A spike in enthusiasm among progressive voters bolstered congressional victories and looked likely the hand the reins of power back to Democrats in the N.H. House, Senate and the Executive Council.
Results for Granite State progressives mirror the national trend, where exceedingly high expectations for a so-called blue wave were largely met in the U.S. House of Representatives and in other statehouses, where Democrats reclaimed at least 333 of the 900 seats they lost over the course of the Obama administration, including special elections.
However, Democrats fell short in many cases, particularly in gubernatorial races across the country, which could prove highly consequential in redistricting after the 2020 Census.
The most drastic manifestation of progressive enthusiasm came in N.H. House races, where Democrats seemed a lock to retake the majority for the first time since 2014. Tuesday’s results would mark only the third time Democrats have been able to wrestle a majority from the Republicans since 2006.
By this morning, Democrats looked set to claim that majority. The Associated Press had called 189 races in the party’s favor, and it led in 17 others.
Democrats’ best performances of the night came in the the state’s two congressional races, with incumbent Rep. Ann M. Kuster and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas securing safe majorities in districts 2 and 1, respectively.
Combined, Kuster and Pappas won more votes than Gov. Chris Sununu in his victory, outpacing the Republican incumbent by more than 10,000 votes as of this morning.
Even though they were on the same ballot line as Sununu’s Democratic challenger, Molly Kelly, Kuster and Pappas outpaced the top of their party’s ticket statewide by nearly 40,000 votes.
Based on vote totals for the gubernatorial race, turnout for this year’s election was already higher than that of the 2014 midterms by more than 10,000 votes, with 10 percent of precincts still unaccounted for.
While turnout was not on pace to match that of 2016 — a presidential year that put the Granite State in third for highest voter turnout in the nation — early signs showed young voters were mobilized and same-day registration was robust.
In Keene’s Ward 1 — which includes Keene State College — for example, 41 percent of the vote total came from same-day registrants.
The specter of Senate Bill 3, which imposed new requirements to prove eligible voters live in New Hampshire, had critics concerned that young voters would be adversely affected because of the logistics of college living, such as separate mailing addresses from the physical dormitory location or only having one resident of an off-campus apartment’s name on a lease.
According to NextGen America, a young voter turnout group funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer, voting participation was already outpacing 2014 totals in college-town wards by 4 p.m. Tuesday, and volunteers had given almost 3,000 rides to poll-bound young voters throughout a rainy Election Day.
Through primaries and midterms, NextGen spent more than $1 million in the Granite State to reach young voters.
Teddy Smythe, the youth director for New Hampshire’s chapter of NextGen, said four campuses were key to the turnout operation: Plymouth State University, Keene State, University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College.
“All it takes is a little bit of push and some information for young voters to turn out in unprecedented numbers,” Smythe said at the Democratic election party in Manchester Tuesday night. “We had organizers at each of those schools who built teams of fellows who put in considerable hours.”
NextGen fellows are paid part-time, with the responsibility of directing teams of student volunteers on their respective campuses. Smythe said most of the fellows had a proven track record of volunteering on campaigns and had often been involved in Granite State politics before, either as a student or native resident.
Several state Senate and Executive Council races remained too close to call this morning, but featured strong showings from Democrats across the board. Results later Wednesday showed that Democrats now have a 3-2 majority on the Executive Council.
Nationally, elected positions that have been reliably Republican were hotly contested, with some breaking for the Democrats and others coming up just short. One of the most notable examples was the U.S. Senate race in Texas between Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who came up 3 points shy of the former presidential candidate.
Other disappointments for Democrats nationally occurred in Florida, with Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum falling short, as well as in Georgia, where state Rep. Stacey Abrams refused to concede after ending the night behind in the governor’s race.
Both candidates would have been the first African-Americans to serve as governor of their respective states.
With Republicans gaining seats in the U.S. Senate, the extent and effectiveness of the so-called blue wave was debated among pundits on Election Night.
On CNN, Jake Tapper went viral by saying, “This is not a blue wave,” upon looking at early returns.
Elections forecaster and data journalist Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com announced in between TV hits for ABC News that his publication’s Election Day forecast was perhaps “too aggressive” in indicating a strong likelihood of significant Democratic gains.
Nevertheless, Democrats picked up at least 26 seats in Congress, enough for a new majority that will have a substantial ability to provide a check on President Donald Trump through subpoena power and committee chair positions.
While Trump has antagonized Democrats, Sununu embraced the enhanced presence of the opposition party in Concord.
“These next two years are going to be a little different, but that’s okay,” Sununu said during his victory speech Tuesday night. “That’s New Hampshire. Anybody who has ideas is invited to the table. Anybody who thinks that they can move the ball forward, get results for the people of New Hampshire, come on into the office.”
This article has been changed to add updated Executive Council results.