CONCORD — A state rep seat that seemed to flip last week from a Republican incumbent to a Democratic challenger flipped back Tuesday, ever-so-slightly widening the GOP's narrow majority in the NH House.
The reversal came after NH Secretary of State David Scanlan reopened a recount in the race to represent Hillsborough 16 (Manchester Ward 6), citing concerns that some votes may not have been included in the Nov. 14 recount tally.
Democrats filed a lawsuit that sought to block Scanlan's plans; however, a judge ruled Tuesday morning that Scanlan must keep counting.
The initial election day tally showed Democratic challenger Maxine Mosley losing by 23 votes to Republican incumbent NH Rep. Larry Gagne. But the recount tally on Nov. 14 showed Mosley defeating Gagne by 1 vote.
A subsequent tally announced Tuesday evening again showed Gagne winning. This time, Gagne beat Mosley by 26 votes.
|Election (Nov. 8)
|Recount (Nov. 14)
|Recount (Nov. 22)
Speaking with reporters after Tuesday's recount, Gagne said he looks forward to continue serving in the NH House.
"I had the confidence that eventually the people who were disenfranchised in our ward, those ballots would be found and counted," he said. "They were found and counted, and I came out ahead."
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Scanlan said the overall tally of ballots came very close to matching the election night tally. He said a formal declaration of a winner will come later, when he signs the certificate of election. There are 33 challenged ballots that could go before the Ballot Law Commission.
Colin Booth, communications director for the NH Democratic Party, said Tuesday evening that the Democrats will file an appeal.
"We are obviously disappointed in the outcome of today's court hearing and recount, but unlike the Secretary of State and the GOP, we are going to follow the law and take our case to the Ballot Law Commission as prescribed in statute," Booth said. "We look forward to our hearing before the Ballot Law Commission as the next step in ensuring the integrity of this election."
We look forward to our hearing before the Ballot Law Commission as the next step in ensuring the integrity of this election.
NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley said Scanlan didn't have the statutory authority to order a fresh recount. Buckley said the judge does have the authority to do so, which is why the Democrats participated in Tuesday's recount.
Scanlan said being transparent about how officials recognized a "glaring mistake" then corrected that mistake helps to improve public confidence in NH elections.
Elliot Gault, executive director of the NH Republican Party, said it's Democrats who were wrong for trying to stop Scanlan from reopening the recount after a clear problem was identified with the initial recount.
"Democracy won today," Gault said. "The Democrats tried to stop votes from being counted, tried to disenfranchise voters, and fortunately the state and the court ended up making the right decision here — and all the votes were counted, and that's a huge win for New Hampshire elections. Every vote counts."
The Democrats tried ... to disenfranchise voters, and fortunately the state and the court ended up making the right decision ...
NH House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) thanked Scanlan for making sure all votes were counted, and he congratulated Gagne and Will Infantine, the other Republican who won a seat in Hillsborough 16.
"Don't let the Democrats' spin on today's court ruling cause whiplash," Osborne said. "The fact is that the Democratic Party attempted to take a legislative seat by subverting and disenfranchising voters."
The outcome if this recount means Republicans currently appear to have won 201 seats in the NH House, while Democrats appear to have won 198 seats. One other race emerged from a recount with an apparent tie — that race is among several contests expected to go before the Ballot Law Commission next week on appeals.