MANCHESTER — New Hampshire’s hard-fought US Senate race was so close that strategists with both campaigns expected it to head to a recount.
After the most expensive political campaign in the state’s history, US Senator Kelly Ayotte and Governor Maggie Hassan were tied at 48 percent each, with 83 percent of results reported, according to the Associated Press. This would mark the first recount in a US Senate race in New Hampshire in decades.
More than $100 million was spent in the campaign, which both parties saw as critical in the larger national race for control of the Senate. Democrats entered Election Day needing to flip four seats from Republicans to reach a 50-50 tie in the Senate, and five seats for an outright majority. In New Hampshire, candidates can request a recount as long as the margin is less than 20 percent. Sources with both campaigns said they expect the trailing candidate to request a recount, given the close margin.
“We’re very upbeat about where this race is, but we will not know tonight,” Ayotte told the crowd. “We want to make sure we do this the New Hampshire way, where we have every vote in. Every vote matters.”
After 12:30 a.m., Hassan announced her campaign believes she has a small lead, with many votes yet to be counted. “I hope everyone can get some rest tonight and we’ll have some more good news to report in the morning,” she said.
The presidential race in New Hampshire was similarly close, with fewer than 1,000 votes separating the nominees, and 84 percent of precincts in.
Ayotte had kept Trump at arm’s length during the campaign, saying repeatedly she would vote for him but not endorse him — until news broke of a 2005 tape showing Trump’s crude comments about sexually assaulting women. Ayotte withdrew her support, saying she would write in Trump’s running mate, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, for president.
With the split, there was no mention of Ayotte at Trump’s rallies in the waning days of the race. Still, there were those who pointed to Ayotte’s decision to dump Trump as evidence that she votes her conscience, not simply her party.
Peter Jobin, 54, of Manchester, was the kind of ticket-splitter Ayotte was hoping to attract after rejecting Trump. Jobin said in an interview outside his polling station that he cast his presidential ballot for Clinton, whom he sees as “more presidential.”
“I don’t like the way Donald Trump talks,” he said. “I have five daughters.”
But he supported Ayotte in the Senate race, largely due to her work as state attorney general. He was impressed with her aggressive prosecution of the shooter who killed Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006.
Another ticket-splitter, Cathy White, 46, of Bow, said she “voted a mix of Democrat and Republican.” She picked Trump for president, Hassan for Senate, and the Democratic nominee for governor, Colin Van Ostern, she said. She voted for Trump in large part because “I just don’t like the Clintons,” and she found the recent federal probes into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail usage unsettling.
But she voted for Hassan because of her stance on women’s health care issues. “I don’t want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned,” she said of the US Supreme Court case that struck down abortion bans.
Republican activist Renee Plummer stood pensively watching television at the GOP victory party, waiting for the results. Plummer, who hosted just about all of the Republican candidates at her Portsmouth office during the primary, did not support Trump but voted for Ayotte and the GOP nominee for governor, Chris Sununu. Plummer said her focus now is on uniting the country.
“I’m afraid there’s going to be riots. This is what I’m nervous about,” she said. “We have to heal the country.”
Teresa Alexander of Hooksett, 75, said she feels a kinship with Hassan, who, like her, raised a disabled child. Hassan’s son has cerebral palsy. “I kind of relate to her,” she said.
It has been said that all politics is local. In Joseph McKay’s case, it was on Tuesday. The 47-year-old Manchester voter supported Ayotte because she “had helped out the Portsmouth Navy Yard and done a lot of good things for veterans.”
Adam Radloff, 27, of Manchester, cast an anti-Trump vote for Clinton, but backed Hassan. “I am pro-environment and for women’s choice,” he said. “Maggie Hassan is a clear choice.”
Another point of friction
Ayotte said she was doing her job, and the best course was to wait “for people to weigh in” on the Supreme Court by voting in the presidential election. Ayotte also did what most of her Republicans colleagues did not: She met with Garland. In the end, the Garland debate did not seem to move the needle for either candidate.
Democrats campaigned as a united front, with coordinated campaign offices and shared volunteers between the Hassan and Clinton campaigns.
But the party’s nominee for governor, Van Ostern, trailed Republican Sununu by a few percentage points with more than 84 percent of precincts reporting. The winner will be the youngest governor in America.
In New Hampshire’s First District, US Representative Frank Guinta, a Republican, and Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, remained in a tight race, with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, the fourth time in as many years they have faced off — a state record.
In the Second District, US Representative Annie Kuster, fended off a challenge from Republican Jim Lawrence. It was the only major race in the state with a declared winner as of early Wednesday morning.