GOP regains control of New Hampshire House, 1 race pending

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New Hampshire Ballot Law Commissioners David Campbell (left) and Christopher Messier (right) review ballots contested during a recent recount at a State House race Monday, November 28, 2022, in Concord, NH AP Photo/Holly Ramer

CONCORD, NH (AP) – The New Hampshire House is set to convene next week, with Republicans holding a tiny majority and 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 Electoral Law Commission on Monday confirmed the results of a recount that gave a seat in Berlin to the Democratic nominee, incumbent Eamon Kelly. The commission was also due to hear an appeal over the Rochester deadlock and a dispute in Manchester that ended up in court, but the candidates withdrew their appeal. That leaves a 201-198 breakdown with one race to go when lawmakers are sworn in on Dec. 7.

In the Rochester race, early results showed Republican David Walker defeating incumbent Democrat Rep. Chuck Grassie by one vote, but the recount ended in a 970-970 tie. Although both appealed, the candidates said on Monday they had instead decided to take the case to the legislature. She could vote herself and pick a winner, force the candidates to split the seat by half a vote each, or send the matter back to the municipality for a special election.

Both Grassie and Walker said they would prefer the latter, although it means they are campaigning during the holiday season and are unlikely to get a seat until late January.

“The politicians in Concord shouldn’t decide this race, it should be the people who decide this race,” Grassie said.

When asked if he’s ready to campaign again, Walker said, “Not really, but Tally Ho” and that he’d dig his campaign signs out of the basement.

“But just try to put up signs in the frozen ground,” he said.

Whatever the outcome, the party split in the House of Representatives will be the smallest majority in at least three decades, setting the stage for bipartisanship or deadlock. Control of the House of Representatives has flipped in six of the last nine elections, most recently in 2020 when Republicans won a 26-vote majority. The GOP’s greatest advantage was during the 2011-12 session, when it held nearly three-quarters of the seats.

The 24-seat Senate was more stable, and Republicans are expected to retain their 14-10 majority, with the outcome of a recount pending.

Also on Monday, the commission instructed the Secretary of State’s office to count 27 mail-in ballots accidentally set aside in Brentwood. The new count increased Democratic candidate Eric Turer’s lead.

Dick Chamberlain, who has been a town presenter for more than 40 years, said he made the mistake after interrupting the processing of absentee ballot interrupts to help an elderly woman with the polls. His willingness to take responsibility earned him praise from Commissioner Kathy Sullivan.

“I hope you keep doing what you’re doing because I think you have one hell of a record,” she said. “If this is the first mistake you’ve made in all these years, congratulations.”

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