A guide to Hanover’s down-ballot races

by Caitlin McCarthy and Thomas Brown | 11/3/20 2:20am

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The presidential election is not the only race that Hanover voters decide on today. Seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives are at play in our district, and multiple state and local elections will influence key issues in New Hampshire, including environmental regulations and tax policy.

Here’s what you need to know about the state and local races on the Hanover ballot. 

U.S. Senate: Shaheen vs. Messner

Incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is seeking a third term as U.S. senator. Shaheen, who was first elected senator in 2008, is the first woman to be elected as both a senator and a governor, having served as governor of New Hampshire from 1997 to 2003. In the Senate, Shaheen has led efforts to increase funding for New Hampshire to combat the opioid crisis and preserve forests, waterways and wildlife habitats. She supports an increased minimum wage and paid family and medical leave, as well as the Equal Pay Act, the Paris climate agreement and a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. Shaheen has 100% ratings from the Human Rights Campaign and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and a 62% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the endorsement of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Shaheen faces Republican challenger Bryant “Corky” Messner, a businessman, lawyer and former army ranger. A self-described “lifelong conservative,” Messner’s policies aim to promote free market health care options, introduce permanent middle-class tax cuts and maintain strong national security and border security. He also supports reducing government spending and debt through the “Penny Plan,” a commitment by the government to spend one penny less for every dollar spent over the last year. He opposes new restrictions on firearms and is anti-abortion. In February, a visit by Messner to Dartmouth sponsored by the College Republicans, in which Messner planned to argue for the need to regulate the U.S.-Mexico border in order to combat the opioid crisis, attracted controversy after it was advertised to campus in an email with “They’re bringing drugs…” as the subject line. The College Republicans canceled the event, citing security concerns.

Polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight currently projects that Shaheen, who has maintained a double-digit polling lead over Messner, is “very likely” to be reelected, winning in 98 out of 100 simulation runs.

U.S. House of Representatives, NH-2: Kuster vs. Negron

Incumbent Rep. Ann McLane Kuster ’78, D-N.H., is seeking a fifth consecutive term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kuster was a member of the third class of women to graduate from Dartmouth. In Congress, she founded bipartisan task forces aimed at combatting the opioid crisis and ending sexual violence. Her campaign has focused on clean energy, her record of bipartisanship on legislation and committees, providing health care for veterans and combating the opioid crisis. In 2018, Kuster wrote a “Jobs and Opportunity Agenda” for New Hampshire that detailed plans for legislation to improve the state’s economy, including expanding affordable education and increasing investment in rural communities. She is also a co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act, which promotes police reform and would end qualified immunity. 

Republican business owner Steve Negron is running against Kuster for the second time, after losing to Kuster by 13 percentage points in 2018. Negron served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 2016 to 2018, and he currently works as president and CEO of Integron, LLC, a defense consulting and engineering firm located in Nashua. His platform includes increasing access to and lowering the cost of healthcare through market competition, as well as supporting New Hampshire small businesses. He is in favor of reduced government spending, and he has criticized aspects of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief package.

FiveThirtyEight predicts that Kuster is “clearly favored” in the race, winning 97 of 100 simulations.

New Hampshire Governor: Sununu vs. Feltes

Republican incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu is running for his third two-year term, having served as New Hampshire’s 82nd governor since 2017. Before his tenure as governor, he served on the New Hampshire Executive Council from 2011 to 2017. Sununu’s administration has signed Medicaid Expansion into law, created the state’s first youth drug treatment center, banned offshore gas and oil drilling on New Hampshire’s coast, established full-day kindergarten and increased education spending by $140 million. Sununu, who holds the record for number of gubernatorial vetoes in a single year, has vetoed more than 75 bills passed by the Democrat-controlled New Hampshire legislature, including one that would have increased gas prices by 17 cents per gallon and one repealing the death penalty — though on the latter, Sununu’s veto was overridden. Sununu also backed a series of bills that many on campus worried would prevent students from voting in New Hampshire.

Challenging Sununu is Democrat Dan Feltes, a former legal aid attorney who has served as state senator for District 15 since 2014 and as the New Hampshire Senate majority leader since 2018. Feltes’ environmental plan aims to achieve 100% clean energy in New Hampshire by 2030 and create thousands of living wage jobs. He supports the legalization of marijuana, universal background checks on gun purchases and a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Feltes believes that “access to health care is a basic human right,” has pledged to mandate implicit bias training for all government employees and has committed to appointing a civilian oversight board and racial equity task force to combat systemic racism in New Hampshire. Other policy concerns for Feltes include reducing the influence of money in politics, creating an Office of Racial Equity within the governor’s office and lowering the cost of tuition for in-state public universities.

FiveThirtyEight predicts that Sununu is “likely” to win reelection. Polls conducted in late October and reported by FiveThirtyEight showed Sununu polling between 51% and 62% and Feltes polling between 35% and 46%.

New Hampshire Executive Council, 1st District: Cryans vs. Kenney

The Executive Council works with the governor to oversee the administration of state affairs, including expenditures of government funds. One of the council’s most important duties is to ensure that the state executive branch conserves funds to sustain the continuation of New Hampshire’s zero income and sales tax policy. Both candidates in the race oppose the introduction of a sales tax or state income tax. 

Incumbent Democrat Mike Cryans is up for reelection to his seat on the New Hampshire Executive Council, a position he has held since 2018. Cryans was Grafton County Commissioner from 1998 to 2016, and he acted as County Chairman for 12 years. He is in favor of government funding for Planned Parenthood, support for victims of the opioid crisis and funding infrastructure and clean energy. Cryans also opposes the Northern Pass power line project and supports investment in sectors such as education and transportation in order to retain younger residents. 

Cryans is challenged by Republican Joe Kenney, who previously served as the district’s executive councilor after winning a special election in 2014 and reelection in late 2014 and 2016. He lost to Cryans in the 2018 election. He also served as a state senator from 2003 to 2009. He ran for governor of New Hampshire as a Republican in 2008 but lost to Shaheen. Kenney supports increased spending on law enforcement, as well as funding for renewable energy, and is anti-abortion. He has also received a 92% rating from the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition.

New Hampshire state Senate, 5th District: Prentiss vs. O’Hearne

Democrat Suzanne Prentiss is running to succeed outgoing Democrat Martha Hennessey ’76 as state senator. Prentiss has served as a non-partisan city council member and mayor of Lebanon for the past 11 years, and she is also a paramedic and the former chief of EMS for New Hampshire’s Department of Safety. While on the Lebanon council, Prentiss led the vote to guarantee anti-discrimination protections for transgender employees and endorsed the goals of the Paris climate agreement. If elected, Prentiss plans to expand broadband access, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, maintain funding for Planned Parenthood and implement paid family medical leave. 

Prentiss faces Republican nominee from Charlestown Timothy O’Hearne, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary. O’Hearne ran for Register of Probate in Sullivan County in 2018, but lost to Democrat Raymond Gagnon. No other information about O’Hearne’s campaign is readily available.

New Hampshire House of Representatives, Grafton County’s 12th District

Four Democrats are running for the four seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives to represent Hanover and Lyme: Sharon Nordgren, an incumbent first elected in 1988, and first-time candidates Russell Muirhead, Mary Hakken-Phillips and James Murphy. Muirhead is a government professor at Dartmouth, Hakken-Phillips is an attorney and member of the Hanover Finance Committee and Murphy is the former Chief Medical Officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

With no other candidates on the ballot, all four Democratic candidates are expected to win.

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