Democrats and women were the big winners of the 2012 elections, scoring impressive victories throughout New England. Among highlights:
- New England put the U.S. Senate solidly in the hands of Democrats with the election of Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Sen.-Elect Angus King of Maine who ran as an Independent is expected to join Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont in the Senate Democratic caucus.
- In Massachusetts, Warren defeated Republican Scott Brown who had scored an upset victory two years ago when the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat became available.
- In New Hampshire, Democrat Maggie Hassan is the second woman in the state’s history to be elected governor. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann Kuster (D) were elected to serve in congress, joining current U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R) to give New Hampshire the first all-woman delegation in U.S. history.
- At New England’s statehouses, Democrats took charge, increasing their numbers and taking advantage of open seats, many of which went uncontested by Republicans.
- Maine voters rejected the Republican-controlled state Legislature and put Democrats back in charge of the House and Senate.
- New Hampshire voters restored Democrats to power in the House. Republicans retained a majority in the Senate, which could change with two recounts pending.
Drilling down …
Democrats swept elections statewide in Connecticut, as Republicans lost two big opportunities to gain a foothold in the state’s congressional delegation. Former Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy will replace longtime Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) in the U.S. Senate. Murphy scored a decisive win over Republican Linda McMahon, a wrestling executive, who lost her second bid to win the senate seat. McMahon spent approximately $100 million in two runs for the senate, most of it her own money. Democrat Linda Esty, wife of Dan Esty, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, narrowly defeated former Republican state Sen. Andy Roraback to represent Connecticut’s 5th district. All other Democratic incumbents of the congressional delegation easily fended off challenges by Republicans.
Congressman John Larson will lose his leadership post with House Democrats as a result of Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she will seek re-election to her post as leader of House Democrats. His position as the fourth ranking Democrat and leader of the Democratic Caucus is term limited. Larson appears to be reluctant to challenge his colleagues for a higher post and will continue to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee which will have input into the Bush-era tax cuts which are due to expire at the end of the year.
Democrats also maintained control in the Connecticut General Assembly with a 99-52 majority in the House and a 22-14 margin in the Senate. House Democrats recently chose Rep. Brendan Sharkey, the current House Majority Leader, to be the new Speaker of the House, and Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, a labor leader, to be Majority Leader. Senate Democrats re-elected Don Williams as Senate president and Martin Looney as Senate majority leader. All leadership posts will be up for confirmation when the General Assembly begins a new legislative session on Feb. 8, 2013.
Fiscally speaking Gov. Malloy and his administration confirmed that the state faces a deficit of $365 million for the current fiscal year—large enough to force Malloy to make spending cuts. By law, if the deficit is 1% of the $19.1 billion general fund, the governor is required to submit a plan to cut spending to the General Assembly. Administration officials who appeared before the Appropriations Committee blamed the deficit on poor revenue collections and an uptick in services requested under the state’s Medicaid program. Administration officials also predict another gap of $1.1 billion for FY14 and FY15.
There was more bad news as Conning Inc. a Hartford-based research firm reported the state has the nation’s worst credit quality. According to Paul Mansour, author of the Conning report, “The reality is quite alarming. The state is among the worst in job creation [and] tax revenue growth and has not yet seen a recovery in home prices. It has very high debt and retirement obligations, little budget flexibility and no rainy day fund balance.”
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo notified the governor recently that the state had added only 1,900 jobs during the past year and, as of September, the unemployment rate was 8.9%.
Former Maine Gov. King overwhelmed his challengers to win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. Both incumbent Democratic members of congress easily won over Republican challengers in Maine’s two congressional districts. Chellie Pingree decisively beat Republican Jon Courtney in Maine’s 1st district, and Michael Michaud beat former Senate President Kevin Raye in the 2nd district.
In the state Legislature, Democrats routed House Republicans and now hold a majority of 87-60-4. Democrats also recaptured the state Senate by a margin of 19-15-1. Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s contentious relationship with Democrats may come back to haunt him when the Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 4, 2013. Sen. Justin Alfond (D) whom LePage referred to as a “spoiled brat” was elected to be Senate president. The House chose Rep. Mark Eves, to be its new speaker. The new Democratic legislature will also select a new state treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state, essentially stripping the governor of his leverage.
While Democrats enjoyed an impressive victory, the party’s longtime legislative leader and former Speaker of the House John Martin was defeated in his bid for re-election by Republican Rep. Allen Nadeau by 300 votes. Martin, was speaker from 1975 to 1994, represented Eagle Lake in the Maine Legislature for 23 terms with four in the state Senate.
Statewide ballot questions
- approved gay marriage
- approved $5 million to purchase land for conservation
- approved $51.5 million for transportation projects and the Lifeflight Foundation which will make the state eligible for $101.6 million in federal and other matching funds
- approved $7.9 million for revolving loan funds for drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.
- but rejected $11.3 million to provide funds to build a diagnostic facility for the University of Maine System; for capital improvements and equipment, including machine tool technology, for the Maine Community College System; and for capital improvements, equipment for Maine Maritime Academy.
Fiscally speaking At the end of the first quarter, state revenues fell behind projections by $27 million. Sales tax revenues were off estimates by $10 million, income tax revenues by $4.7 million, and corporate income tax revenues by $13.2 million. Finance Commissioner Sawin Millet is expected to discuss the situation with the state’s revenue forecasting committee.
The Massachusetts congressional delegation turned a solid blue as voters made history by electing the Commonwealth’s first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren prevailed over Republican Scott Brown. (If President Obama taps Massachusetts senior senator John Kerry for secretary of defense as has been rumored, the newly elected Warren would become the senior senator from Massachusetts.) In the U.S. House, John Tierney narrowly edged out former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei. Joseph P. Kennedy III easily won the House seat vacated by former Congressman Barney Frank in the 4th congressional district, with Republican Scott Bielat losing for a second time.
As a result of redistricting, Massachusetts lost a congressional seat. The district formerly represented by Congressman John Olver (D) who retired, was absorbed in part, by a newly reconfigured 1st district to be represented by Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield.
Democrats also held onto their large majority in the Massachusetts state Legislature. After making significant gains in the House two years ago, Republicans lost four seats in the House, but held onto four in the Senate. Democrats also won three seats in the state Senate that went unchallenged.
Statewide ballot questions
- approved a measure to distribute medical marijuana
- approved a measure, “right to repair” which requires automakers to provide independent repair shops with access to computer codes to repair vehicles
- but rejected a measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Fiscally speaking Revenues for the first quarter of FY13 are running $256 million behind projections. October revenues are off by $48 million. While the Patrick administration is not revising revenue estimates, the governor has ordered tighter controls on spending and hiring.
The state that holds the distinction of having the “first-in-the-nation” Presidential Primary now has another first. As a result of the November election, New Hampshire is the first state in the history of the nation to have all woman members representing its congressional delegation.
In addition, former state Sen. Hassan defeated Manchester attorney, Ovide LaMontagne (R), to be the state’s next governor. Democrats also took back control of the New Hampshire House by a margin of 217-117. Six races were still being contested in mid-November. Democrats will also hold the majority on the state’s Executive Council after picking up three seats. The New Hampshire Senate appears to remain under Republican control by a margin of 13-11. Former House Speaker Terie Norelli (D) plans to seek the speaker’s post as does Rep. David Campbell. Current Senate President Peter Bragdon has expressed interest in continuing in that post.
Statewide ballot questions
- Though 57% of New Hampshire voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax—it fell short of the 66% or two thirds required by law.
Fiscally speaking For the first four months of FY13, New Hampshire is $6.1 million ahead of projections in state revenue collections. October was a strong month for business taxes, which rebounded after a sluggish September. Real estate transfer taxes, rooms and meals and tobacco taxes all performed above estimates.
Democratic members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation easily won their re-election bids. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) was re-elected to a second term beating back a challenge from Republican Barry Hinckley. Congressman David Cicilline (D), who was considered vulnerable, won a second term with a convincing victory over Republican challenger, Brendan Doherty, former head of the Rhode Island State Police. Congressman James Langevin (D) also won his bid for re-election to a seventh term, easily defeating Republican Michael Riley.
A high voter turnout favored Democrats who increased their numbers in the Rhode Island General Assembly. With all the results in, a shrinking Republican party continued a losing trend, dropping in the state Senate from eight to five, and in the House losing four of 10 seats. The Rhode Island General Assembly with a total of 113 legislators includes just 11 Republicans.
House Democrats re-elected current Speaker Rep. Gordon Fox to another term and re-elected House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello. House Minority Leader Brian Newberry is expected to be re-elected. Senate Democrats tapped current Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed to lead the Senate for another term and re-elected Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio.
Rhode Island voters approved:
- authorization of table games for Twin Rivers casino in Lincoln
- authorization of table games for Newport Grand casino (but voters in Newport rejected the proposal by a slim margin)
- $50 million bond to make improvements at Rhode Island College
- $94 million bond for new Veteran’s Home in Bristol and renovations to existing home.
- $20 million bond to improve drinking water and wastewater-treatment facilities
- $20 million bond to protect Narragansett Bay and improve parks and recreational facilities
- $25 million for construction/renovation of 600 affordable housing units statewide.
Fiscally speaking General tax revenue increased by $6.8 million or 0.08% over the first four months of FY13. Personal income tax revenue was $3 million less than the same period in FY12. However sales and use taxes were up by $8.6 million over the previous year.
Sen. Sanders (I), Congressman Peter Welch (D) and Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) were all easily re-elected. Other statewide officeholders, including Attorney General William Sorrell, Secretary of State Jim Condos and State Treasurer Beth Pearce, were all returned to office. Also, Democratic candidate Doug Hoffer defeated incumbent Republican Vincent Illuzzi for auditor. Lt. Governor Phil Scott (R) was the lone Republican to survive a Democratic landslide.
In the Vermont state Legislature, Democrats maintained control. Unofficial results show Democrats with a 94-48 majority in the House with several key races pending. Current Speaker of the House Shap Smith is expected to be challenged by longtime House member Paul Poirier (I). Democrats will maintain control of the Senate. No official results were available.
With the re-election of President Obama, Vermont can now move ahead with its state plan for its own health care system. The Vermont law passed in 2011 establishes Green Mountain Care as the state entity that will cover the majority of Vermonters. The federal law; the Affordable Care Act will provide Vermont with a launching pad for Green Mountain Care and a big funding source. Green Mountain Care would be set up in 2017.
Fiscally speaking General tax collections for October were $2.5 million below estimates—the first time in the new fiscal year that revenues were off. Personal income tax revenue has fallen short for the past three months.
Carolyn Morwick is a consultant at NEBHE and former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.