Policy Consequences of N.H.’s 2020 Election
New Senate President, new Speaker of the House, new Attorney General
New Democratic leadership?
Income tax is dead for a political generation
Republican agenda is back on the table
COVID, tax cuts, electric rates, health insurance costs, drug costs, education funding
Granite Staters woke up Wednesday morning to a very different political scene in New Hampshire. Before the election, many political analysts speculated that Democrats would gain a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the General Court. Instead, Republicans – led by a historic win by Gov. Chris Sununu – earned majorities in the state’s Executive Council, Senate, and House of Representatives.
It would be hard to overstate the magnitude of Sununu’s victory. He earned upwards of 65% of the vote and was the state’s top vote-getter with over 60,000 more votes than Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. He won in cities and towns Republicans haven’t won in decades.
Republicans turned their 3-2 minority in this important institution into a 4-1 majority. The immediate consequence is that Sununu will again appoint Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to the state Supreme Court. Last year, the Democrat majority shot MacDonald’s nomination down and Sununu vowed to reappoint him under a new Council. The Republican majority is certain to confirm MacDonald. That means New Hampshire will also have a new Attorney General early in 2021.
The 2021 legislative session will see significant turnover in the New Hampshire Senate. Democrats attempted to thwart Sununu’s agenda for two years with their hefty 14-10 majority. But Republicans flipped the Senate and now have a 14-10 majority of their own.
There will be eight new faces in the New Hampshire Senate.
- District 1 – Erin Hennessey (R – Littleton)
- District 5 – Sue Prentiss (D – Lebanon)
- District 9 – Denise Ricciardi (R – Bedford)
- District 11 -- Gary Daniels (R – Amherst)
- District 12 – Kevin Avard (R – Nashua)
- District 15 – Becky Whitley (D – Contoocook)
- District 21 – Rebecca Kwoka (D – Portsmouth)
- District 23 – Bill Gannon (R – Sandown)
Sen. Chuck Morse (R – Salem) will almost certainly return as Senate President, a post he held previously. Sen. Jeb Bradley (R – Wolfboro) will just as likely return as Majority Leader. Daniels, Avard, and Gannon previously served in the Senate and are returning under the new majority.
House of Representatives
Large swings are common in the 400 seat state House of Representatives. We saw it again this cycle. Democrats saw their 230 – 156 seat advantage wiped out and Republicans will have a 214-184 seat majority when the 2021 session convenes.
Rep. Dick Hinch, who managed the GOP House campaign efforts, will almost certainly be elected Speaker of the House.
What it Means
What are the policy implications of this radically different New Hampshire state government?
First, the income tax is dead for a political generation. Democrats who supported HB 712 and SB 1 have foreclosed on their future political prospects by voting for the income tax contained in these bills.
As I wrote in my New Hampshire Union Leader column on Sunday, Sununu and Republicans in the Senate ran hard against the Democrats' plan to withhold .5% of workers wages to pay for their family and medical leave plan.
The Democrats paid a high price for these bills. And they will continue to pay for it in future elections. They own it now.
That means we are likely to see new Democratic stars and up-and-comers emerge in the next legislative session.
Second, the Republican agenda is back on the table. Democrats tried to thwart Sununu on every issue, even conducting a “Veto Sununu” tour throughout the summer. Now Sununu and Republican leaders will have little legislative resistance to their agenda.
Recently, Sen. Jeb Bradley articulated some of that agenda on the HynesSite DecisionMakers podcast. Continuing to open the economy, getting people back to work, get kids back into school, all safely of course. Bradley also speaks strongly about maintaining New Hampshire’s competitive advantage relative to neighboring states. For Republicans that means no new taxes.
Bradley also mentions wanting to combat high electric prices and health insurance costs.
Similarly, Sununu told the NH Journal Podcast, “the top priority is still going to be CoVID. Making sure the vaccine gets out. Making sure we manage it the way we have.”
Sununu also prioritized presenting a balanced budget with tax cuts.
“Finally, focusing on the economy, on businesses. Getting people back to work,” Sununu said. "That’s what they want."
Republicans will also quickly approve a near $50 million federal chart school grant the Democrats refused to accept when they controlled the legislature.
And, of course, Republicans will control the redistricting process, meaning these election results will echo across the Granite State for a decade.