In a literal grudge rematch from 2010, Democrat Ann McLane Kuster has unseated U.S. Rep. Charles Bass to win the 2nd Congressional District seat.
At a little past 11:30 p.m., Bass, accompanied by his wife somberly conceded the race at the Grappone Conference Center.
“Annie Kuster has run a very good campaign for a considerable period of time and she has earned the victory that she has had today,” he said.
Bass thanked her for her graciousness and ensured her that he would do everything to make sure there was a smooth transition, not unlike he did in 2006 when Paul Hodes won the seat.
“I want to thank all of you … all of you wonderful people who have supported me for 14 years have supported me and been my friends,” he said. “It’s a wonderful country that can have a change of power that is so smooth and so graceful … it’s what makes America strong.”
Just after 11 p.m., Kuster addressed supporters at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, highlighting Democratic victories across the ticket.
"We built a firewall for President Barack Obama," Kuster told voters Tuesday night. "We elected Maggie Hassan our next governor and before the night is out, we will have the first all-female congressional delegation."
Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta were still neck-and-neck in the 1st Congressional District race at the time of Kuster's speech.
Kuster said she'd talked with Bass on the phone shortly before her speech.
"Charlie and I don't see eye to eye on every issue, but I respect him a great deal and I certainly do wish him and his family all the very best," she said. "But the truth is this campaign wasn't about Charlie and it wasn't about me. It was about all of you."
Kuster told supporters she would work to follow in the footsteps of the "long line of strong women" in her family.
"We've come a long way since my grandmother cast her first ballot, but we still have a lot more work to do," she said. "So in her memory, I promise that I will work hard every single day to move this country forward and get our government working for us once again. We all know it's going to take common sense and compromise, so here's my commitment to you: I will work with anybody from any party on any issue if I believe it's in the best interest of this state and I will always stand up for what I believe in."
Waiting for the returns
At the Bass event, campaign staffers trickled in from different parts of the state and posted all of their data onto a board. While it looked grim early, with Kuster taking a quick 10,000 vote lead, staffers were holding out for some key towns to post data that might pull off another squeaker. In the end, it didn't come together for them.
Over at the Kuster campaign party, Bob and Gail Keenan of Windham volunteered for their first political campaign this year, knocking on doors and making phone calls for Kuster during the past six weeks.
Bob Keenan said he voted for Kuster in 2010, but his fears about Republican control in the Congress encourage him to get involved this time around.
"I think Annie will win, from seeing everyone on the ground for her as opposed to Bass," he said.
Much of that support was concentrated in the southern part of the state, Keenan said, where Kuster struggled during 2010 campaign.
"Our strategy is if we can win over a few more people, that just adds to the total," he said. "She'll win in the north handily. We're not going to win Windham, but a few more votes can help close the gap from last time."
Paula Minnehan, a longtime friend of Kuster's, said Tuesday that she expected a win.
"(Kuster) is a genuine person and I believe as a candidate she's come across that way to so many people in New Hampshire who don't know her like we do," she said, awaiting results at Kuster's campaign party in Concord.
Minnehan, whose son grew up with Kuster's son in Hopkinton, said she thought Kuster's campaign had become more "sophisticated" since her failed Congressional bid in 2010.
"I think she's grown as a candidate," said Minnehan. "She learned a lot from the last campaign and her grassroots efforts are much stronger. It's my impression that she's been able to reach out to more communities, especially in the southern tier."
"I don't think her positions have changed," she said. "She's still the same Annie we've always known, but I think she's a more effective campaigner this time around."
Minnehan's son, Bret, said he'd been canvassing for Kuster over the past several weekends. A highlight of the campaign was watching Kuster in action during televised debates, he said.
"It was the first time I'd actually seen her on stage like that and I didn't know if she would hold her own against someone who's been doing it for such a long time," said Bret Minnehan Tuesday night. "But she did hold her own and did quite well. I was proud of her."
The influence of out-of-state organizations, campaign contributions, and assistance will be discussed in New Hampshire for the months, and possibly years, to come.
One organization that immediately offered comment on the way it influcenced the 2nd Congressional District ract was the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
The organization is being credited for assisting Kuster’s effort this year, helping her raise nearly $240,000 from donors in New Hampshire and nationally. The organization also made more than 275,000 calls for Kuster in both 2010 and 2012, and had volunteers on the ground assisting the campaign, according to T. Neil Sroka, the press secretary, for the organization.
Sroka noted that Kuster, on a conference call, credited the org as an “integral” to her team as “invaluable to the cause of bold progressives."