Steinhauser: With two more retirements, battle for State Senate heats up
CONCORD – Add two more names to the growing roster of state senators who are not seeking re-election this year.
Tuesday Republican Sen. David Boutin and Democratic Sen. Molly Kelly both announced they wouldn’t run for another term in the State Senate.
Boutin becomes the fourth GOP senator who’s not running for re-election, and news of his retirement gave state Democrats more hope that they might flip control of the chamber in November’s elections. The Republicans currently hold a 14-10 majority in the state Senate.
Boutin, a former state representative, was first elected to the Senate in a February 2010 special election in District 16, which covers his hometown of Hooksett, Manchester wards 1,2 and 12, Bow, Candia and Dunbarton. Boutin succeeded Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
The chairman of the Capital Budget and Ways and Means committees told NH1 News that “I’m very much at peace at my decision.”
The 63-year old Boutin, who’s looking forward to the birth of this third grandchild this summer, said “I feel like I’m going out at the top of my game.”
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve the people of district,” he added.
Kelly’s in her fifth term representing District 10, which includes Keene, Alstead, Chesterfield, Gilsum, Harrisville, Hinsdale, Marlborough, Nelson, Roxbury, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland, and Winchester. The Harrisville resident’s vice chair of the Health and Human Services committee.
Kelly told NH1 News that “it’s been ten years and it’s been truly an honor and a privilege to serve the outstanding people of my district.”
“It was a difficult decision, but it does not mean the end of my political interests and my commitment to this community and to the people of this state. I ran for the state senate to be a champion for education, women’s health care, equal rights and economic opportunities and what brought me to the state Senate is what’s leading me to a transition to pursuing other avenues and addressing the same values and goals,” Kelly added.
“I do have a consulting business and it has become very successful ,” Kelly told NH1 News.
She explained that was about “practicality” and that it “has nothing to do about losing interest in the Senate.”
Asked if she had interest in running for the Executive Council seat currently held by fellow Democrat Colin Van Ostern, who’s running for governor, Kelly said “I did give it some thought but decided that at this point I really want to pursue the opportunities I created for myself.”
State of Play
With Boutin’s retirement, the New Hampshire Democratic Party sees an opportunity. Boutin joins Sens. Jeanie Forrester (who’s running for governor), Russell Prescott (who’s running for the Executive Council), and Sen. Jerry Little (who’s stepping down in June to become the state’s banking commissioner) in not seeking another term in the chamber.
"New Hampshire Democrats are confident that a blue wave will sweep up and down the ticket from Concord to Washington in November. Boutin's retirement is one of many opportunities for our Senate and House Dems to pick up seats cross the state,” NHDP communications director Melissa Miller told NH1 News.
Kelly is only the second Democrat to make such an announcement, joining Sen. David Pierce. Both districts are considered reasonably safe for Democrats.
"State Democratic leaders have good cause to be optimistic about their chances for taking over the State Senate this fall, but it's by no means a foregone conclusion,'' NH1 News Chief Political Correspondent Kevin Landrigan said.
“One only has to look back to 2012 as the best illustration that this is still a heavy lift. Four years ago, President Barack Obama handily wins New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan is easily elected governor but despite seven, retiring Republican state senators that year, the GOP holds on to a 13-11 edge in the Senate,” Landrigan added.
"At the end of the day Democrats still need to nearly run the table, hold their two, safe Democratic seats and then win three out of four of the open Republican seats to seize control. With a state party much more focused on electing Maggie Hassan to the Senate and keeping the corner office in Democratic hands, that is still a pretty tall order,” he continued.
The New Hampshire GOP appears confident that they can hold back the tide this November.
“The NHGOP will field a great slate of hardworking focused candidates. With Senators Kelly and Pierce leaving, we hope to increase our majority by at least two seats,” the state Republican party’s Vice Chairman Matt Mayberry told NH1 News.
Landrigan said that the key for the Republicans to keep Boutin’s district in party hands is whom they pick as their candidate.
“State Republicans do need to identify a solid replacement for David Boutin, someone who lives in Hooksett but spent years representing the House from North Manchester. Boutin really is the quintessential, right of center but at times moderate Republican who attracts independent voters the GOP is going to need to keep this seat in their column,” Landrigan explained.
Regarding Boutin, Mayberry said "Senator Boutin is a workhorse in the Senate and he will be missed. He always puts his constituents first so it's nice to see him taking time for himself after 11 years serving New Hampshire in the Senate."