Levesque first African American member of the NH State Senate

  • New Ipswich Democratic Committee Chair Rod Watkins of New Ipswich and State Senate winner Melanie Levesque campaign outside of the New Ipswich polls on Tuesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/7/2018 11:06:15 PM

Melanie Levesque has flipped Senate District 12, defeating incumbent Republican Kevin Avard and becoming the first African American in the New Hampshire state senate.

The election results have flipped enough seats to give control of the both the state Senate and House of Representatives to the Democrats, the first time the party has controlled both legislatures in a decade.

The race between Levesque and Avard was narrow, decided by only 146 votes, leaving the possibility for a call for a recount. Avard is a two-term senator who has occupied the seat since 2014. 

Levesque posted on her campaign Facebook page on Wednesday morning, announcing the final tally, and thanking her supporters. 

“The votes for the District 12 State Senate seat were Levesque 12,521, Avard 12,375. They have not been certified, yet, but I won! Thank you to all for your support and belief in me. I am looking forward to serving the people of the district and the state!” Levesque posted.

Levesque is a former member of the state House of Representatives, representing Hillsborough District 26 from 2012 and 2014 and Hillsborough District 5 from 2006 to 2010.

“I want to make a government that works for its people,” Levesque said while campaigning in New Ipswich on voting day. “And I want to listen to people, talk to them and understand what their concerns are.”

When asked about her top issues, Levesque cited health care, which includes expanding Medicaid.

“Health care is important for all people, of all ages,” Levesque said. “Kids, adults, the elderly. Medicaid expansion is one of our biggest tools for fighting the opioid crisis, and families need it.”

Also a top priority for her, she said, will be education. She said she would not support measures that took away funding from the public school system. 

In Senate District 9, Peterborough Democrat Jeanne Dietsch triumphed over Bedford Republican Dan Hynes, scoring another flipped district for the New Hampshire Senate. 

The seat was formerly held by Andy Sanborn, who left the seat to make a bid for Congress, but lost in the primary stage.

This is Dietsch’s first political office. She ran for the same office in 2016, but had a narrow loss to Democratic nominee Lee Nyquist in the primaries. 

“Jeanne, I've never seen anyone campaign as hard as that woman, she knocked on every door in this region,” said Bill Weibel of Jaffrey, on why Dietsch had his vote.

Owen Mortner, assistant campaign manager for Dietsch, said Dietsch had brought her door knocking to bear particularly hard in the town of Bedford, where a strong Republican presence turns out for the vote.

"Jeanne has focused the brunt of her campaigning effort on Bedford because its typically, in the past, what has allowed the Republicans to hold this seat,” Mortner said. “We've had one of the strongest ground games, I believe, of almost any state senate campaign, not only this year but in a very long time. We've had two people knocking doors seven days a week, Jeanne has been working tirelessly.”

In District 11, Democrat Shannon Chandley was also able to turn the district, winning over GOP incumbent Gary Daniels.

Chandly took the district with 52 percent of the vote.

In Senate District 8, the race has yet to be called, but Republican incumbent Ruth Ward is currently in a narrow lead against Democratic challenger Jenn Alford-Teaster.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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