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Joyce Endee

Democrat Jeff Woodburn wins District 1 Senate seat by big margin

During the campaign, North Country columnist and raconteur John Harrigan, right, a Republican of Colebrook, endorsed Jeff Woodburn, a Democrat of Dalton, who is now the District 1 state Senator-elect. At a pre-election open house at the Little Grille at the Depot in Littleton, they held up a copy of “Beyond the Notches,” an anthology to which they both contributed. (click for larger version)
November 14, 2012
WHITEFIELD — Jeff Woodburn, a Whitefield native who now lives in Dalton, held his Nov. 6 Election Night victory party in his hometown at the Whitefield Inn. A 1984 graduate of White Mountains Regional High School, he earned a degree in history magna cum laude from Franklin Pierce University.

On Election Day, Woodburn, a Democrat, tallied nearly 15,000 votes — 14,924 votes — to deny Grafton County Republican Debi Warner of Littleton the northernmost Senate seat that has always been held by a Coös County resident. Warner only garnered 10,348 votes, losing her home base of Littleton by more than 250 votes, 1,256 to 1,521.

"I'm honored by both the results and the trust that my neighbors have placed in me," said Woodburn. "The state-wide pundits had called this race the most competitive in the state. I was pleased by the substantial margin and depth of my victory — winning 49 of the 58 voting precincts and out-polling every other candidate except District 1 Councilor Ray Burton."

District 1 includes 27 percent of the state's land mass and is the state's most evenly divided District by political party. Republicans have held this seat for the past two decades, Woodburn explained. There are only 24 state Senators.

"I have a mandate to work with everyone to improve life in the North Country, to stand up for rural people and values, and to protect our way of life," he said.

Woodburn is now engaged in preparing himself to address the specific challenges of representing the North Country. "I'm meeting this week with incumbent District 1 Senator John Gallus of Berlin, as well as former Senators Harold Burns of Whitefield, Fred King of Colebrook, and Charlie Bond of Jefferson, all Republicans, as well as Carole Lamirande, a Democrat of Gorham, to seek their insights and advice," he said.

Woodburn's political resume is long for someone who is only 47 years old. While still a WMRHS senior he was elected to the 17th N. H. Constitutional Convention, becoming the youngest person ever elected. Two years later, in 1986, Woodburn challenged veteran state Rep. Harold Burns for a North Country seat in the House, and he fell short of defeating the future Speaker of the House by only 26 votes.

Then in another two years, Woodburn ran for a vacated seat in at-large legislative district and became the first Democrat to win in this predominantly Republican district, where only about 25 percent of voters were Democrats.

After two years serving in the state Legislature, Woodburn ran the campaign of a then-politically-unknown candidate for Congress, Dick Swett, who defeated Rep. Chuck Douglas in what the "Union Leader" called "one of the biggest upsets in New Hampshire history," according to Woodburn's website. He continued to work for the newly elected Congressman, remaining part of his office until Swett was defeated in 1994.

Woodburn then turned his attention to business and historic preservation. After leading a group of investors to save the historic Isaac Dow House in Newington, Woodburn co-founded Historic Properties, a specialty real estate and consulting firm. He "grew" the company into a recognized authority at marketing antique and historic properties, brokering some unique historic buildings and earning kudos from statewide business publications.

With the election of the first Democratic governor in 18 years, Woodburn returned to politics to build on the Party's success. At age 31 he became the youngest Democratic Party chair in the country. While holding that post from 1997 to 1999, Woodburn focused on building its grassroots base and a centrist image. On Election Day, the Democrats scored impressive victories by re-electing the Democratic Governor and taking control of the State Senate for the first time since 1912.

In 1999, Woodburn decided, however, not to seek another term as chairman in order to focus his efforts on Historic Properties. Often working in business partnerships, he turned a dozen dilapidated commercial historic buildings into attractive and successful properties.

Then in 2002, Woodburn fulfilled his lifelong dream of buying his ancestral home in Whitefield. Woodburn's grandparents had purchased an old house on the town common in 1948 to house their five children and their dream of starting a restaurant. After a major renovation, Woodburn and his sister, Melissa Marcum, reopened the Woodburn House Restaurant in 2003. The restaurant closed in 2009. He and his wife Kelly moved to Whitefield and then to Dalton.

In 2005, Woodburn sold Historic Properties and taught civics and social studies at WMRHS. He also later taught at the Whitefield School and the Walden School in Walden, Vt., splitting his time between teaching and writing for various publications, including three Salmon Press newspapers: Coös County Democrat, Littleton Courier, and Berlin Reporter.

Woodburn contributed two original articles in the award-winning North Country anthology, "Beyond the Notches: Stories of Place in New Hampshire's North Country." He is married and has five children: Alicia, 22; John, 18; Molly, 16; Dylan, 10; and Avery, 7.

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