Democratic state Rep. Deborah Wheeler is no stranger to post-election recounts. She’s helped conduct many in her three terms as a representative for Northfield and parts of Franklin. But on Tuesday, she wasn’t helping to count. The 72-year-old retired tax auditor was there to watch the process in the hope that it would erase a 25-vote deficit that separated her from the winning Republican, Ryan Smith. But like most recounts, this one failed to change the result, although it did narrow Smith’s margin of victory from 25 votes to 13 (1,505-to-1,480) Smith, a 20-year-old criminal justice student at St. Anselm College, decided to run when he learned that incumbent Republican Gregory Hill was the only Republican on the ballot in a district that elects two representatives. “No one was going to fill that seat on the ticket, and I have things to say so I thought, I’ll throw my hat in the ring and see what happens,” he said as he took a step away from monitoring the counting on Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building.
Hill was the top vote-getter in a field with two Republicans and two Democrats, followed by Smith and Wheeler. Only two get elected. In an ordinary year, an incumbent like Wheeler might be a safe bet for re-election, but this was no ordinary year. Smith attributes his win in large part to Donald Trump’s coattails: “I would say that probably had a lot to do with it.”
Wednesday was the first day in a recount period that’s expected to continue through next Tuesday, according to Senior Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan, the head of the Election Division, with 15 recounts on tap.
That’s not an unusually high number after a general election in New Hampshire, according to Scanlan. “The outcome rarely changes,” he said, “although there may be some slight movement in vote totals.”