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Kuster nabs Congressional seat

  • Republican U.S.Rep. Charlie Bass, left, shakes hands with New Hampshire House candidate Peter Leishman, a Democrat, before heading into the Peterborough Town House to cast his vote on Tuesday.
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, left, talks with Kevin Hodges of Goffstown, a supporter of state Senate candidate Lee Nyquist, outside the Peterborough Town House on Tuesday before heading inside to vote.
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass studies his ballot before turning it in on Tuesday.
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass and his wife, Lisa, head toward the ballot box to turn in their votes on Tuesday at the Peterborough Town House.
  • U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, left, greets his brother-in-law, Larry Cloud, at the polls in Peterborough on Tuesday, as Bass's sister, Kitty Cloud, looks on.

The region will be losing its hometown Congressman, after Hopkinton Democrat Annie Kuster defeated Peterborough’s Charlie Bass on Tuesday after a contentious campaign, capturing Bass’s District 2 seat.

Bass, a Republican who has served seven terms in Congress, narrowly beat Kuster two years ago. But this time around, Bass got just 45 percent of the vote, losing to Kuster by a margin of 161,o37 to 145,769. In the Monadnock region, the tally was much closer — Bass got 11,510 votes to Kuster’s 11,748.

Bass lost his hometown, which has become a Democratic stronghold in recent years, taking 1,387 votes to Kuster’s 2,277. Kuster also won in Antrim, Dublin, Francestown (by five votes), Greenville, Greenfield, Hancock, Jaffrey, Lyndeborough, Sharon and Wilton. Bass won Bennington, Mason, New Ipswich, Rindge and Temple.

Kuster was excited about her victory Tuesday, saying it sent a message.

“It shows how a people-powered campaign can bring change to Congress,” she said in a phone interview. “I think it’s about the values we share. Voters are rejecting the notion that tax breaks for the wealthiest will lead to benefits for all of us. They know we can’t afford new tax breaks.”

As she prepares to head to Washington, Kuster, who is an attorney, said a top priority will be working to help the middle class.

“I’ve spent most of my legal career focused on access to education and affordable health care,” she said. “That’s the expertise I bring. I also want to be a strong voice for the small business community here in New Hampshire, and to speak up for students, veterans and seniors. I want to make sure middle-class voices are heard.

Kuster said the election results showed that voters were concerned about the deep cuts in the proposed Ryan budget endorsed by Mitt Romney.

“People aren’t looking for a handout, just a hand up,” she said. “People believe in opportunity, but they want government to be there for them. In some ways, Hurricane Sandy was a reminder that you can’t always go it alone.”

She said tax relief should be focused on the middle class in order get the economy going.

“It’s middle-class consumption that builds demand and gets the economy going. That’s what we saw in the Bill Clinton years,” she said. “I think President Obama’s message was that we tried trickle-down twice. It didn’t work. We need to focus on education innovation in the workplace and infrastructure to make sure we can compete in the 21st century economy.”

Kuster said her background of being raised in a Republican family gave her an appreciation for bipartisanship that she hopes to bring to her new job.

“A great deal of discussion during the campaign was about bipartisanship,” she said. “Voters are tired. An institution with a nine-percent approval rating is one that needs to change.”

She said she was optimistic that members of the new Congress, which will still be controlled by Republicans, will be able to work together more effectively than the current group of representatives.

“The truth is, the closer the House is to parity, the greater the likelihood of compromise,” she said. “When you had the big swing two years ago with the Tea Party, you had that ‘My way or the highway’ approach that wasn’t effective. There’s really a great deal that we can work on together.”

That may be more difficult than some expect, in Bass’s opinion.

“In this election, the red states just got redder and the blue states bluer. That’s not a prescription for bipartisanship,” Bass said in a phone conversation Tuesday.

Bass is planning to return for the lame-duck session of Congress that follows an election. He said it should be a lively several weeks.

“I expect it will be quite active and it’s hard to say what will happen,” he said. “The leadership will have to come up with a way to avoid the pernicious issues of the fiscal cliff that we are facing. The issue will be whether or not the president insists on raising taxes for those making more than $250,000.”

Bass said he had no immediate plans once his term in Congress comes to an end.

“I love the entrepreneurial world,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be involved in business in some way. Frankly, I’m looking forward to returning to pure civilian life. There’s a joy to that.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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