Jay V. Kahn of Keene, a Democrat, has won a second term as state senator representing District 10, which includes 15 communities in Cheshire County.
In runaway fashion, not unlike his victory in 2016, Kahn turned back challenges from Republican Daniel C. LeClair, a political newcomer from Swanzey, and Libertarian candidate and talk radio host Ian B. Freeman of Keene.
With 90 percent of precincts officially reporting, Kahn had 14,305 votes (65 percent), LeClair 7,113 (32 percent) and Freeman 501 (2 percent).
Kahn’s backing in Keene was particularly one-sided; he carried about 72 percent of ballots in its five wards, or 6,759 votes.
In all, the district — Alstead, Chesterfield, Gilsum, Harrisville, Hinsdale, Keene, Marlborough, Nelson, Roxbury, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland and Winchester — consists of fewer than 30,000 ballots.
Kahn, 68, also outperformed LeClair in LeClair’s hometown, 1,564 to 1,233.
Kahn said one thing was clear: “Voters wanted to vote.”
He added: “The sense of destructive change nationally, and the echo effect in New Hampshire was creating great concern among households that I visited. I don’t think the rain, heavy as it was at times, diminished the turnout. It was strong.”
LeClair, a small business owner and former police officer in Winchester, was the first to acknowledge his rookie political status and long-shot chances of victory. While campaigning, he called for “more mutual respect” to quell the growing big-party divide.
The 37-year-old father of three had said he could bring to Concord new, young and fresh ideas and that his non-partisan approach could help to bridge deepening divides that voters he met were frustrated with.
Kahn was a Keene city councilor when he won the seat in 2016. He is also a former vice president for finance and planning at Keene State College. For one year (2012-13), he served as interim president of the college.
He jumped into the Senate 10 race after Molly M. Kelly, then a five-term incumbent, announced she would not seek re-election. After a brief political respite, Kelly, also a Democrat, launched a bid for governor. But she came up short in her effort to unseat Gov. Chris Sununu, who won a second term, in large part, by prevailing in traditional GOP strongholds across the state.
The N.H. Senate comprises 24 members; districts are based on population. Before Tuesday, there were 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. As of press time, the Associated Press had reported Democrats had won 10 seats with leads in three more races, while Republicans secured nine seats with leads in two others. In an election-period interview with The Sentinel, Kahn says his top priority is developing the state’s workforce — especially through the education system.
“The workforce pipeline needs to be primed. And that’s looking at education from early childhood education through college education,” he said earlier.
On Tuesday night, the first-term incumbent said he was buoyed not just by Tuesday’s robust region and state turnout, but by the reported number of new voters who registered and the level of civic engagement that can lead to. In Keene’s Ward 1, for example, new registrants cast 41 percent of ballots.
He said he plans to continue to build connections and focus on issues that are relevant and important to his constituents.
“The advantage of having served for two years is that I reached out to each town and other elected officials, to work in collaboration with them,” he said. “I met with the select boards of 13 of the 15 towns in the district, held town meetings in each of the towns, and we talked about issues before Legislature, not in a campaign sense, but trying to engage in significant legislative issues that either I had sponsored or that were gaining traction and I needed feedback for. Issues like mental health and school vouchers, like childcare and DCYF … children and family issues.”
LeClair was reflective the day after the election, calling his candidacy good experience and inspirational.
“I thought I got great support, not just last night but for the past few months," he said this morning. "I learned a lot about the process, and I met so many people who had amazing stories, tragedies and successes.
“I plan to keep at it because of them, hopefully volunteering, and just trying to help to make a difference. Every little bit has to help.”
At this time, he said, he plans to make another run in 2020.
“Molly and Jay have been strong incumbents (for Senate 10). But I think Republicans will learn from this election and figure out how to show people what the party really stands for, which is accepting all views and trying to work together.
“I think the (local) Democrats do a good job keeping people focused and engaged. I’m sure they are right back at it today. We need to do the same thing.”
Freeman, 38, listed “Ending prohibition of all victimless ‘crimes,’ making all taxes voluntary, and seceding New Hampshire from the United States federal government,” as his priority issues in response to a Sentinel candidate questionnaire.
Among feathers in his first-term cap, Kahn co-sponsored successful legislation giving authority to towns to issue bonds for expansion of broadband infrastructure. It was regarded as a significant development for the region and for rural under-served areas of the state where lack of accessible high-speed bandwidth is especially acute.
Also, when the state pressed for skilled workers in many arenas, including health care, Kahn cosponsored a law to allow therapists and nurses from nearby states to begin working in New Hampshire while their license applications are pending.
In Concord, Kahn serves on the Senate Education, and Public and Municipal Affairs Committees and is on legislative committees related to Legislative Youth Advisory Committee, Special Education, Streamlining Mental Health and Human Services, Electricity Pricing, Grandparenting and Legislative Rules. He also is a representative to the Education Commission of the States and the National Council on State Legislatures Student Centered Learning Committee.