Ayotte Clings to Slim Lead in New Hampshire Senate Primary

Posted September 15, 2010 at 1:05am

Five hours after polls closed in New Hampshire, former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was clinging to a 1-point lead over surging local tea party favorite Ovide Lamontagne early Wednesday morning in the Granite State’s Republican Senate primary.

As of 1:45 a.m., Ayotte led 38.4 percent to Lamontagne’s 37.3 percent with 81 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.

Should she hold on to her slim margin, Ayotte — the pick of the national Republican establishment — would become the favorite in the general election contest against Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes in the race to replace retiring Sen. Judd Gregg.

The GOP contest attracted some national attention. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin backed Ayotte, who was recruited to run by national party leaders and had strong establishment support. But the political action committee of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed the more conservative Lamontagne, as did the majority of local tea party groups.

Aside from the Senate contest, voters Tuesday night also finalized the field in two New Hampshire House contests, both of which are currently held by Democrats and will be competitive in November.

In the 1st district, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) will face Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R), who beat a crowded GOP field to win his party’s nomination. Guinta garnered 32 percent of the vote compared with defense contractor Rich Ashooh’s 28 percent.

There were competitive primaries in both parties in the 2nd district race to fill Hodes’ open seat.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Charles Bass escaped a surge from conservative favorite Jennifer Horn, the 2008 Republican nominee, winning 43 percent to 35 percent, with 77 percent of districts reporting.

And for Democrats, the Associated Press declared progressive favorite Ann McLane Kuster the winner over Katrina Swett. Kuster dominated the race, 74 percent to 26 percent, with 14 percent of precincts reporting.

Progressives cheered the win, as did the New Hampshire Republican Party.

“Republicans are pleased that Democrats have nominated an ultra left-wing extremist in the Second District,” party spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “Ms. Kuster’s radical views are clearly out of step with New Hampshire’s fiscally conservative values and will be overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November.”