With Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire deciding not to seek re-election, a Republican Senate seat is up for grabs in the Granite State. Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes is vying for the seat against former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte in a fiercely contested race. New Hampshire is a largely agricultural state that is nevertheless viewed as more friendly to industry and business development than its bucolic neighbor Vermont.
Candidates for Senate from New Hampshire (six-year term)
Candidate: Paul Hodes
Political experience: Hodes is currently serving in the House of Representatives, a seat he is vacating for his 2010 Senate run. He served there for four years. In 1990, according to the biography section of his campaign website, Hodes was appointed by Gov. Jean Shaheen as chairman of the board of the Capital Center for Performing Arts. He spent six years in that position and later returned for four more as a member of the board.
Professional experience: Hodes served in the state attorney general’s office under future Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He was the assistant attorney general and later, special prosecutor for the state of New Hampshire. After leaving that office, he was a private practice lawyer before heading to Congress in 2006.
Key issues: Hodes is seeking separation from Washington and his campaign materials seek to portray him as an “independent voice for New Hampshire,” stating that he opposed the bailout and fought against earmarks while in Congress. Hodes is running a television ad that cites his fiscal conservatism. He proposes a 10 percent pay cut for Congress and the president. His website’s issues pages say he supported the Affordable Health Care Act and the economic recovery stimulus package. He is in favor of allowing same-sex marriage and would fight to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Endorsements: Planned Parenthood of New England, The League of Conservation Voters and The Citizens for Global Solutions have announced they are endorsing Hodes. Vice President Joe Biden also made a visit to New Hampshire to raise funds for Hodes on Sept. 27.
Paul Hodes’ 2010 Senate election prospects: Hodes is trailing badly in recent polls, as compiled by realclearpolitics.com, and he has a long uphill battle if he is to win in November. With corporate GOP donors pouring as much as $2 million into the small state of New Hampshire for anti-Hodes television ads, according to an Associated Press report, it will be difficult for Hodes’ message to be heard above that of his opponent and other GOP allies from out of state.
Candidate: Kelly Ayotte
Political experience: Ayotte spent five years as New Hampshire’s attorney general before stepping down in July of 2009 to focus on her 2010 Senate election campaign, according to information on her campaign website. She was the first woman to hold that position. She has also served as deputy attorney general.
Professional experience: In addition to working with her husband to build a landscape and snowplowing business, Ayotte worked for one year as a law clerk to New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Sherman Horton.
Key issues: On energy, Ayotte says she is in favor of expanding drilling for oil and natural gas in the United States to help reduce foreign dependence. She is a vocal supporter of the Arizona initiative to identify and arrest illegal aliens. Ayotte says that “Congress should start over on health care” in order to deliver real reform. Ayotte has repeatedly pledged to oppose any tax increases for individuals or business and has promised to work to reduce government spending.
Endorsements: Ayotte’s most notable endorsement came from Sarah Palin during the hard-fought GOP primary. Although Ayotte’s poll numbers dipped somewhat after the Palin endorsement, it did give her some national notoriety. Ayotte’s website lists endorsements from the New Hampshire chapter of the National Right to Life organization and the Susan B. Anthony list (another anti-abortion advocacy group). The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste Political Action Committee has also announced its endorsement of Ayotte. The outgoing GOP senator, Judd Gregg, as one might expect, has endorsed Ayotte to replace him in Washington, as well.
Kelly Ayotte’s 2010 Senate election prospects: Ayotte has a commanding lead in the polls, with a 14-point lead over Hodes in a poll released by the American Research Group on Sept. 27. A Sept. 15 poll from Rasmussen Reports has it closer, but still decisive seven-point lead for Ayotte. With strong national GOP support behind her to keep the Senate seat of Judd Gregg in the Republican camp, it will take a major misstep for Ayotte to lose in the 2010 New Hampshire Senate race in November.
Key Differences between Paul Hodes and Kelly Ayotte
Ayotte and Hodes have been battling each other fiercely since before the end of the GOP primary. Hodes tried to portray Ayotte as inattentive as attorney general during the lead-up to a Granite State financial scandal, while Ayotte has been tying Hodes to voter frustrations over the economy and Washington’s inability to control spending.
Hodes supports marriage equality and is pro-choice, while Ayotte strongly supports what she terms “traditional family values” that oppose those two issues. Hodes supported the Affordable Health Care Act while Ayotte says she would repeal it and start over,. They are also on opposite sides of the economic recovery stimulus with Hodes citing the many New Hampshire jobs it saved even as Ayotte decries it as another example of wasteful government spending. Both candidates say they opposed the Wall Street bailout.
New Hampshire at a glance: New Hampshire has a population of more than 1.3 million people, according to U.S. Census estimates. New Hampshire households are, on average, wealthier than those of the balance of the country, earning a median household income in excess of $63,000 compared to the national median of just above $52,000. New Hampshire has no personal income tax and no sales tax. Because it traditionally holds the earliest presidential primary elections, New Hampshire is often viewed as a gauge of the viability of primary candidates and tends to receive campaign attention disproportionate to its relatively few convention delegates.