In the race to replace late House Speaker Dick Hinch, Republican Bill Boyd took home the vacant state representative seat during Tuesday’s near-record turnout special election in Merrimack.
In a tight race that garnered more than $75,000 in campaign funds from candidates and special interest groups, Boyd faced off against Democrat Wendy Thomas and Independent Stephen Hollenberg, a member of the American Solidarity Party.
Boyd, who was endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu, secured 2,531 votes compared with Thomas’ 2,144 votes and Hollenberg’s 104 votes.
Hinch, a Republican and seven-term member of the House, died Dec. 9, 2020, which was about one week after he was sworn in as speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Hinch was on the minds of all of the candidates on Tuesday as they held signs outside of the town’s three polling locations and greeted voters. Boyd described Hinch as a good friend who could never be replaced.
“Concord needs a sobering voice right now,” Boyd said on Tuesday, pledging to be a responsible and respected voice for Merrimack residents.
Boyd said Hinch was always personable and full of smiles. “I have tried to be all of that today for voters,” he said while standing outside of the polls at Merrimack Middle School.
Boyd said he received a gracious reception and positive feedback from voters during election day.
“I am just humbled by all of the support, and I sincerely mean it when I use the word ‘humbled,’” Boyd said. “We have been working hard since I got into this race. It has been a 15-week marathon run.”
Boyd, a Merrimack town councilor for 10 years, said he had a unique feeling of calmness throughout the day on Tuesday, adding the work was done and the fate of the race was in the hands of voters.
Town officials said they ran out of 4,000 machine ballots on Tuesday evening because of the tremendous voter turnout and had to temporarily utilize paper ballots. Results were delayed slightly as volunteers worked to count about 900 paper ballots.
Lynn Christensen, town moderator, said there were 4,813 ballots cast for the special election.
“This is fabulous,” Christensen said of the turnout, which she expected to be closer to 3,000 voters.
Boyd’s opponent, Thomas, a former state representative from 2018-2020, has been active in helping to remediate Merrimack’s drinking water and trying to protect citizens from PFAS exposure. She is currently involved in presenting a PFAS transition plan for the Biden administration to New Hampshire’s delegates.
“I’ve talked to thousands of voters at this point, and nearly everyone is ready for a leader who will fight for clean water and affordable health care,” Thomas said on Tuesday from the polls.
Thomas, the executive director for the New Hampshire Challenge, where she works to advocate for those with disabilities and their families, is one of a handful of “water warriors” who have been instrumental in trying to clean up contamination first detected at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack.
“I am optimistic at the turnout. It’s good to see so much involvement,” she said on Tuesday. “I know the issues we’re talking about matter to the people of Merrimack.”
The remaining opponent, Hollenberg, who stayed home Tuesday to care for his three children, said he was proud of the campaign and the race.
“I think we represented the American Solidarity Party well, and that we did it respectfully,” he said, adding he kept his campaign local and grassroots.