununu made it very clear that they were going to take other outside resources to help their candidate win.”
Wagoner declined to comment on the amount of money he has received from outside donors.
“It’s a campaign, and I have received donations from the state committee,” Wagoner said. “If [White] hasn’t, that’s entirely up to him. There are other people in other counties who feel I’d make a good candidate. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
State Republicans are targeting the seat because they believe it will allow them to have a greater impact on the state’s legislative process, officials from both parties said in interviews with The Dartmouth.
“Lebanon has been trending Democratic,” Liot Hill said. “Our delegation went entirely blue in 2004, and all four seats went completely Democratic for all this time. Republicans see this as a time to go back and get some strength. The Republicans are hoping that they can have a win here in Lebanon, which would give them potentially some momentum.”
The special election, however, “really levels the playing field,” Liot Hill said.
“Democrats are favored in Lebanon, according to party registration and voter behavior,” she said. “About two-thirds of registered voters in Lebanon vote Democratic. In theory, there should be a good turnout for Democrats. But in a special election, when turnout is extremely low, it starts to make the advantage not so certain.”
The vote on the amendment to the marriage equality bill scheduled in the state House for June 3 also raises the stakes of the election, Liot Hill said.
“If [White] wins the election on Tuesday, he can help make a serious difference in a matter of 24 hours on the issue of marriage equality,” Liot Hill said.
Both candidates have campaigned using traditional methods, including phone banking and canvassing.
“My campaign has been doing a lot of the traditional stuff — meeting folks, making about 2,000 phone calls to our Lebanon constituents,” White said. “I’m working hard to try and make contact with the Democratic base.”
Dartmouth political groups said they hope to contribute to White’s and Wagoner’s campaigns.
Although the College Democrats did not learn about the special election until May 28, the group plans to campaign for White downtown and in West Lebanon, College Democrats President Bret Vallacher ’10 said.
“We’ll be doing visibility on Monday and Tuesday to remind people that there is a special election,” Vallacher said. “His campaign already did a phone bank on Saturday, and, because they exhausted their voter database, we are not going to be doing that.”
The College Republicans has also worked to mobilize its members in a “get out the vote effort” on behalf of Wagoner.
“We’ve sent out some volunteers to go door to door to talk to voters about Randy Wagoner,” College Republicans President Harrison Davies ’09 said in an e-mail message to The Dartmouth on Sunday. “It’s obviously a tough time to get students to volunteer, being so close to final exams, but since an extremely small number of local voters are even aware of the election, a couple hours of work can have a really magnified impact.”