Upstart Republican Beats Establishment Democrat in New Hampshire Election
Upstart Republican Beats Establishment Democrat in New Hampshire Election

By Tom Ozimek

A Republican candidate has beaten his Democrat rival for mayor of New Hampshire’s biggest city, Manchester, despite the odds stacked against the GOPer, whose opponent was the hand-picked successor of the city’s current mayor and fellow Democrat.

The unofficial tally on Nov. 7 election night showed Republican mayoral candidate Jay Ruais with 9,392 votes, or just over 51 percent, while his Democrat opponent, Kevin Cavanaugh, received 8,904 votes, or just under 49 percent.

While the results have yet to be formalized by election authorities, Mr. Ruais has claimed victory and Mr. Cavanaugh has acknowledged defeat.

“Today, the voters of Manchester spoke,” Mr. Ruais said in a statement Tuesday night, thanking his opponent for running a “great campaign” and calling him a “selfless servant” for the city.

Mr. Cavanaugh, an alderman and former state senator, has conceded.

“Thank you to Manchester, for giving me the opportunity to serve the city that I love, and thank you to everyone that supported our campaign,” Mr. Cavanaugh said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I congratulated Mayor-Elect Jay Ruais on winning a hard fought race. I look forward to working together on our shared values,” he added.

Voters ‘Wanted Change’

The campaign between Mr. Ruais and Mr. Cavanaugh turned on key issues like public safety, housing, downtown revitalization, and homelessness.

The Republican pledged a new approach while the Democrat vowed to build on the record of outgoing Mayor Joyce Craig, a fellow Democrat who touted him as her successor.

In a final election day endorsement blitz, she campaigned for Mr. Cavanaugh, calling him a “true public servant,” a “proud union member,” and “Manchester’s next Mayor.”

Later in the day, as it became clear that Mr. Cavanaugh would not prevail, she congratulated his opponent on a “well-earned victory.”

“I spoke with Jay this evening and know he shares our dedication to making Manchester a stronger city for everyone,” Ms. Craig said in a post on X.

Ms. Craig announced in July that she wouldn’t be seeking reelection as Manchester’s mayor but would instead be throwing her hat in the ring in the contest to be New Hampshire’s next governor.

New Hampshire’s current governor, Chris Sununu, endorsed his fellow Republican in the mayoral race.

“Jay earned every single vote himself, he knocked on tens of thousands of doors,” Mr. Sununu told WMUR reporter Adam Sexton on Wednesday morning. “Awesome opportunity for Manchester.”

Mr. Sununu called Mr. Ruais’s win a “referendum” on the status quo and on “people standing up and saying ‘we want a change.'”

“You can’t just be an establishment candidate … that tries to have a successor. That’s exactly what Joyce Craig did and they got crushed,” he added.

On election day, as votes came pouring in and it became evident that Manchester’s next mayor would almost certainly be Mr. Ruais, his campaign said that “it is clear that the voters of Manchester wanted change, not the status quo.”

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager used the opportunity of Mr. Ruais’s victory to tee up the upcoming gubernatorial battle.

“One thing I’ve heard some of the Republican candidates say about Joyce Craig is we can’t afford to do to the state what she was doing to Manchester,” he told the Boston Globe.

It’s a sentiment New Hampshire’s current governor seemed to share.

“Nobody across the state looks at Manchester and says, ‘hey, I hope the rest of the state runs like that!'” he said.

Virginia Election Upset

While Republicans in New Hampshire celebrated Mr. Ruais’s victory, GOPers in Virginia expressed disappointment with election results that allowed Democrats to take control of both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate.

Late Tuesday, Senate Republicans in Virginia conceded that Democrats had taken that chamber’s majority, while House Republicans did so on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m a little disappointed to be clear,” said Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican.

“I think the No. 1 lesson is that Virginia is really purple, and that going into these elections, we knew that they were going to be tough,” he added, while pledging to work with the Democrats’ new legislative majority on bipartisan priorities like boosting economic development.

Democrats, who focused their messaging to voters on abortion rights, will begin the 2024 session with a slim 21–19 majority in the state Senate and at least 51 of 100 seats in the House.

The issue of access to abortion was also harnessed by Democrats in Ohio, where voters in the increasingly Republican-leaning state on Tuesday approved an amendment to the state constitution to protect access to abortion.

Ohio was the only state with an abortion question on the ballot this year, though analysts expect that it’s a precursor to similar ballot measures being put to a vote in several states in 2024.

Democrats hope the issue of abortion access will energize their voters and help President Joe Biden cling to power for a second term.

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