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Kuster beats incumbent Bass in 2nd congressional district race

  • Annie Kuster kisses her campaign volunteer, Frank Vinciguerra  as she celebrated with her suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Annie Kuster kisses her campaign volunteer, Frank Vinciguerra as she celebrated with her suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Annie Kuster suppporters cheer as Kuster takes the stage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord; Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Kuster defeated Republican incumbent Charlie Bass to become the next congresswoman in New Hampshire's 2nd district.<br/><br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Annie Kuster suppporters cheer as Kuster takes the stage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord; Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Kuster defeated Republican incumbent Charlie Bass to become the next congresswoman in New Hampshire's 2nd district.


    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Voters wait in line outside the West Street Ward House in Concord on Tuesday night, November 6, 2012, before polls close in the 2012 elections.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Voters wait in line outside the West Street Ward House in Concord on Tuesday night, November 6, 2012, before polls close in the 2012 elections.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Annie Kuster kisses her campaign volunteer, Frank Vinciguerra  as she celebrated with her suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Annie Kuster suppporters cheer as Kuster takes the stage at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord; Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Kuster defeated Republican incumbent Charlie Bass to become the next congresswoman in New Hampshire's 2nd district.<br/><br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Voters wait in line outside the West Street Ward House in Concord on Tuesday night, November 6, 2012, before polls close in the 2012 elections.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Annie Kuster celebrates with her family and suppporters after winning the 2nd Congressional District race, at the Capitol Center for the Arts; Tuesday, November 6, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

By electing large numbers of Democrats, Annie Kuster told hundreds of supporters chanting her name and ringing cow bells at the Capitol Center for the Arts last night, New Hampshire has built a “firewall” for President Obama.

“With your votes you said, loud and clear, that New Hampshire wants to move forward,” Kuster, a Hopkinton Democract, said after winning a rematch with Congressman Charlie Bass yesterday.

Kuster narrowly lost to Bass, a Peterborough Republican, two years ago. He was seeking an eighth term as the congressman from the 2nd District.

As of midnight, Kuster led Bass 52 percent to 44 percent with 64 percent of the precincts voting.

Flanked by her two sons and husband, Brad, Kuster told the crowd she respected Bass “a great deal” and that she would work in Congress for civil rights, equal rights, women’s reproductive rights and protect Medicare and Social Security.

“I will bring the same grit and passion to Congress that you brought to this campaign,” she said, thanking her volunteers.

She began her victory 10-minute speech at about 11:30 p.m., before Bass had even made his concession remarks.

Staffers at the Bass campaign at their party at the Grappone Center had not been quick to concede the race, waiting for the results in a few wards to trickle in. Campaign spokesman Scott Tranchemontage maintained that Salem, Pelham and Windham could make the difference.

But around 11:15 p.m., it became clear that Bass could not make up ground on Kuster. Around 11:30 p.m., Bass entered the room to applause and offered a speech in which he touted bipartisanship and a wished Kuster a smooth transition.

“I want to assure her that I will do everything I possibly can to make sure there is a very smooth and successful transition from my office to hers,” he told the crowd of about 25 people.

Bass also referenced his loss in 2006 to Democrat Paul Hodes as an example of a successful transition of power. “A country that can, as I said six years ago, have a change of power that’s so smooth and so graceful – it’s what makes America strong.”

Bass had served six terms, from 1995 to 2007, and then won the seat back in 2010. He did not say whether he would consider running in the future but rather said he will work on a transition and discuss his future options with his family.

The speeches marked the final round in a rematch that began soon after Kuster’s loss in 2010.

Starting in late summer, Bass tried to paint Kuster as a hyper-partisan liberal who’d vote in lockstep with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi. His television ads featured an actress tapdancing in outfits that bore striking resemblances to Kuster’s wardrobe.

In TV and on the radio, Bass hammered away at her leadership of a Super PAC in the late 1990s that advocated for a statewide income tax.

Then in September, Kuster grabbed a camera from a Bass staffer who had been folllowing her, and then said “F him” about the man. Bass and outside groups ran the footage from the incident and said Kuster didn’t have the temperament to be a congresswoman.

Kuster, in turn, ran ads championing her work as a lobbyist bringing affordable medicine to New Hampshire residents and criticizing Bass as a corrupt politician.

The race became one of the most competitive in the country.

Outside groups, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Republican National Congressional Campaign Committee and several Super PACs, spent about $5.5 million on advertising and other communications into the race.

House Majority Pac, which advocates for liberal candidates, issued a release last night, before Kuster even appeared at her own party, saying it had spent $600,000 advocating on her behalf.

The $5.5 million was on top of the money the candidates themselves spent, with Kuster outraising and outspending Bass by a wide margin.

This time, Kuster said she worked closely with the Obama for America campaign to coordinate canvassing, phone-banking and get-out-the vote efforts.

For 96-year-old Democrat Patricia Robitaille of Windham, that coordination made all the difference. She wanted to vote for Obama and Kuster – she liked what Kuster said on TV – but she can’t drive.

“I felt so bad I couldn’t come (to the polls),” Robitaille said. “These people here walked to my house and took me,” she said, referencing the two Obama volunteers who stood next to her during an interview.

Staffers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listened in on Kuster’s staff’s weekly calls, Kuster said recently. And – with the exception of her Concord headquarters – her campaign shares office space with President Obama’s, from Claremont to Plymouth to Littleton.

Kuster also doubled-down on the southern part of the state, where voters in 2010 cast thousands of ballots that would cause her to lose.

So in the last five weeks of the campaign, Kuster said she’d spend five of every seven days in towns including Amherst, Milford, New Boston, Hollis, Nashua, Salem, Windham, Hudson and Pelham.

The effort worked on Diane Brooks-Sherry, a Windham independent who voted for Bass in 2010 but Kuster this time.

She said she respects Bass’s “belief in his own positions,” but she doesn’t agree with a lot of them. Moreover, he might be a moderate for the Republican Party, she said, but the Republican Party isn’t moderate enough for her.

“It is worth a shot to give Annie a shot,” Brooks-Sherry said.

Kuster told supporters the weekend before the election that a victory over Bass would have an element of personal vindication. In 1980, her mother, Susan McLane, also for the 2nd Congressional seat in a primary against Bass.

Both Bass and Kuster lost that race to Judd Gregg, but Kuster was her mother’s personal driver in that race, and this year, her own son Zach was her personal driver.

His eyes welled up as her watched his mother.

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)

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