Old Faces in New England: SoS Dunlap, Gardner Win Re-Election in ME, NH

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It was a good day for Secretary of State incumbents in New England yesterday, where Maine’s Matt Dunlap and New Hampshire’s Bill Gardner won re-election in their respective legislatures to two-year terms.

Dunlap’s re-election was uneventful – though term limits will prevent him from running again next time, reports the Bangor Daily News:

Flexing the power that comes with significant majorities in both chambers, the Democrat-controlled Maine Legislature elected Democrats on Wednesday afternoon to three of the most important positions in state government.

The House and Senate jointly elected Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, to succeed Gov.-elect Janet Mills as attorney general. Matt Dunlap will serve another term as secretary of state, and Democrat Henry Beck, a former state representative from Waterville, will replace independent Terry Hayes as treasurer.

Each will serve a two-year term. This is his fourth consecutive term, so Dunlap would be prevented from running for secretary of state again in 2020 because Maine’s term limits law applies to constitutional offices.

Organization Day was far more exciting in New Hampshire, where Gardner held off a fierce challenge to win two narrow votes and reclaim the SoS position for what could be his final term. The Union Leader has more:

In a day of high drama at the State House, Bill Gardner, the nation’s longest-serving Secretary of State, held off a formidable challenge by former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, eking out a four-vote win to another two-year term.

Gardner, the underdog in this race for the first time in decades, beat Van Ostern on the second ballot of voting by House and Senate members, 209-205…

The first round of balloting produced a result of 208 votes for Gardner and 207 for Van Ostern, with one vote cast for a third candidate. But newly elected House Speaker Steve Shurtleff declared an impasse, ruling that neither candidate achieved the necessary 50 percent plus one of the 416 votes cast. He called for a second round of voting after a recess to give supporters time to lobby to flip votes for their candidate.

One significant factor in the vote was the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary (of which Gardner is a staunch defender), which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020:

First elected in 1976, Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was hoping for one more term, bringing him to the 100th anniversary of the state’s first-in-the-nation primary in 2020…

Retired judge Ned Gordon of Bristol, a longtime Gardner friend and now a Republican state representative, was among those who seconded Gardner’s nomination.

“While we may not always agree with Bill Gardner, his integrity is above question. He’s always done what he thinks is right for the state,” he said.

“To his credit, Colin has pointed out things that could be changed, but I would like to see Bill end his career graciously and be in office for the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary, which he has worked so hard to preserve and has so benefited New Hampshire over the years. For him, this is not a job, it’s a calling.”

An interesting side note is the impact on both Democratic incumbents of the now-disbanded Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity; Dunlap’s star rose when he challenged the Commission’s procedures, while Gardner was hurt by his prominent supporting role and comments he made during a meeting he hosted in early 2017. The margins in both states likely reflected a strong PACEI after-effect. Still, both New England states head into the 2020 election cycle for one more term with their existing Secretaries of State; it will be interesting to see how yesterday’s votes affect their performance – if at all. Stay tuned …

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