Van Ostern emerges as runaway Executive Council District 2 winner
Democrat Van Ostern of Concord held a two-to-one advantage over Republican attorney Michael Tierney of Hopkinton with about one-third of the vote counted, with a 10,000 vote margin.
Republican incumbent Chris Sununu of Newfields also held a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Bill Duncan of New Castle.
Sununu easily won the Republican towns of Hampton Falls, Seabrook and Epping despite strong showings at the top of the ticket for Democrats.
The District 4 contest between Manchester businessmen Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Bob Burns was solidly in Pappas' corner in early returns without the heavily Republican towns of Londonderry and Bedford reporting.
Pappas won Ward 7 in Manchester, 2,221 to Burns' 1,142 and also won the Republican towns of Loudon, Allenstown and Epsom.
A close contest was also shaping up between incumbent District 5 Councilor David Wheeler of Milford and former councilor Democrat Debra Pignatelli of Nashua, although Nashua results were not in at press time.
The large voter turnout Tuesday slowed returns as many cities and towns held polls open to accommodate the long lines at closing time.
In the District 4 race to replace retiring Republican councilor Raymond Wieczorek of Manchester, Pappas and Burns clashed over the ideology and focus on social issues of the all-Republican council the last two years.
Pappas said people are unhappy with the current council and its political agenda and extreme views, while Burns believes the council did a good job controlling state spending.
Burns and Pappas fought over many issues including Burns' statement that he would be true to his principles and would never compromise or sell out his ideology. Pappas said a councilor needs flexibility to do the job.
They also fought over funding a study of commuter rail along the Merrimack River corridor and whether Planned Parenthood of Northern New England should hold state contracts.
Similar issued dogged the District 5 race, where Wheeler and Pignatelli faced off for the fourth time for the seat.
Both claim to be good watchdogs of taxpayers' money, but differed widely on most other issues, including judicial appointments.
The Dean of the council, District 1 councilor Raymond Burton, R-Bath, was in a race in his rematch with Beth Funicella, D-Jackson in early returns. He held a 3,000-vote advantage with about one-quarter of the precincts reporting.
Incumbent Burton has represented the district that encompasses the top half of the state for 34 years, and challenger Beth Funicella, D-Jackson, says that is the problem.
"It's time for a change, a fresh pair of eyes looking at the problems that have lingered far too long," says Funicella earlier. "I'm giving the voters a choice."
Burton stressed his constituent service helping businesses, organizations and individuals in his district through what appear to many to be the maze of state government. And he emphasized his experience and ability to get things done for his district and its people.
In the District 2 race, the candidates stood in stark contrast in both fiscal and social issues. Van Ostern was endorsed by Planned Parenthood while Tierney fought the organization both in court and before a state agency.
The two had never run for public office before although neither is a novice on the political scene.
The council's actions over the last two years were a central issue in the District 3 race.
Sununu praised the council's ability to work with Democratic Gov. John Lynch, while Duncan claims the council breached the public trust and for the first time in its 300-year history, "disregarded state laws and did its own political business instead of the state's business."
Sununu won the seat in 2010.
Libertarian candidates contested three of the five races.
For the first time in two decades, the political boundaries of the five council district were redrawn.