In a day of high drama at the State House, Bill Gardner, the nation’s longest serving Secretary of State, held off a formidable challenge by former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, eking out a four-vote win to another two-year term. Gardner, the underdog in this race for the first time in decades, pulled off a remarkable upset, beating Van Ostern on the second ballot of voting by House and Senate members, 209-205. First elected in 1976, Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was hoping for one more term, bringing him to the 100th anniversary of the state’s First-in-the-Nation Primary in 2020.
Gardner first appeared to pull off the upset when the first round of balloting produced a result of 208 votes for Gardner and 207 for Van Ostern, with one vote cast for a third candidate. But newly-elected House Speaker Steve Shurtleff declared an impasse, ruling that neither candidate achieved the necessary 50 percent plus one of the 416 votes cast. He called for a second round of voting after a recess to give supporters time to lobby to flip votes for their candidate.
Newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes moved to allow both candidates to speak, but was overruled by Shurtleff, who called the motion out of order and was supported by a voice vote of the joint session.
In the second round of voting, 415 votes were cast.