Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New Hampshire 1: Democrats Cheer, but ‘06 Recruit Stumbles

By Nathan L. Gonzales

As Democratic leaders scramble for the hilltops to shout the results of last night’s victories in Virginia and New Jersey, one down ballot race in New Hampshire symbolizes part of the Democrats’ challenge next year.

Three-term incumbent Mayor Bob Baines (D) lost reelection in Manchester, 51%-48%, to Republican Alderman Frank Guinta. In his victory, Guinta not only knocked off the incumbent mayor but knocked the wind out of the sails of a top DCCC recruit.

Guinta highlighted Baines’ six-year record, including a 55 percent increase in violent crime, tax increases, and three local high schools that failed federal testing standards, according to local media reports. In the final week, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Joe Biden (D-DE), all made campaign appearances with Baines. Kerry and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) also paid for some staff for the mayor.

Though his intentions were not public, there was little secret about Baines’ plan to run for Congress in 2006. His reelection last night was supposed to be a small hurdle. Instead it was a brick wall. Baines has not made an official announcement, but according to one local Democrat, the mayor’s congressional prospects are definitely in doubt.

(On a side note, in Connecticut, two of Baines’ fellow mayors won reelection on their way to running for governor in 2006. Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy (D) won reelection 51%-46% and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano won reelection with 75%.)

Now in the Granite State, Cong. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) and the DCCC are left searching for another candidate to put New Hampshire’s 1st District in play. State Rep. Peter Sullivan (D) and attorney/U.S. Army Reserves officer Pete Duffy (D) are running. And Rye School Board Member Gary Dodds (D) is mentioned. But Baines was the clear target of Democratic recruitment efforts since he represented Manchester (population 107,006), the district’s anchor.

According to one local Democratic insider, state House Democratic Leader Jim Craig (D) of Manchester will likely field the next batch of recruiting phone calls. Steve Marchand (D), elected mayor of Portsmouth almost 24 hours ago, is also mentioned.

Cong. Jeb Bradley (R) was first elected in 2002, defeating Martha Fuller Clark (D), 58%-39%, in the open seat vacated by now-Sen. John Sununu. Bradley won reelection 63%-37% two years later over attorney Justin Nadeau (D).

The GOP congressman ended September with over $157,000 on hand, according to FEC reports. In comparison, Dodds showed almost $30,000 in the bank, while the others did not file third quarter reports.

The district is competitive by the numbers. George W. Bush won it both in 2004 (51%-48%) and 2000 (50%-47%). But Democrats cannot take back the House without credible candidates to serve as alternatives to Republican incumbents.