Friday, December 6, 2013
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Tuesday's elections could not have gone much worse for Republicans in New England.
Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon
AP File Photo
Staff File Photo
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, did not capture a single electoral vote in the region.
Sen. Scott Brown, who electrified Republicans with his upset victory in a special election in January 2010 to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, was cast aside by Massachusetts voters in favor of Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
Elsewhere in New England, Republicans lost every major election for Congress and governor. The six-state region will not have a single Republican U.S. House member, and only two Republican senators will serve in the next session. Only one of the six governors will be Republican.
The losses disheartened Republicans, who have been fighting dwindling numbers here for years.
"It's a nightmare," said former Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, a day after the election.
Rob Coupe, political director for Rhode Island Republican congressional candidate Brendan Doherty, seen as the party's best shot in two decades to pick up a House seat representing the state, struggled when asked to explain his candidate's defeat. Doherty finished a stunning 12 percentage points behind freshman Democratic Rep. David Cicilline.
"I think it's just tough to be Republican in Rhode Island," Coupe said. "I don't know what else to say."
Massachusetts has produced Democratic icons like the Kennedys and the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and the region is known for liberal stances on issues such as gay marriage, which is now legal in all New England states except Rhode Island.
But the area once had a number of "rock-ribbed" Republicans who stood for fiscal conservatism, environmental stewardship and protection of personal liberties, including support of abortion rights. As the national party has moved farther right and focused on social issues, it has turned off voters and candidates alike.
Lincoln Chafee, whose father, the late Sen. John Chafee, defined the Republican brand in Rhode Island for decades, lost his Senate seat in 2006 and became an independent in 2007. He spoke at the Democratic National Convention to support Obama this year.
Maine still has a Republican governor, tea party-backed Paul LePage, and Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont had Republican governors who left office in January 2011. But the overall trend has been Republicans losing ground, even in New Hampshire and Maine, once strongholds for the party.
In New Hampshire, the "live free or die" state that has long prided itself on low taxes and small government, Republicans lost both U.S. House seats, as well as control of the state House of Representatives, although they retained narrow control in the state Senate. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, won the governor's office.
Maine still has a Republican U.S. senator, Susan Collins. But Democrats on Tuesday won both chambers of the Legislature, and independent former Gov. Angus King won the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by centrist Republican Olympia Snowe.
The only other Republican who represents the region in Washington is Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Vermont's senators are a Democrat and an independent, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist and caucuses with Democrats.
Shays, a moderate who lost his congressional seat to a Democrat four years ago, ran for Senate this year and lost in the primary to Republican Linda McMahon, who lost to Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy.
"My party is out of touch, and the brand is not a good brand," Shays said, ticking off a list of problems, including Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana who made comments about rape that many voters here found offensive. The national party can't cater just to voters from places like Oklahoma, he said.
(Continued on page 2)