In my last post, I focused on the 22 House Republicans who were “underwater” – that is, they were Republicans in districts with Democratic NHPVIs (see elsewhere on this blog for a description of the NHPVI).  As a teaser, I suggested that there were many more Democrats who were similarly underwater (about 68 of them, to be exact) than there were Republicans, mainly because Democrats have been winning virtually every seat within reach over the past four years.  The challenge Democrats in the New Hampshire House face in 2010 is relentless math – Dems currently hold about a 44-seat advantage, which means a net switch of 23 seats from Democrat to Republican would give the GOP a (nominal) majority. 

Later this week, we’ll review which of these underwater House members decided to retire vs. run again, and what those decisions mean for November.  For today, we’ll quickly review who these 68 Underwater Democrats are, and where they serve. 

Onto the list!

Whereas the Republicans have only four seats held by Reps in districts that are greater than D+2, the Democrats have 27 such seats.   These are, in most cases, the incumbents most vulnerable to strong changes in the political landscape, and if Democrats get largely wiped out simply among this group of seats, their majority will likely end, as well.  They include:

  • Rep. Melissa Lyons, of Kingston (Rockingham 8) and Rep. Carolyn Webber, of Windham (Rockingham 4) are the most underwater Democrats in New Hampshire, serving in R+8 districts, and are highly vulnerable incumbents who are both seeking reelection this fall.  Lyons is a young attorney who won the final seat of this seven-seat district by 29 votes over Ken Weyler (who later won a special election to fill another vacancy).  Webber is a longtime resident of the district who won the final seat in this 13-seat district 7,624 to 7,472 over Marilinda Garcia (who also later won a special election to fill a vacancy).  How tough are these districts?  Well, in 2006, Democrats didn’t field a single candidate in Lyons’ district.  In Webber’s district, no other Democrat got within a thousand votes of Webber’s total.  It is a very good sign for Democrats that both incumbents decided to run again – the only plausible chance of holding these seats in 2010 was with the incumbents.
  • There are four Democrats in R+7 districts:  Rep. Kevin Hodges, of Goffstown (Hillsborough 7), and three members from Hillsborough 27, Reps. Maryann and John Knowles, of Hudson, and Valerie Hardy, of Litchfield.  All four are seeking reelection in 2010, with both of the Knowles seemingly being in safer positions for reelection than Hardy or Hodges (John and Maryann finished 9th and 4th, respectively, in this 13-member district, and could survive a small headwind).
  • There are seven Democrats in R+6 districts.  Five of them are seeking relection in 2010:  Reps. Bill Johnson, of Gilford; Maureen Mann, of Deerfield; Don Petterson, of Brentwood; Gina Hutchinson, of Derry; and Melanie Levesque, of Brookline.  Two others are not running in 2010:  Reps. Susi Nord, of Candia, and Barbara McCarthy, of Derry.  These districts are fairly diverse, from the Lakes Region (Johnson’s Belknap 5), to Petterson’s single-member district (Rockingham 10), to a number of Commuter Zone districts (Hutchinson and McCarthy are in Rockingham 5, Levesque is in Hillsborough 5, and Mann and Nord are in Rockingham 1).   In most of these cases, the Democrat won the last seat in a multi-seat district, but where the incumbents are running again, Democrats have given themselves their best chance of retaining these seats.
  • Six Democrats are in R+5 districts:  Reps. Mike Farley and Tom Katsiantonis, of Manchester (Hillsborough 15); Kim Casey, of East Kingston (Rockingham 11); Mark Preston, of Seabrook (Rockingham 14); Jim O’Neil, of Merrimack (Hillsborough 19); and Kate Miller, of Meredith (Belknap 3).  O’Neil, Preston, and Farley are not running in 2010 – Democrats are likely to lose at least two of those three seats.  Casey and a 2008 candidate who narrowly lost (Trisha McCarthy, who is running again in 2010), provide a strong opportunity to protect a Democratic seat, and even challenge for a second seat.  Miller and Katsiantonis will have highly-competitive campaigns.
  • Three Democrats are in R+4 districts:  Rep. Linda Foster, of Mont Vernon (Hillsborough4), Rep. Sue Gottling, of Sunapee (Sullivan 3), and Rep. Penn Brown, of Epping (Rockingham 9).  Foster is retiring, making it very difficult for Democrats to win a seat in that district in 2010.  In Brown’s case, Epping is one of the faster-changing parts of the state, and Brown has had wildly different electoral results (in 2004, he lost handily; in 2006, he won narrowly; in 2008, he won handily), so his campaign is difficult to project.  Gottling is in a single-member district, winning in 2006 with 54% of the vote, and in 2008, with 52%.  It’s a small, very competitive district.
  • Another 46 Democrats are in districts which are Republican-leaning, though generally competitive.  The chart, provided below, shows that 32 of these 46 incumbents are running again in 2010 (about 70% of this list).  This is roughly comparable with the overall filing rate of incumbents this year, where both parties have enjoyed higher-than-average percentages of incumbents seeking reelection (the average would be about two-thirds).  A few other observations: 
    • 11 of these 46 seats come from Manchester.  One of the keys to Republican success in 2010 will be chipping away at the large 28-7 advantage Dems currently hold in the Queen City’s 10 House districts. 
    • Of course, some incumbents in these districts are likely safer than others (including, but not limited to, Reps. Shaw, DeStefano, Pilotte, Harvey, and Baroody).  Conversely, some retirements almost certainly ensure net losses for Democrats (Reps. Mitchell, Yeaton, Porter, and Beaulieu, for example). 

The difference in what the House looks like in 2011 – and which party holds the gavel, chairs the committees, and heads the all-important redistricting exercise – may come down to the success of those in between those two groups.  And that is part of what we’ll look at in my next post. 

Last Name First Name County District Home City NHPVI Running in 2010?
Beauchamp Roger Hillsborough 17 Manchester R +0 N
Beaulieu Jane Hillsborough 17 Manchester R +0 N
Beck Catriona Hillsborough 02 Bennington R +0 N
Boisvert Ronald Hillsborough 17 Manchester R +0 Y
Chase Claudia Hillsborough 02 Francestown R +0 N
Cushing Renny Rockingham 15 Hampton R +0 Y
DeStefano Stephen Merrimack 13 Bow R +0 Y
Flurey Joan Hillsborough 16 Manchester R +0 Y
Katsiantonis George Hillsborough 17 Manchester R +0 Y
Kepner Susan Rockingham 15 Hampton R +0 N
Merry Liz Belknap 02 Sanbornton R +0 Y
Nixon David Hillsborough 17 Manchester R +0 N
Pilotte Maurice Hillsborough 16 Manchester R +0 Y
Shaw Barbara Hillsborough 16 Manchester R +0 Y
Walz Mary Beth Merrimack 13 Bow R +0 Y
Winters Joel Hillsborough 17 Nashua R +0 Y
Aguiar James Grafton 06 Campton R +1 Y
Brown Larry Strafford 03 Milton R +1 Y
Burke Rachel Strafford 03 Farmington R +1 Y
Cyr James Strafford 03 Strafford R +1 N
Foose Robert Merrimack 01 New London R +1 Y
Friedrich Carol Grafton 06 Wentworth R +1 Y
Goley Jeffrey Hillsborough 08 Manchester R +1 Y
Hackel Paul Hillsborough 21 Nashua R +1 N
Harvey Suzanne Hillsborough 21 Nashua R +1 Y
Mitchell Bonnie Cheshire 07 Jaffrey R +1 N
Perry Robert Strafford 03 Strafford R +1 Y
Price Susan Strafford 03 Barrington R +1 Y
Ramsey Peter Hillsborough 08 Manchester R +1 Y
Sullivan Daniel Hillsborough 08 Manchester R +1 Y
Vachon Dennis Strafford 03 Northwood R +1 N
Webb Leigh Merrimack 02 Franklin R +1 Y
Arsenault Beth Belknap 04 Laconia R +2 Y
Borden David Rockingham 18 New Castle R +2 Y
Brown Carole Merrimack 08 Epsom R +2 N
Matheson Robert Grafton 04 North Woodstock R +2 N
Merrick Evalyn Coos 02 Lancaster R +2 Y
Porter Margaret Merrimack 08 Epsom R +2 N
Reever Judith Belknap 04 Laconia R +2 N
Stuart Richard Belknap 04 Laconia R +2 Y
Yeaton Charles Merrimack 08 Epsom R +2 N
Baroody Benjamin Hillsborough 13 Manchester R +3 Y
Chandley Shannon Hillsborough 06 Amherst R +3 Y
Ford Susan Grafton 03 Easton R +3 Y
Preston Philip Grafton 08 Ashland R +3 Y
Wiley Susan Carroll 03 Ctr Sandwich R +3 Y