Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Get 2 limited-edition podcast mugs when you make a sustaining gift of $8 or more per month today!

Hassan, Ayotte Rally Voters, Duck Into Diners for Final Campaign Push

Casey McDermott, NHPR
Gov. Maggie Hassan's campaign schedule for the final weekend before the election included stops into several Market Baskets, like this one in Nashua.

Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan crisscrossed the state over the weekend, glad-handing voters and rallying the support they hope will get them over the line in an election that may decide the balance of the U.S. Senate.

Ayotte, the Republican incumbent, may arrive at campaign stops in a bus befitting a presidential candidate, and total spending in this Senate race is now north of $100 million.  But as she closes in on an election day that could define her political career, Kelly Ayotte is playing it low-key and down home.

“So I just wanted to say hi and if you had any questions for me I am happy to answer them and introduce myself.”

That was Ayotte at the Topic of the Town restaurant in Littleton.  The North Country voters have been a focus for Ayotte during her campaign’s close. And as she worked the late breakfast crowd Saturday, Ayotte made frequent, almost sheepish references to the campaign ads that are now blanketing the airwaves from Boston into Quebec.

‘Yeah there’s really awful ads, not funded from here, I can assure you, but kind of from these super PACs from out of state.”

Ayotte also, softly but firmly urged voters to recognize much is at stake Tuesday.

“Everyone is going to really matter in this," Ayotte said. "It’s going to make a difference. It’s a close race and, you know the North County could bring this home.”

Sitting nearby, retiree MaryellenCavin, an independent who lives in Littleton, said she’s pleased to have two qualified candidates fighting to represent New Hampshire, but for her the choice is straightforward..

“They are two very strong women who work very hard at what they do but (Hassan) chose to run against Kelly Ayotte, and that’s unfortunate.”   

One hundred forty miles southeast, at the Throwback Brewery In North Hampton  Sunday, the mood was looser as pints of beer flowed

Ayotte was fresh off running a 5k road race, which has been a staple of her campaign.

Less the norm was that she was joined -in the race and at the brewery --by fellow republican Chris Sununu. It marked the first time the two GOP candidates for statewide office have campaigned together.

A half dozen or so Republican activists stood against the wall watching as Ayotte and Sununu moved from table to table, mostly alone  but occasionally as a duo.

“I think the Republicans have got to really come together more as a team. The Democrats are really excellent at that, and the republicans better learn.”

Jo Horvath is president of the Seacoast Republican Women. As she conferred with an Ayotte staffer to ensure campaign signs would be delivered for local Republicans to hold outside polling places, Horvath said she has no doubt Kelly Ayotte deserves reelection  but does worry it might not happen.

“I think it’s iffy. I think it’s going to be very close, it’s to be a nail-biter, we’ll see”

All along, Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign for U.S. Senate has been something of a team sport. The final weekend before the election was no different.

“So you should not feel alone as you go out and knock on doors, you should know that my 85-year-old mother has already done a couple of packets this morning,” Hassan, a Democrat, told a crowded field organizing office Saturday afternoon.

Aside from her family, though, Hassan’s also had plenty of help this year from the Democrats’ coordinated campaign – a concentrated effort between the state party and the Clinton campaign to boost candidates, including Hassan, all the way down the ticket.

Hassan’s also been the benefactor of political support from the likes of big-name advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, which have singled out New Hampshire’s senate race as one of this year’s most important.

“It’s not by accident that I’m closing out the 2016 campaign up here in New Hampshire trying to help you all win it," Emily’s List founder, Ellen Malcolm, told a few dozen volunteers getting ready to knock on doors in Derry. “Because I want this state to go for Hillary. I want this state to go for Maggie, and Annie and Carol, and the governor and I think we can bring it home. But in my heart of hearts, I really really hope that you make sure the U.S. Senate has Maggie Hassan in it.”

And Hassan welcomed the extra help, knowing this contest – one of the most competitive and expensive of any in the nation – would likely come down to the wire.

“We always knew this race was going to be close," Hassan said. "So at the end of the day my focus is just in making sure that people understand what the clear choice is, and what my opponent’s Washington record has been.”

Like her opponent, Hassan tried to fit in facetime with patrons of Dunkin' Donuts, diners and Market Baskets across the state, reminding voters one last time to get out to the polls on Tuesday — even if those voters said they weren't planning to vote for her.

“I really want you to get in," one shopper shouted her way, before asking for a photo, during one of two quick Market Basket stops in Nashua.

“Well we’re working as hard as we can to make that happen,” Hassan replied.

As Hassan caught up with the breakfast crowds in Manchester Sunday morning, one sentiment was almost universal — whether she was talking to supporters, undecideds or people who readily told her they were backing her opponent.

“So your big day is Tuesday?” Denise Chretien asked, as Hassan approached her family's table at Chez Vachon.

“Yeah, I think everybody’s big day is Tuesday,” Hassan replied.

“Finally we’ll get it over," Chretien said, laughing.

Hassan, for her part, conceded to some voters that she's wondered if maybe it would be better for everyone if the campaign season was shorter — she was ready for Tuesday to be over, too.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
Casey McDermott is a senior news editor at New Hampshire Public Radio. Throughout her time as an NHPR reporter and editor, she has worked with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.