Cavanaugh downplays anti-Trump sentiment in special election landslideBy DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader
July 27. 2017 9:58PM
MANCHESTER — A local labor leader’s landslide victory in a special election here had his party leaders asserting it was a harbinger of a rising blue tide, inspired in part by President Donald Trump.
Senator-elect Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, downplayed talk of being part of any larger national narrative.
Still, as he spoke about the race during an interview while getting his family car serviced Thursday, his voicemail box landed a message from Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Democrats far beyond state Senate District 16 were watching, and hoping, that less than 10,000 ballots cast in mid-July might signal a trend.
Cavanaugh, who is also a Manchester alderman, defeated former Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, in a GOP-leaning district, 55 percent to 44 percent. He was surprised by the margin of victory. He attributes the success to party support and volunteers who knocked on some 30,000 doors.
“It wasn’t, ‘Hey, we’re going to show the President,’” Cavanaugh said. “I think people are listening. They care about police and fire, education, this drug crisis.”
The opioid, fentanyl and heroin epidemic — and the state’s response to it — was one of the top concerns he heard on the campaign trail.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a 2016 presidential hopeful, and members of the all-Democrat congressional delegation helped promote Cavanaugh’s campaign.
The Senate seat vacancy occurred when Sen. Scott McGilvray died in March. He was a Democrat, and like Cavanaugh, a local labor leader. McGilvray served as president of the National Education Association of NH. Cavanaugh is a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Manchester Local 2320.
Union supporters rallied behind his campaign. Donors to his campaign included the American Federation of Teachers, IBEW 490, and N.H. AFL-CIO.
District 16 covers Manchester wards 1, 2, and 12, and Bow, Candia, Dunbarton, and Hooksett.
Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Cavanaugh’s win puts his party on course to reclaim the state Senate in 2018.
“This loss is a stunning repudiation of the reckless Trump-Sununu agenda,” Buckley said in a statement. “It should serve as a huge wakeup call to New Hampshire Republicans, Gov. Sununu, and Mayor Gatsas. They poured everything they had into this race and still came up short.”
Jeanie Forrester, chairwoman of the Republican State Committee, said the GOP continues to rebuild its organization for long-term victory in New Hampshire. “The people of the district voted, and with massive out-of-state support, the Democrats managed to hold onto a state Senate seat,” she said.
The state Senate now has 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Cavanaugh, who will not be sworn in until mid-August, or at the Governor and Executive Council meeting Aug. 23, said he looks forward to working with everyone, regardless of party, to get things done.
In the interview, Cavanaugh said he definitely heard some constituents who were critical of Trump. But he adds that the special election was “kind of the only game in town” this July. “I guess I’m just humbled by it, too,” he said.