The New England Republican, a rare political breed in recent years, is showing signs of a revival in next week’s elections.
The region’s GOP Senate contingent—now at two—would grow if former Sen. Scott Brown defeats Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, giving the party one of the six seats it would need to reclaim a majority in the chamber.
Not a single Republican represents a New England state in the House, contributing to the region’s reputation as a bastion of liberalism. But this year, independent analysts say, Republicans have a shot at picking up as many as six seats in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Republicans hold one governor’s office in the six New England states—in Maine. That could change, as polls show that the GOP candidate is leading in the Massachusetts governor’s race and that the Connecticut race is a tossup. The region also includes Vermont and Rhode Island.
Nearby in New York, Republicans are running strong in a handful of districts currently held by Democrats.
“It hasn’t been great to be a Republican from New England for a long time, but this year is shaping up to be a lot better,” said former Rep. Charlie Bass (R., N.H.), who held and lost a House seat twice, most recently in 2012.
The potential resurgence of Republicans in the Northeast offers more evidence that the broader political climate this year favors the GOP, with the party likely to expand its majority in the House and potentially wrest control of the Senate.
Democrats say it isn’t surprising that Republicans are running competitively in New England and parts of New York, pointing to the fact that a number of House races involve seats that previously were held by GOP lawmakers.
“Several purple New England seats have swung back and forth over the past few cycles, and nobody should be surprised that we’re once again seeing competitive races,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.), who leads the House Democrats’ campaign arm. He said the “DNA of the districts” lends itself to tough election fights.
Still, the paucity of GOP representation in the region in recent years has been notable. Rhode Island last elected a Republican to the House in 1992. In Maine and Massachusetts, it was 1994.
As a group, Republican candidates in the region this year have focused on the pro-business, small-government planks of the GOP platform. Some have avoided the social issues familiar in the campaigns of their peers in more conservative states.
Charlie Baker, the GOP candidate for governor in Massachusetts, supports gay marriage and abortion rights, while Richard Tisei, who is running for a House seat and has featured his husband in campaign ads, skipped the Massachusetts GOP convention this year because of its socially conservative platform. Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor in Connecticut, supports abortion rights and said he wouldn’t try to end gay marriage, which is permitted in the state.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists the two House seats in New Hampshire, one in Maine and one in Massachusetts as among the most competitive in the country. It considers two other seats, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as likely to be retained by Democrats but not solidly in the party’s column.
New Hampshire, a state whose congressional delegation has swung between the parties several times in recent years, offers Republicans perhaps the best opportunity to regain a foothold in the region. Ms. Shaheen’s race against Mr. Brown, who previously served as senator from Massachusetts, is shaping up as extremely tight. The nonpartisan website Real Clear Politics says the average of recent polls gives Ms. Shaheen a lead of 2.2 percentage points.
Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who represented Massachusetts for two years after winning a special election in 2010, is now locked in a close race with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The race for the House seat in New Hampshire’s eastern district, which includes Manchester, is the third match in a row between Republican Frank Guinta and incumbent Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. He won in 2010; she won in 2012. Now, the race is a tossup.
Maine’s second congressional district, which comprises a large swath of the central and northern part of the state, represents another opportunity for the GOP. The Cook Political Report recently moved the race from “leans Democratic’’ into the more competitive “tossup” category.
Ian Prior, northeast press secretary for House Republicans’ campaign arm, said the 2014 midterms will show that Democrats’ dominance in New England isn’t a permanent political fixture. “Two years ago, Washington Democrats were patting themselves on the back, claiming that New England was closed to Republicans,” he said. Now, he said, they are spending money to protect Democratic seats.
The dynamic is also playing out in governor’s races. Both Massachusetts and Connecticut have elected Republican governors in recent decades, though the current officeholders in both states are Democrats.
In Massachusetts, where independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined, Mr. Baker has led Democrat Martha Coakely in recent polling.
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld said the current atmosphere feels similar to previous years when Republicans made major gains at the state and federal level. “It almost feels like 1994, when [Lt. Gov. Paul] Cellucci and I won by 40 points,” Mr. Weld said. “We’re certainly due for a good year.”
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