By Esmé E. Deprez
MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire voters on Election Day decided that women would represent them best, making their state the first in the U.S. to put female politicians in control of the governor’s office and the entire congressional delegation.
Democrats Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster ousted incumbent Republican men to represent the state in the House and join Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, who weren’t up for re-election. Gov.-Elect Maggie Hassan, a Democratic state senator, will replace Democrat John Lynch, who chose not to seek a fifth two-year term.
The achievements build on New Hampshire’s tradition of breaking gender barriers. In 2008, when Hassan was re-elected to the senate, the state became the first to have a majority-female legislative body. Female representation in Concord, the capital, has beaten the national average since at least 1975, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
“Whenever you’re making decisions, you want a variety of experience and perspective,” Hassan, 54, said outside the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, where she thanked supporters. “It’s very important for voters to understand that men and women can be leaders.”
Hassan, who defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne, is the second woman elected to lead the 236-year-old state, after Shaheen became the first in 1996. Twenty-three states have never had one, according to Rutgers data.
Women made gains throughout the nation on Nov. 6 and will occupy a record 20 U.S. Senate seats in January, including five who won first terms — in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Nebraska and North Dakota. All will take seats held by men, and four of the five, including Democrats Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, are the first women elected to the office in their states.