Hassan Wins Primary; Dems Look To General Election

Sep 12, 2012

Democrat Maggie Hassan turned what was expected to be a tight race with fellow former state senator Jackie Cilley into and 15 point romp.

The crowd chanted, “Maggie Maggie Maggie.”

And when she took the stage at her victory party last night Hassan wasted no time in making the same argument she’s made all election long: She will act as a check on a republican legislature she considers extreme, and that she sees the man who now occupies the corner office a role model.

“We can continue in the direction of Governor John Lynch, bringing people together to move NH forward or we can go in the direction of speaker Bill O’Brien and the current legislature, where the needs of middle class families take a back seat to an extreme social agenda.”

Hassan ran strongest where it tends to matter most, vote-rich Hillsborough and Rockingham counties. Her campaign was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, and Washington-based advocacy groups like Emily’s list and the Human right campaign. Hassan also has the support of much of the local democratic establishment, including former party chairmen, members of congress, and top staffers to both Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor John Lynch. They all cheered with gusto last night, when Hassan broached the defining issue in this primary, broad-based taxes.

“Let me be very clear: I will veto an income or a sales tax.”

For democrats who see it as a given that a having gubernatorial nominee open to a sales or income tax will drag the entire ticket, Hassan’s defeat of Jackie Cilley spelled relief. Ricia McMahon is a former state rep from Sutton.

“It would have been a difficult slog, more explanation, more defending of issues.”

Which isn’t to say taxes and spending won’t still be the central line of attack against Hassan by Republicans.  The campaign of GOP nominee Ovide Lamontagne was pointing reporters to  Hassan’s vote for a tax on LLCs – a tax since repealed -- before Hassan had even finished her victory speech. But to hear Democratic party chairman Ray Buckley tell it, not having to wage a pitched battle over broad-based taxes will likely help every democrat on the ballot.

“Will it provide Maggie with the ability to have some coattails? Probably true.” 

Many top democrats also thinks it will make it easier to take the fight to republicans, and, in particular, to highlight Ovide Lamontagne’s stances on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, both of which Lamontagne staunchly oppose, as well as his views on health care and education. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen beat Lamontagne the last time he ran for governor in 1996 by casting him as too extreme. Buckley says that’s the plan this time, too.

“I think it’s very clear that the issue this year is just like it’s going to be in 1996, when Ovide Lamontagne was deemed too extreme by the voters of NH.”

We’ll find out when general election voters get their say in eight weeks.