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March 12. 2014 1:08AM

UPDATE: Kenney, state GOP declare victory in Executive Council race


JOE KENNEY 

CONCORD — Former state Sen. Joe Kenney’s victory Tuesday to fill the Executive Council seat left vacant by Ray Burton’s death keeps the District 1 seat in Republican hands.

Kenney, who will become part of the GOP 3-2 minority on the council, thanked supporters.

“We appreciate the vote of support and look forward to carrying on the Burton legacy of constituent service,” Kenney said early Wednesday. “That’s what this election has been all about. It’s not been about ideology. It’s been about helping people and that’s what resonated with the voters.”

Kenney’s Democratic opponent, Mike Cryans, conceded the race later Wednesday morning and congratulated Kenney.

“A few minutes ago I left a message for Joe Kenney and wished him the best of luck on the council,” Cryans said in a statement. “I want to thank him for running a hard-fought campaign, thank all the people who volunteered and supported either of us, and the Burton family for their support.”

Kenney will join Democrats Debora Pignatelli, Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas as well as Republican Chris Sununu.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said she hopes for bipartisan cooperation.
“I would like to congratulate Joe Kenney on his election as Executive Councilor for District 1,” Hassan said in a statement. “I also commend Mike Cryans for his efforts and for participating in New Hampshire’s robust democratic process. Serving in the seat held for over three decades by Ray Burton is a special responsibility, and I look forward to working with Councilor-elect Kenney to achieve bipartisan progress and to ensure that the people and communities of northern New Hampshire are well-represented in Concord.”

For the first time since 1981, someone other than Burton will occupy the seat, which he rarely left unfilled while recording a nearly perfect attendance record during his decades on the Executive Council.

Burton won for the first time in 1976, then lost in a primary to Paul Mayette in 1978, before reclaiming the seat in 1980 and keeping it until his death last November.

On Tuesday night, Cryans, a Grafton County commissioner, discussed his chances for victory.

“We always knew this would be a challenging race, a Democrat has not occupied this seat in at least my lifetime,” Cryans said in a statement. “We are waiting for the last several towns to report their results, and ensure that every voter is heard.”

Kenney said he is planning to attend today’s Governor and Executive Council meeting and hopes the Secretary of State’s Office will certify the results and swear him in.

State GOP spokesman Ryan Williams said early Wednesday that vote tallies showed Kenney ahead by more than 1,000 votes.

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn said the state’s North Country will be “well-represented” by Kenney and called the victory a sign of things to come.

“I want to congratulate Joe Kenney on running an excellent campaign that focused on the traditional New Hampshire principles of small government and limited taxation,” she said. “Joe proved to voters that he was the best candidate to fill Ray Burton’s enormous shoes and continue his tradition of outstanding constituent service.

“This upset victory should serve as an indication that New Hampshire Republicans are extremely energized and on the verge of enormous victories in November,” she said.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said this “is just the beginning for Mike Cryans. The North Country and its people have seen measurable improvements in their lives thanks to Mike’s dedicated work as a County Commissioner alongside Ray Burton.

“For more than half a century this has been a Republican stronghold,” Buckley said. “Mike’s campaign proved that is no longer true, outperforming the last 20 years of Democratic campaigns for this seat. These results show that even in Republican-leaning districts, New Hampshire Democrats are poised for victory in 2014.”

Kenney said the campaign featured a lot of driving during the dead of winter in the state’s geographically largest Executive Council district, which encompasses the entire northern half of the state.

“It was a lot of tough roads ... but it was a good campaign,” Kenney said.

Cryans received several endorsements during the race, including from Gov. Maggie Hassan and members of Burton’s family. Kenney also received his share of endorsements, including from the state’s top Republican, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.



Previous story follows:
 
CONCORD - Joe Kenney declared victory early Wednesday morning in the race to fill the Executive Council District 1 seat left vacant since longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton died last year.

"We appreciate the vote of support and look forward to carrying on the Burton legacy of constituent service," Kenney, a Republican former state senator, said at 1 a.m. Wednesday. "That's what this election has been all about. It's not been about ideology. It's been about helping people and that's what resonated with the voters."

As of 1 a.m. Wednesday, his opponent, Democrat Mike Cryans, hadn't conceded, saying Tuesday night he wanted to wait for official results, which may not be declared until later today.

"I want to thank Joe Kenney for a hard fought race, everyone who came out to vote or volunteered on either of our campaigns, and the Burton family for their support," Cryans said in a statement released at 11 p.m. Tuesday. "We always knew this would be a challenging race, a Democrat has not occupied this seat in at least my lifetime. We are waiting for the last several towns to report their results, and ensure that every voter is heard."

Cryans could not be reached Tuesday night or early Wednesday for direct comment.

Kenney said he is planning to attend today's Governor and Executive Council meeting and hopes the Secretary of State's Office will certify the results and swear him in.

"I have every intention to be there," he said of today's session, which starts at 10 a.m.

Cryans, a Grafton County Commissioner, was pressured early Wednesday to concede by the GOP in the form of direct statements and on social media.

State GOP spokesman Ryan Williams said at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday that vote tallies showed Kenney ahead by more than 1,000 votes.

"Mike Cryans has lost the race for Executive Council," state GOP spokesman Ryan Williams said. "He is losing by an insurmountable margin at this point. He should put the interests of the Executive Council ahead of his political interests and concede defeat immediately."

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn said the state's North Country will be "well-represented" by Kenney and called the victory a sign of things to come.

"I want to congratulate Joe Kenney on running an excellent campaign that focused on the traditional New Hampshire principles of small government and limited taxation," she said. "Joe proved to voters that he was the best candidate to fill Ray Burton's enormous shoes and continue his tradition of outstanding constituent service.

"This upset victory should serve as an indication that New Hampshire Republicans are extremely energized and on the verge of enormous victories in November," she said.

On social media, state Republicans called for Cryans to concede the race.

"Quit cryin' Cryans and concede. You know you lost," the state Republican Party tweeted at 12:03 a.m. Wednesday. "tell your guy @MikeCryans to concede with dignity. Numbers not there. You know it. We're prepared to call it now," the state GOP tweeted a minute later.

If Kenney officially is declared the winner, Democrats would still hold a 3-2 advantage on the Executive Council, with Debora Pignatelli, Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas. Executive Councilor Chris Sununu is a Republican.

Kenney said the campaign featured a lot of driving during the dead of winter in the state's geographically largest Executive Council district, which encompasses the entire northern half of the state.

"It was a lot of tough roads ... but it was a good campaign," Kenney said.

For the first time since 1981, someone other than Burton will occupy the seat, which he rarely left unfilled while recording a nearly perfect attendance record during his decades on the Executive Council.

Burton won for the first time in 1976, then lost in a primary to Paul Mayette in 1978, before reclaiming the seat in 1980 and keeping it until his death last November.

Cryans received several endorsements during the race, including from Gov. Maggie Hassan and members of Burton's family. Kenney also received his share of endorsements, including from the state's top Republican, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

tbuckland@unionleader.com



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