- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Half a dozen state Senate districts are the battleground for control of New Hampshire’s upper chamber this November while in the House of Representatives, polling indicates Republicans are likely to take back the majority they lost in 2012.

Republicans hold 13 of 24 state Senate seats and 173 seats in the 400-member House. Nationally, it’s likely to be a strong year for Republicans who could be swept to office in a wave of opposition to Democratic President Barack Obama.

Data from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows the state Legislature is poised to ride that wave. Analysis of past results paired with generic ballot polling for the House - using parties but no candidate names - suggest the Republicans could end up with 247 seats to 153 for Democrats - roughly a 60-seat swing, said Andy Smith, director of the survey center. The same generic ballot shows Republicans could pick up seats in the Senate, as well.

The House - with its much smaller districts - is more susceptible to swings than the Senate because a wave in one city could flip multiple seats. For example, if Republicans in one town vote for the party’s gubernatorial candidate and vote party line on the whole ballot, the Republicans all down the ballot are likely to win.

“You’re not really voting for one candidate,” Smith said.

Democrats have about a three percent voter registration edge in New Hampshire, but Republicans are far more motivated to go to the polls this year, Smith said. Even in state-level races, overall anger with President Obama can motivate Republicans to vote and Democrats to stay home, he said.

Republicans, under Majority Leader Chuck Morse, are focused on keeping their 13 Senate seats and hope to pick up seats held by Democrats Andrew Hosmer of Laconia and Peggy Gilmour of Hollis. Both districts lean Republican, and Gilmour has already been knocked out of office once, by the 2010 wave. The Republican Senate Majority PAC broke its fundraising record this year, and had $154,000 on hand before the primary.

“We are optimistic about what might transpire over the month ahead. It’s been Senator Morse’s goal all along to protect, maintain and grow the Senate majority,” said Rich Killion, a Republican strategist helping with the PAC’s efforts.

But neither of the Republicans facing Hosmer and Gilmour is well-funded. Kathy Rago of Franklin has raised $7,240 as of mid-September, compared to Hosmer’s $125,000 while Kevin Avard has raised $9,800 compared to Gilmour’s $122,000.

“We are confident that we will hold all 11 seats currently held by Democrats and with many Democratic candidates outraising and outworking their Republican counterparts, we are in a strong position to take back the Senate majority this November,” said Gene Martin, Senate Democratic caucus director.

Democrats see opportunities to pick off Republican Sens. David Boutin of Hooksett, Sam Cataldo of Farmington and Nancy Stiles of Hampton. Boutin won a bruising primary with 54 percent of the vote and faces Democratic attorney Maureen Raiche Manning. Cataldo won his seat by just 600 votes in 2012. In a recent mailer, he highlighted his support for an equal pay law and included a picture of himself with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Stiles and her opponent, state Rep. Chris Muns, have each raised at least $100,000.

Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican, won his district by about 300 votes in 2012 and faces the same opponent this year, Lee Nyquist.

The only competitive open Senate race is in the Sunapee region between Democrat Linda Tanner and Republican Jerry Little. Retiring Republican Bob Odell held the seat for 12 years.

The race highlights the contrasts between Democrats’ and Republicans’ thematic messages this election cycle: Tanner supports Medicaid expansion, the Common Core education standards and raising the minimum wage. Little supports right-to-work legislation, opposes raising the minimum wage and signed a pledge opposing Medicaid expansion, although he says he’d consider legislation to reauthorize it in 2016.

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