The New Hampshire House will convene next week with Republicans holding a minuscule majority and with one of its 400 seats still unsettled after a recount resulted in a tie.
Election night results gave Republicans a 203-197 advantage, but the state Ballot Law Commission on Monday upheld the results of a recount that flipped one seat in Berlin to the Democratic candidate, incumbent Eamon Kelly. The commission also had been scheduled to hear an appeal of the deadlocked race in Rochester and a Manchester dispute that ended up in court, but the candidates withdrew their appeals. That leaves a breakdown of 201-198 with one race pending when lawmakers are sworn in Dec. 7.
In the Rochester race, initial results showed Republican David Walker defeating the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Chuck Grassie, by one vote, but the recount ended in a 970-970 tie. Though both filed appeals, the candidates said Monday they decided instead to let the case proceed to the Legislature. It could vote and select a winner itself, force the candidates to share the seat with half a vote each or send the matter back to the community for a special election.
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Both Grassie and Walker said they would prefer the latter even though it means campaigning through the holidays and not getting seated until probably late January.
“The politicians in Concord shouldn’t be deciding this race, it should be the people who are deciding this race,” Grassie said.
Asked if he was ready to campaign again, Walker said, “Not really, but tally ho,” and that he would dig his campaign signs out of the basement.
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“But just try to put signs out in the frozen ground,” he said.
Whatever the outcome, the split between the parties in the House will be the slimmest majority in at least three decades, setting the stage for either bipartisanship or gridlock. Control of the House flipped in six of the last nine elections, most recently in 2020 when Republicans gained a 26-vote majority. The GOP’s largest advantage was during the 2011-12 session, when they held nearly three-quarters of the seats.
The 24-seat state Senate has been more stable, and Republicans are expected to maintain their 14-10 majority, with the outcome of one recount still not finalized.
Also Monday, the commission ordered the secretary of state’s office to count 27 absentee ballots that were inadvertently set aside in Brentwood. The new count increased the margin of victory for the Democratic candidate, Eric Turer.
Dick Chamberlain, who has served as town moderator for more than 40 years, said he made the mistake after interrupting the processing of absentee ballots to help an elderly woman at the polls. His willingness to take responsibility earned him praise from commissioner Kathy Sullivan.
“I hope you keep doing what you do, because I think you have a heck of a record,” she said. “If this is the first mistake you’ve made in all those years, I congratulate you.”