State elections taking shape
Two new senators likely for the region
Andy Sanborn Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Lee Nyquist Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
The Monadnock region will be sending at least two new members to the N.H. Senate this fall, as longtime state Senators Bob Odell and Peter Bragdon have announced that they don’t plan to run for re-election. And many area towns will also be represented by a new member on the Governor’s Council, because Debora Pignatelli is also stepping down.
Meanwhile Andy Sanborn, the Bedford Republican who currently holds the Dist. 9 Senate seat, is likely to face a rematch against Democrat Lee Nyquist of New Boston, the man Sanborn narrowly defeated two years ago.
Candidates intending to run for state office are required to submit nomination papers by June 13. If more than one candidate from the same party files for an office, a primary will be held on Sept. 9. The General Election will be on Nov. 4.
Odell, a New London Republican, has represented Dist. 8 for 12 years. The district includes the Monadnock region towns of Antrim, Bennington and Francestown, as well as Hillsborough and 16 other towns to the north and west.
Odell, who is known as a moderate, said recently that he started thinking about retiring from the Senate shortly after the last election.
“The Senate demands a lot of time,” he said “It used to be three days a week. Now it’s generally five days a week, January through June.”
Odell lived in Lempster before moving to New London last year. He has represented the Monadnock region towns for only two years, picking them up when the Senate was redistricted in 2012.
“Claremont used to represent 25 percent of my district. Now Claremont’s gone and about half the district is new. It’s shifted south and east. Now Weare is my biggest town, followed by Newport and Hillsborough.”
Odell said he doesn’t expect wholesale change in the Senate, where Republicans now hold 13 seats to the 11 held by Democrats. He said the close balance between the two parties makes cooperation a must.
“When it’s a partisan issue, it’s hard to hold all 13 [Republicans] together. But when we divide, it’s been done with good cheer.”
Odell said he thinks pocketbook issues will dominate the next two years in the Senate.
“People don’t feel the economy has really come back,” he said. “We don’t see the growth of industry. We don’t want to do anything to discourage job creation.”
Bragdon, a Milford Republican, holds the District 7 Senate seat. District 7 now contains the towns of Wilton, Amherst, Merrimack and Milford, although many other area towns were in the district prior to the 2012 changes. Bragdon was first elected to the Senate in 2004 and served as president of the Senate in 2013. He resigned as president in September 2013 after questions were raised about possible conflicts of interest because Bragdon had taken a job with Health Trust, the employee benefits pool that provides health insurance coverage to many towns and school districts throughout the state.
When he took the Health Trust job, Bragdon resisted calls for him to resign from the Senate altogether. But now he said he needs to focus on the Health Trust duties.
“As much as I enjoy my work in the Senate, I’ve been offered a two-year contract to serve as executive director for Health Trust,” Bragdon said on Tuesday. “I’ve been able to do both jobs on a short-term basis. On a long-term, it’s impractical. I have to recuse myself on a lot of issues.”
Bragdon said he had enjoyed serving Peterborough and other Monadnock region towns in the years prior to the redistricting, noting that he was especially proud to have played a part in the preservation of land on Temple Mountain as a state reservation.
He said at least three Republicans have talked about running for the District 7 seat and he expects similar enthusiasm among Democrats.
“An open seat always brings a good bit of interest,” he said. “Overall the district has a slight Republican lean. It will be interesting to see who comes forward.”
Andy Sanborn and Lee Nyquist
One current senator who definitely plans to run again is Sanborn, the Bedford Republican who represents District 9. The large district stretches from Bedford in the east to Troy and Richmond in the southwest and includes the towns of Dublin, Greenfield, Hancock, Jaffrey, Lyndeborough, Peterborough, Sharon and Temple.
“It’s my intention to make a formal announcement soon,” Sanborn said on Monday. “I’ve been holding events and fundraisers.”
Sanborn said he thinks health care and taxes will be the top concerns of voters this fall.
“The number one issue will continue to be implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “People want to know why they are losing their insurance or why they can’t go to Monadnock Community Hospital for their doctor.”
He said New Hampshire has too many regulations that make it difficult for entrepreneurs to get started.
“We need to find ways to help employers grow and expand,” he said. “We have to take a hard look if people are finding it easier to start a business in Massachusetts than in New Hampshire. And taxes are too high. That’s the one thing I hear every day.”
In 2012, Sanborn narrowly won the District 9 seat, beating Nyquist, a Democrat from New Boston, by a margin of 15,478 to 15,225.
“We expect to reverse that result this time around,” Nyquist said on Friday, shortly after making an announcement that he plans to file for the Democratic nomination. Referring to Sanborn, Nyquist said, “The incumbent represents hard and fast opinions, held by factions. We can’t just reach a dead end because we have preconceived notions that we won’t part with.”
Nyquist, who has lived in New Boston for 25 years and worked as an attorney in Manchester for 35 years, said he is running as a moderate Democrat committed to a bipartisan approach. He said advancing public education would be one of his priorities, and in an announcement of his candidacy, pledged not to vote for a sales or income tax.
Pignatelli, a familiar figure at community events around the Monadnock region, is a former state representative and state senator from Nashua who has served on Executive Council from 2004 to 2010 and 2012 to the present. She announced recently that she’s not planning to run for re-election, citing health issues that would make it difficult for her to campaign.
“I can’t represent the district as well as I want to. I have a hip issue and I need to take a break,” said Pignatelli last week. “I won’t be able to go door to door and I like campaigning almost as much as I like serving.
Pignatelli, a Democrat, said she is looking for a moderate Democrat to run for the seat. The five-person Executive Council is currently made up of three Democrats and two Republicans.
“We need a moderate voice,” she said. “Someone to look at the issues, listen to intelligent arguments and make the best decisions for the district.”
She said wouldn’t rule out another run after she deals with her health issues.
“I’ve had a great district and I’ve loved it,” she said. “I have a grand baby now and another one coming, but I don’t ever say no.”