Analysis: NH Democrats already have deep bench for top races in 2016

Following the mixed bag election for both political parties on Nov. 4, attention is turning not only to the presidential primary of 2016, but also, on the state level, to the 2016 general election.


Democrats are generally not upset with this year’s results, which saw them stem the Republican tide in three of the top four races at the top of the ticket and turn out voters as though it was a presidential year.


Yes, they lost the state House and the Executive Council and dropped a seat in the state Senate, now having a 14-10 minority.


But after speaking with Democratic activists, we can tell you they are optimistic about 2016 and feel they have a strong bench of potential candidates. They feel they are poised to continue their dominance at the top of the ticket. That remains to be seen, of course, but there is no question the list of names is lengthy and the bench is deep.


With another U.S. Senate race coming up, Democrats we speak with are hoping of course that Gov. Maggie Hassan moves up to take on Sen. Kelly Ayotte. But it’s unclear at this early stage if the governor is interested in doing so.


Regardless, there are several names being circulated in Democratic circles of those viewed as strong alternative candidates for statewide office, either the U.S. Senate or governor, depending on what Hassan decides.


In no particular order, they are former state securities bureau chief Mark Connolly, Executive Councilors Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas, state Sens. Donna Soucy and Dan Feltes, former state Sen. Jackie Cilley, Portsmouth City Councilor (and famous daughter) Stefany Shaheen as well as Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign manager, Mike Vlacich.


There will be some who will try to talk former Gov. John Lynch out of political retirement and run for the Senate, if Hassan does not run. Also don’t rule out the possibility of Rep. Ann Kuster, fresh off of an impressive reelection victory, being asked to try to move up to the Senate.


Another name being talked about for governor or the Senate is Bedford businessman Shawn O’Connor.


In the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is still the top name on the list, should she chose to take on Rep.-elect Frank Guinta for a fourth time.


If she does not, then the prominent top names being discussed are outgoing New Hampshire House Speaker Terie Norelli, Manchester Alderman Garth Corriveau, former New Hampshire Medical Society President Dr. Travis Harker, former Portsmouth Mayor Tom Ferrini, as well as Pappas, Soucy, Stefany Shaheen and businessman O’Connor.


In the 2nd Congressional District, Kuster obviously remains the top potential candidate for 2016, but if she does not run for that seat again, the feeling among the Democrats we spoke with is that the bench consists of Van Ostern and Feltes, as well as current House Majority Leader (and soon-to-be Democratic Leader) Steve Shurtleff, state Senate Democratic Leader-elect Jeff Woodburn, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, activist Jason Lyon, who owns the Common Man restaurants, and Mike Vlacich.


It’s all food for thought and speculation as New Hampshire moves quickly to a new election cycle.


Said a key Democratic leader: “2016 is shaping up to be a terrific year for us as most presidential cycles have been.”


So let the games begin – or should we say, continue.

Author: John DiStaso

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  • Guy Lazarus

    Gath Corriveau? Be serious! He didn’t even have the testicular fortitude to run for mayor in 2013, and suddenly, he’s a serious candidate for Congress? Do you have an anti-Patrick Arnold bias?