Democrats Obama, Hassan, Kuster win in NH
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — President Barack Obama captured New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes Tuesday after a feisty fight with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who owns a vacation home in the state.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan also will keep New Hampshire governor’s seat in Democratic control after she beat Republican Ovide Lamontagne, an opponent she said was too extreme for the state. Despite the tone of the campaign — it was harshly negative at times — Hassan extended a hand across the aisle in her victory speech. She said the early indications are the Legislature, which was dominated by Republicans over the last two years, would now be more evenly divided.
‘‘We should see this not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to move beyond the partisan divide,’’ she said.
Democrat Ann McLane Kuster did what she failed to do two years ago and beat Republican Congressman Charles Bass for the 2nd Congressional District seat in northern and western New Hampshire.
The race was too close to call between Republican Congressman Frank Guinta and former Democratic Congressman Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st District in the southeastern section of the state. Both races were rematches of 2010.
With Tuesday’s win, Hassan succeeds John Lynch, the governor since 2005 who served four two-year terms and is retiring.
Hassan’s campaign stressed the need to repair damage done by the Republican Legislature in its last budget, particularly by restoring deep cuts to public colleges and the state’s hospitals. She said the way to grow the economy is to invest in education so business has the workforce it needs.
‘‘We will build a New Hampshire that nurtures innovation and entrepreneurs,’’ she said in her victory speech.
Hassan successfully painted Lamontagne as too radical for New Hampshire, particularly for women.
Lamontagne, a Catholic, strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage, though he did not emphasize his support for imposing limits on abortion or repealing New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law in his campaign. He supports replacing gay marriage with civil unions for heterosexual and same-sex couples but doesn’t support invalidating existing same-sex marriages. He also supports exempting religious organizations from contraceptive mandates in insurance coverage.
Hassan highlighted her support for the rights of workers to unionize, for women to have access to abortions and birth control and for gays to marry. Hassan was instrumental in the Senate passing the state’s law legalizing same-sex unions in 2009. An effort to repeal it fell short this year.
That resonated with Donna Hennessey, a 50-year-old mortgage lender from Canterbury, who said it was a key in her decision to vote for Hassan.
‘‘Women need to have a say over their own bodies,’’ she said.
Exit poll interviews with New Hampshire voters showed Hassan drew support from women, unmarried voters and those whose annual family incomes totaled less than $50,000.
Independents were also a key. According to exit polls, Lamontagne and Hassan each captured more than 90 percent of their respective party bases, but Hassan led among the 4 in 10 who consider themselves independents.
In conceding, Lamontagne said he was disappointed, especially in the negative ads.
‘‘I wish you all well and I wish the people of New Hampshire well in this critical time,’’ Lamontagne said in his concession speech.
Voters also were casting ballots for 400 state House seats and 24 state Senate seats.
Both parties predicted Democratic gains in the Statehouse. In the House, there are 288 Republicans to 102 Democrats with 10 vacancies. There are 18 Republicans and five Democrats in the Senate, with one vacancy.
Voters also were being asked to vote on two proposed constitutional amendments.
Both Hassan, 54, of Exeter, and Lamontagne, 55, of Manchester, are business attorneys and campaigned on the need to grow the economy and jobs. Both promised to veto personal income and general sales taxes.
The race was Hassan’s first try for governor and Lamontagne’s second bid. He lost to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, now a U.S. senator, in 1996. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1992 and U.S. Senate in 2010.
Hassan lost her first bid for state Senate in 2002, but won the seat in the following election. She was defeated during a Republican sweep in 2010.
John Babiarz, a libertarian from Grafton, also sought the office.