While nationally Democratic leaders are cursing under their breath about lost opportunities, this wasn’t a blue ripple in the Granite State on Tuesday.
It was a blue riptide.
Popular one-term Gov. Chris Sununu was one of the few able to come to the surface and avoid being taken out to sea by the undertow.
Simply put, 2018 for the Democrats became 2010 in reverse for the Republicans.
Back then, former Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen lost to Democrat John Lynch, who won a record-setting fourth straight term.
But Stephen’s impressive 46 percent showing cut right off at belt level the coattails Lynch had been using to deliver for Democrats all the way down the ballot.
The Tea Party fervor in President Obama’s midterm helped install movement conservative Bill O’Brien as the new Speaker of the House, a 5-0 Republican majority on the Executive Council and 3-1 majorities in both legislative branches.
Lynch issued a record number of vetoes to GOP-pushed legislation and many observers believed that conflict led to Lynch deciding eight years on top was enough.
Fast-forward eight years and Sununu wakes up to Democratic majorities in the House, the Senate and on the Executive Council.
The House-flipping part isn’t even top of the front page news anymore.
In the past five elections, the party in control in the 400-person House has been tossed out four times.
But this is the first clean sweep for the Democrats under the governor’s race since 2006.
Take a look at social media after the last debate and you would find plenty of condemnation for Democratic nominee for governor Molly Kelly’s performance.
Most of it was coming from Democratic regulars, a number of whom lamented in advance that Kelly had won big her primary over former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand.
But Kelly set a record as a Democratic challenger, raising $1.3 million to try to make Sununu only the second governor in a century to be denied a second term.
Given Sununu’s strong standing, don’t expect to see any of the Monday morning quarterbacking to surface publicly for a while.
But some high-profile Republicans were pointing at the corner office occupant.
They maintain while the Democrats had more than two dozen coordinated campaign offices and ran as a team up and down the ballot, Sununu didn’t do enough to sell the entire GOP ticket.
The ink is hardly dry on all the ballots and already the race is on for the next chairman of the Republican State Committee.
Trump New Hampshire Co-Chairman and ex-state representative Steve Stepanek is moving closer and closer to making a bid for the post when it comes up in January.
Many party regulars credit Wayne MacDonald of Derry for stepping up and agreeing to take the helm when Jeannie Forrester of Moultonborough abruptly pulled out to take a municipal government job.
But like Forrester, MacDonald struggled to financially compete with the money machine that is the New Hampshire Democratic Party and that’s one of Stepanek’s biggest assets.
Don’t expect Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, to accept quietly the stunning defeat of House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, after 36 years in the Legislature.
Time and again Bradley said Chandler delivered for the North Country, most recently standing up to get Sununu to support subsidies for the biomass industry.
“Gene Chandler goes shoulder to shoulder with me to save 1,000 jobs in the biomass industry and they showed him the door. What does that remind you of,” Bradley asked this reporter.
He was referring to Bradley’s service in the U.S. House successfully fighting the recommendation of the Base Closure Commission to mothball the New Hampshire/Maine shipyard.
“At the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard saved 5,000 jobs and the union came out against me,” Bradley recalled.
Manchester Republican Ed Sapienza saw firsthand one way for him to be left standing.
A lifelong Democrat, Sapienza changed his party affiliation to the GOP last spring to run for Hillsborough County Register of Deeds.
When the Democrats failed to field a candidate, Sapienza got some of his Manchester area friends to write in his name and he secured both primary nominations.
Pull the ballots and you see how shrewd that move proved to be.
In rock-ribbed Republican Merrimack for example, Sapienza the Democrat got 500 more votes than Sapienza the Republican did.
“I get the feeling some people resented it and saw it as my trying to have it both ways, but I’m glad I did it,” Sapienza said.
Meanwhile, Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan, a Nashua Republican, was turned out by newcomer Michael Conlon and venerable Hillsborough County Sheriff Jim Hardy had to wait until late Wednesday to know for sure he had barely hung on.
Let’s look into the numbers to determine how the Democrats won the state Senate for the first time in a decade.
Here’s a thumbnail of the five key races where the party in power got the boot.
District 1: Unknown Franconia Republican David Starr, with no money and no party support, beats former Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield.
Woodburn faces a trial next month on domestic violence-related charges brought by his former fiancee, who had been chairperson of Coos County Democrats.
To survive, Woodburn needed big wins in Berlin, Gorham and Milan and they were all much too small.
Starr won by 112 votes in Dalton, where Woodburn used to live, and crushed the incumbent Democrat in Jefferson (nearly 3-1) and Littleton (405 votes).
District 11: Most political insiders, including yours truly, thought state Rep. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, would run a competitive losing race to Senate Finance Chairman Gary Daniels, R-Milford.
Instead, Chandley cruised to win by more than 1,000 votes, taking by 800 all four towns she won, led by Amherst.
District 12: This one is the least surprising, given the Nashua and suburbs district has gone back and forth between the parties.
Two-term Republican Sen. Kevin Avard of Nashua lost to former Brookline state representative Melanie Levesque by 146 votes.
Nashua held the key here, as Levesque rolled up a 1,275-vote win in those wards to overcome losing big in Rindge and New Ipswich.
District 23: One-term Sandown Republican Rep. Bill Gannon lost by 106 votes to Brentwood Democrat Jon Morgan.
This also started out looking like a safe GOP district and Gannon won seven of nine towns.
Morgan won his hometown by 51 votes but Exeter made this one happen, giving the Democrat a 2,300-vote margin there.
District 24: This rematch was all that observers could hope for. This time, ex-Rye Democratic State Rep. Tom Sherman wound up on top by about 1,800 votes over New Castle Republican Sen. Dan Innis.
The incumbent did well in some towns but his undoing was the big losses in Rye (800), Hampton (700) and Stratham (500).
There are some House Republican hopefuls who broke through despite the big Democratic gains.
Former House Majority Leader and 2016 candidate for the 2nd Congressional District Jack Flanagan of Brookline won back the House seat he left two years ago in Hillsborough County.
Former state Sen. and retired district court judge Ned Gordon, a Bristol Republican, returned to his roots, getting back the House seat he had started his political career in about a quarter-century ago.
Earlier this year Gordon hit the mandatory retirement age of 70 and left the bench.
The depleted GOP ranks could surely use the ranks of these two over the next two years.
Don’t assume Gov. Chris Sununu is going to spend the next two years always feuding with Democrats who hold all the other keys.
For example, Senate Democratic Leader and President-to-be Donna Soucy of Manchester had a decent working relationship with Sununu, even while she was in the minority.
Sununu’s proposals to invest in the workforce are one good example of where the two leaders can quickly find common ground on a high profile topic.
There were other prominent House Republican casualties on Tuesday, along with House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett.
There was House Public Works and Highways Chairman Mark McConkey, R-Freedom, House Assistant Majority Leader Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, Deputy Majority Whip Bill Ohm, R-Nashua, and four-term Rep. Carl Seidel, also R-Nashua.
You don’t need a hand to count all the House Democrats who came up short, but one that was a disappointment to activists was Laconia Rep. Phil Spagnuolo, one of the 2017 special election success stories. He had spoken of how his struggles as a former addict had led him to become a leader in the recovery community and eventually run for office.
This was the first election for U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in which there was not a President or a U.S. Senate candidate on the ballot above her.
As a result, she was at the top of the ticket, especially during the primary when Manchester Democrat Chris Pappas was trying to get past 11 rivals on the way to his impressive 1st District victory.
Kuster said she could see this election coming her party’s way.
”We worked really hard with fantastic candidates; all summer long they were knocking on doors,” Kuster said.
”This didn’t come right out of the blue. You could feel it.”
Kuster will have some decisions to make as the newly minted U.S. House Democratic majority organizes.
She’s got every right to expect a promotion and she will get a subcommittee chairmanship on the House Veterans Affairs Committee dealing with oversight if she stays put.
For the past two years she’s been the ranking Democrat.
But as a four-term incumbent and someone who worked with Democratic leadership committees, it’s reasonable to think Kuster may be offered something better.
”I am in a holding pattern and will have to make any decisions on that. I’ll talk to my colleagues to see where is my highest and best use — health care, energy, environmental policy as examples,” Kuster said.
”I want to serve the people in the 2nd District but be in the most productive spot.”
U.S. Rep.-Elect Chris Pappas had said during the campaign that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was an interest of his.
As a rising star in the first-in-the-nation primary state, Pappas might even get a better offer.
Over in the U.S. Senate, the Republicans grew their ranks, but first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, will actually move up the seniority ladder with the defeat of some colleagues.
She too could see new opportunities open up for her.
Despite defeats, two congressional candidates could be the ones to beat should they want to sign up again in 2020.
State Rep. Steve Negron, R-Nashua, sounds like he’s ready to go at Kuster again two years from now.
He broke 40 percent, which was important and not bad when you consider she had raised 25 times more donations than Negron did in the race.
In the 1st District, Eddie Edwards of Dover impressed many watching the campaign. You have to remember he got more votes last Tuesday than former Congressman Frank Guinta, R-NH, in winning his last term in 2014.