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Former Sen. John Durkin dies

October 16. 2012 12:38PM

Former U.S. Sen. John Durkin, D-N.H., known for his long-time public service and for being one of the candidates in the closest Senate election in U.S. history back in 1974, died today.

He was 76.

Durkin served in the U.S. Senate from 1975-80. He was graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1959 and Georgetown University Law Center in 1965 and served as an assistant New Hampshire attorney general from 1966 to 1968. He was also the state's insurance commissioner from 1968 to 1973.

His obituary, scheduled to run in tomorrow's New Hampshire Union Leader, indicates he was a long-time resident of Manchester and more recently of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton. He had battled dementia for the past few years, according to his family.

Durkin was born March 29, 1936, in Brookfield, Mass., and was the youngest of four children.

In 1974, he won the Democratic nomination for the Senate but lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Louis Wyman by 355 votes in the Nov. 5 election. Durkin demanded a recount, which resulted in his 10-vote victory.

He was certified the winner, but Wyman demanded another recount which he won by two votes. Gov. Meldrim Thomson appointed Wyman to the seat in December 1974 for the remainder of U.S. Sen. Norris Cotton's term. Durkin, however, appealed the election result to the full U.S. Senate, which has the final say in Senate elections, according to the U.S. Constitution.

Ultimately, a special election was held and on Sept. 16, 1975, Durkin won the seat in a landslide, defeating Wyman by more than 27,000 votes.

Durkin lost his bid for reelection in 1980 when he was defeated by Republican Warren Rudman. He ran for U.S. Senate again in 1990 but lost to Republican Congressman Bob Smith.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., issued a statement Tuesday calling Durkin a longtime personal friend to her and 'to all working men and women in New Hampshire. John was a colorful and authentic public servant, and I will miss his quick wit and dedication to serving the underdog. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Durkin family.'

Gov. John Lynch said Durkin dedicated much of his life to public service.

'He served the people of New Hampshire well at the state level and in the U.S. Senate, where among other issues, he worked to ensure our veterans received the benefits they deserved,' Lynch said in a prepared statement. 'His passing is truly a loss for New Hampshire. My thoughts and prayers, and those of my wife Susan, are with the entire Durkin family at this time.'

Lynch ordered flags be lowered to half staff on the day of Sen. Durkin's funeral.

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