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Bradley handily defeats Martin for senate seat

March 04, 2009
REGION — Former Republican Congressman Jeb Bradley will be State Senate District 3's new voice in Concord.

In Tuesday's special election—in which the district chose a senator to replace Wakefield Republican Bill Denley, who recently resigned—voters in 15 of the district's 17 communities chose Bradley. He won with 61 percent of the vote to Democrat Willard "Bud" Martin's 39 percent. The final district-wide tally was 5,996 to 3,789.

Bradley, who campaigned against a proposed hike in the rooms and meals tax, won handily in communities with economies that depend largely on tourism. In typically Democrat-leaning Conway, which favored Martin to Denley in November by a 15 percent margin, Bradley scored a 713-530 victory. Likewise, he won more than double the votes for Martin (1,214 to 600) in his hometown of Wolfeboro (which saw a relatively high 34 percent turnout), and won a 670 to 290 victory in Moultonborough. Tuftonboro voters chose Bradley 412-202.

He also picked up a 521-204 win in Wakefield, which had a low voter turnout of 20 percent. Denley, who stepped down from the State Senate in late February after a third arrest for drunken driving, received two write-in votes there, as well as one in Freedom, where voters ultimately opted for Bradley 203-136.

In Ossipee, less than 20 percent of voters participated to elect Bradley 415-219. He also picked up wins in Brookfield (115-85), Effingham (143-110), Chatham (42-18) and Madison (241-213), as well as the district's three Strafford County towns: Middleton (119-83), Milton (263-150) and Farmington (310-240). The closest contest was in Eaton, where Bradley eked out a victory by one vote (60-59).

Martin was unable to fend off GOP allegations that he was harboring a radical social agenda. Arguing that the economy was the election's main issue, Martin didn't publicly state his stances on social issues (for gay marriage and mandatory seatbelts and against the transgender rights bill and the death penalty) until late in the campaign. He won only two towns, Tamworth (315-281) and his hometown of Sandwich (335-274), where he currently serves as selectman.

Bradley said he is against higher taxes, gay marriage, the transgender rights bill and mandatory seat belts. He supports the death penalty.

With both parties pouring time and money into the race, some political analysts viewed the race as both a test of new leadership under State Republican Chairman John H. Sununu and an indicator of how New Hampshire residents are responding to House Democrats' actions in Concord. While turnout across the district was low, typically settling at 20 to 25 percent, Bradley outperformed Denley's returns in the November general election by more than 10 percent.

Conversely, Martin fared worse in all but one of the district's towns—tiny Brookfield—although the N.H. Democratic Party raised more than $205,000 for the special election. The N.H. Republican State Committee raised about $41,000.

The Democrats maintain a 14-10 majority in the N.H. Senate. Bradley's victory prevented the Democrats from achieving a supermajority in the State Senate that would have allowed them to override vetoes issued by Gov. John Lynch.

District 3 has never had a Democratic state senator. Martin came close in November, when Denley edged him out by roughly 500 votes.

Martin Lord Osman
Tilton School
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