Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Elected: 2008, term expires 2014, 1st term.
Born: Jan. 28, 1947, St. Charles, MO .
Education: Shippensburg Coll., B.A. 1969, U. of MS, M.A. 1973.
Family: Married (William); 3 children.
Elected office: NH Senate, 1990–96; NH gov., 1997-2003.
Professional Career: Teacher, 1969–71; A.A., U. of NH, 1973–74, Parents' Assoc. Program Coord., 1982–86; Mgr., seasonal retail business, 1973–76; Campaign mgr., Carter/Mondale NH pres. campaign, 1979–80; Hart NH pres. campaign, 1983–84; McEachern NH gov. campaign, 1986–88.
Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2008. She is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected both a governor and a senator. Shaheen grew up in St. Charles County, Mo., north of St. Louis, and graduated from Shippensburg College in Pennsylvania. She got a master’s degree at the University of Mississippi. She moved to New Hampshire in 1973, where she worked as a teacher and ran a silver and leather business with her husband, attorney William Shaheen. She worked as a staffer on Democrat Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential primary campaigns in New Hampshire in 1976 and 1980, and worked on other Democratic campaigns as well. She managed Democrat Gary Hart’s 1984 campaign in the New Hampshire primary, in which he beat Walter Mondale 37%-28%. She also worked for the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaigns of Paul McEachern in 1986 and 1988, when he lost to John Sununu and Judd Gregg, respectively.
|Jeanne Shaheen (D)||358,438||(52%)||($8,225,580)|
|John Sununu (R)||314,403||(45%)||($8,010,010)|
|Ken Blevens (Lib)||21,516||(3%)|
|Jeanne Shaheen (D)||42,968||(88%)|
|Henry Stebbins (D)||5,281||(11%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2000 governor (49%), 1998 governor (66%), 1996 governor (57%)
In 1990, Shaheen was elected to the state Senate, where she supported expanded health care coverage and needle-exchange programs, but also term limits on federal and state legislators. In 1996, she ran for governor. She had no serious primary opposition, while the Republicans had a close race between U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff and Board of Education Chairman Ovide Lamontagne, a strong conservative who won the nomination. Shaheen took a pledge not to support an income or sales tax and won the general election 57%-39%, carrying every county. As governor, Shaheen won more funding from the Legislature for kindergarten programs and signed a bill creating a needle-exchange pilot program. She vetoed bills that would have abolished the estate tax and the death penalty. A December 1997 state Supreme Court ruling that outlawed New Hampshire’s system of local school financing provided a continual challenge. Shaheen proposed increasing state revenues through slot machine gambling and a hike in the tobacco tax, but the court invalidated her plan in 1998. That same year, when her two-year term was up, Shaheen was re-elected by 66%-31%. But she then abandoned her pledge to oppose an income or sales tax and was re-elected in 2000 by only 49%-44%. During that term, the controversy over school funding continued, and the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to pass either an income or sales tax.
In 2002, Shaheen ran for the Senate. As in her 1996 race, Republicans had a seriously contested primary in which U.S. Rep. John Sununu, son of the former governor and George H.W. Bush White House chief of staff, defeated the very conservative incumbent Robert Smith 53%-45%. Shaheen supported President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and the authorization of military force in Iraq passed by Congress in October 2002. But her abandonment of the tax pledge came back to haunt her in the gubernatorial race that year, when the Democratic nominee for governor, Mark Fernald, took a strong stand backing the imposition of a state income tax. Polls showed the Senate race as one of the closest in the country, and Sununu won 51%-46%.
In the 2004 election season, Shaheen was the national chairwoman of Democrat John Kerry’s presidential campaign and helped orchestrate his sudden rise in the polls and his victory in the New Hampshire primary, as competitor Howard Dean’s support collapsed. After that election, in April 2005, Shaheen became director of the Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard. She said she had no interest in running for office again. But after the Democratic sweep of November 2006, many local Democrats pressed her to run against Sununu in 2008. Other candidates were already in the race, including Katrina Swett, wife of former U.S. Rep. Dick Swett and daughter of the late California Rep. Tom Lantos. She raised $1.2 million for the race. A July 2007 poll showed Shaheen far ahead of Sununu in a theoretical matchup, with Swett and other Democrats running behind him. In September, Shaheen quit her job at Harvard and announced that she was running. She said that if she had known in 2002 what she knew in 2007, she would have opposed the Iraq war resolution. Swett and others dropped out of the race.
Much of New Hampshire’s attention over the next few months was devoted to the presidential race. In December 2007, Shaheen’s husband William, co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s national and New Hampshire campaigns, told reporters that Republicans would attack Democratic competitor Barack Obama for admitting in his autobiography that he “got into drinking” and “experimented with drugs.” The next day, Clinton apologized, and Shaheen’s husband resigned his position in her campaign.
The campaign was a rematch between two candidates in a very different political atmosphere. In 2002, Shaheen had emphasized areas where she agreed with Bush and congressional Republicans; in 2008, she emphasized her disagreements with them. She attacked Sununu for votes against changing the tax treatment of oil companies and was supported by environmental groups. She decried the state of the economy and attacked Sununu for supporting the Bush administration’s economic policies. Shaheen led in polls throughout the campaign, but Sununu rebounded after gas prices reached $4 a gallon, and he criticized Shaheen’s opposition to offshore oil drilling. He also attacked her for doubling state spending in her six years as governor. But he may have lost ground in October 2008, when he voted for the $700 billion government bailout for the financial industry, which Shaheen, like many challenger candidates in both parties, opposed.
It was one of the most closely contested Senate races in the country, and both candidates raised and spent more than $8 million. The outcome was a reversal of 2002. Shaheen won 52%-45%, a spread just slightly greater than Sununu’s six years earlier. It was the first Democratic Senate victory in New Hampshire since 1974.