Rep. Paul Hodes (D)
New Hampshire 2nd District
Political reporters covering New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary usually stay in Manchester, the state’s largest city and within an hour’s drive of the rest of the state except for the North Country. Yet there are other noteworthy cities and towns in New Hampshire. Concord, north of Manchester, is the state capital. On one side of Main Street is the handsome, small, granite Capitol, and on the other you can usually find the headquarters of the two political parties and many candidates: an entire state’s politics within 100 yards. Nashua, south of Manchester and on the Massachusetts line, is the state’s second-largest city, a high-technology and financial services center that has been booming for two decades. To the east is prosperous and growing Salem, first chartered in 1750 and the largest of the border suburbs. To the west of Nashua, past the pleasant country around Mount Monadnock, is Keene, the hub of southwest New Hampshire. To the north are the towns along the Connecticut River; some are mill towns, and some are vacation home enclaves. New Hampshire’s prosperity has spread to most of these, just across the river from Vermont. Hanover, home of Dartmouth College, is a tiny, picturesque town set in the mountains. And every political reporter’s itinerary has to include a trip, usually by plane, to the little lumber mill city of Berlin in the middle of the North Country (although the paper mills have cut many jobs), and perhaps also to Dixville Notch in the White Mountains, where the town’s roughly two dozen voters cast their ballots at a minute past midnight and provide the first reported returns in every presidential election. (Hint for doing election analysis: If Dixville Notch doesn’t go heavily Republican, the Republicans are in trouble.)
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of New Hampshire includes Concord, Nashua, Salem, Keene, the Connecticut River counties, Hanover, Berlin, and Dixville Notch. It also includes Mount Washington, with its spectacularly violent weather and winds that have measured up to 231 miles per hour. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs have been exploring the possibility of wind-power parks in the North Country. The district also takes in the Bretton Woods resort, where the world monetary system was established at a conference in 1944. Politically, this region is mixed, but much of it has been trending Democratic. Nashua is more Democratic than Manchester, Salem more Republican. The area between Mount Monadnock and Keene and the territory running north along the Connecticut River to Hanover and Dartmouth has become very Democratic, much like Vermont across the river. Overall, this is the more Democratic of New Hampshire’s two congressional districts. Republican George W. Bush twice lost this district with 47% of the vote. In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain lost by a more decisive 56%-43%.
Rep. Paul Hodes (D)
Elected: 2006, 2nd term.
Born: March 21, 1951, New York, NY .
Education: Dartmouth Col., A.B. 1972, Boston Col., J.D. 1978.
Family: Married (Peggo Horstmann Hodes); 3 children.
Professional Career: NH asst. atty. gen., 1979-82; NH special prosecutor, 1982-83; Practicing atty., 1983-2006; Musician and founder, Peggosus, 1985-present.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Paul Hodes, a Democrat elected in 2006. He grew up in New York City, the grandson of Russian and Hungarian Jewish immigrants. His younger brother died of Hodgkin’s disease in his childhood. While studying at Dartmouth, his father’s alma mater, Hodes became disillusioned by the Vietnam War. After college, Hodes worked as an actor, playwright, musician (he began playing guitar at 15), and documentary filmmaker. Then he decided to accept his grandmother’s advice to have a fallback plan and got a law degree from Boston College. Hodes was hired by then-New Hampshire Attorney General David Souter as a state prosecutor, and then went into private practice in Concord, eventually becoming a partner in the firm of Shaheen and Gordon. (William Shaheen, the lead partner, is the husband of Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.) Still, Hodes refused to give up on entertaining. He and his wife, Peggo, founded Peggosus, a children’s rock group whose repertoire includes the songs “If My School Was a Zoo” and “Cheerios in My Kazoo.” President Bill Clinton invited the duo to perform at the White House in 1996.
|Paul Hodes (D)||188,332||(56%)||($2,021,750)|
|Jennifer Horn (R)||138,222||(41%)||($552,317)|
|Chester Lapointe (Lib)||7,121||(2%)|
|Paul Hodes (D)||22,638||(99%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (53%)
Hodes first ran for Congress in 2004, when he challenged Republican Rep. Charles Bass and lost, 58%-38%. But Hodes tried again in 2006, when the political environment was far more hostile to Republicans. This time he had more support from the national party and raised much more money, outspending Bass $1.6 million to $1.2 million. Bass claimed he was an “independent voice for New Hampshire” in an attempt to distance himself from the unpopular Republican congressional leadership and the Bush administration. His claim was not entirely unfounded. Earlier that year, Bass helped launch the petition for new House Republican leadership elections that prompted scandal-plagued Majority Leader Tom DeLay to give up plans to try to retake his post. Bass also cast maverick votes against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and against the same-sex marriage ban. Hodes nevertheless continually tied Bass to President Bush and the Iraq war, calling for a “new course for this country.” The liberal MoveOn.org also ran a television ad suggesting Bass had voted for wasteful Iraq reconstruction funds, including payments to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former firm. As the incumbent’s lead in the polls started to fade in October, both national parties took an interest in the race and began pouring money in. Hodes won 53%-46%.
In the House, Hodes established a voting record toward the center of the Democratic Caucus. He was elected president of the Democratic freshman class, and got a seat on the Financial Services Committee. He sponsored a bill to create the Northern Border Regional Development Commission to invest federal money in economic development and job creation in the Northeast. In 2008, he was successful in passing “Michelle’s Law,” which is designed to ensure that college students who take a medically necessary leave of absence do not lose their health insurance coverage. His legislation, based on a New Hampshire statute, was named after Michelle Morse, a cancer patient in Manchester who was diagnosed in 2003 and was forced to stay in school to keep her medical coverage.
In 2008, Republicans nominated Jennifer Horn, a radio talk-show host who competed in a five-candidate primary as a conservative and a political outsider. In the general election campaign, Horn called for tax cuts and opening more areas to oil drilling, and expressed support for the war in Iraq. She criticized Hodes for his support of liberal Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Hodes emphasized his constituent service and won 56%-41%. He ran most strongly in the Connecticut River counties, and trailed only in the Salem area.
After Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said in February 2009 that he would not seek re-election, Hodes announced his candidacy for the Senate. Bass and Horn were among the potential Republican candidates for the House seat.