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Nashua's Senate Races: A Closer Look

Sheryl Rich-Kern

Much of the election limelight has been on big races at the top of the ballot.  But here in New Hampshire, there are also hundreds of state senate and house races on the ballot – races that often go unnoticed, despite the fact that the winning candidates can have a game-changing sway over local politics.

Bette Lasky and Peggy Gilmour have a lot in common. Together, they host a weekly radio show on a local AM station. In 2010, they both lost their state senate races. Two years later, these two Democrats want their jobs back.

District 13 covers six of nine wards in Nashua. In the last election, State Senator Gary Lambert --who is not seeking reelection -- became the first Republican to represent the district in 90 years.

Betty Lasky is a two-term state senator, former state representative and selectman. She says Lambert took that election, fair and square. “I always felt I let a lot of people down. And yet, in retrospect, it was clearly a voice, a national voice. People were angry. I did some recounts. And the ballots were straight-ticket voting. They were clearly Republican from top to bottom.”

But this year, that straight-ticket voting could garner Lasky a win. With the addition of Ward 9, her district is even more Democratic than it had been.

Michael Dupre is a senior research fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. “If you look at the way the numbers line up for District 13, her name recognition and her financial fundraising, she stands in good stead for getting her seat back.”

Dupre says Lasky has raised more than $50,000, while her opponent, state representative Joe Krasucki, has around $5,000.

Krasucki, who is a retired engineer, says he’s winning votes the old-fashioned way – banging on doors.

He says Lasky’s record in the senate sunk her last time and will sink her again:

Too many taxes, fees and penalties were assessed. I am against unnecessary taxes. There are a lot of them. This is why some cutbacks were necessary.

For her part, Lasky is focusing on the current legislature.  Like many Democrats this year, she argues Republicans in Concord have an extreme agenda. She recalls her efforts to extend tax credits for research and development.

That was a bill where the Speaker of the House tacked on a very inflammatory abortion bill, which you know, made it not a clean bill on research and development or tax credits, but made it so that it was doomed.

Lasky also condemns the legislature for slashing public university funding.

But her opponent Krasucki says it’s a matter of oversight. “We have a lot of waste in the university system. They’re not looking to make themselves more efficient and effective.

In greater Nashua’s other state senate race, incumbent Jim Luther is being challenged by Peggy Gilmour in District 12.  Luther says he didn’t want to slash state support to the university system. But he also didn’t want to raise taxes.

The issue is that the Democrats, with Peggy Gilmour, left us with a big hole in the budget. So we had to make some tough choices. I really want to see how we can restore that. I do believe, especially with four-year programs, there needs to be an accountability of how the money is spent. There are professors making 200 thousand dollars a year.

His rival, Peggy Gilmour, differs with Luther’s stance on education:

I think many of the cuts he has made are penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Gilmour is the former CEO of Home Health and Hospice. And Luther is an investment manager.

Both live in Hollis, but they’re ideologically distant. 

Gilmour is pro-choice, supports Obamacare.  Luther is pro-life and voted to block a state-based health insurance exchange, called for under the federal law.

Luther topped Gilmour in 2010 by a little more than 1000 votes. The redrawn district 12 now includes the more Republican-leaning towns of Rindge and New Ipswich, which may help Luther hold his seat.

But in a presidential year, the results in down ticket races can have more to do with what happens at the top of the ticket than local politics.

Sheryl Rich-Kern has been contributing stories for NHPR since 2006, covering education, social services, business, health care and an occasional quirky yarn that epitomizes life in New Hampshire. Sherylâââ

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