Dean-Bailey in the State House

Yvonne Dean-Bailey campaigning for state representative.

Yvonne Dean-Bailey campaigning for state representative.

Races for the New Hampshire State House of Representatives are usually small and unexciting affairs, often requiring little more than door-to-door campaigning and a few hundred dollars for yard signs on the part of the candidates. Special elections for the State House tend to be even more obscure and dull. Somewhat unexpectedly, the May 19 special election for Rockingham’s District 32 (Northwood, Deerfield, Nottingham, Candia) turned into to a major affair, attracting significant statewide attention and even catching the eye of several potential presidential candidates.

The special election was triggered when Republican State Representative Brian Dobson resigned to become the director of military and veteran affairs for U.S. Congressman Frank Guinta, a decision that looks like an increasingly poor bet as Guinta is embroiled in a campaign finance scandal. Former Democratic State Representative and retired schoolteacher Maureen Mann, who won election in 2008 and 2012 but lost in 2010 and 2014, ran for the seat. In a volunteer legislative body filled with many senior citizens, Mann’s candidacy was unexceptional; it was her opponent who stole the spotlight. Republican Yvonne Dean-Bailey, a nineteen-year-old freshman at Mount Holyoke College and a former staffer for Marilinda Garcia and Kelly Ayotte, jumped into the race on Garcia’s encouragement. Immediately, she garnered a significant amount of attention, partly because of the historic nature of her candidacy as a young woman.

Dean-Bailey received support from libertarians and conservatives across the state, eventually raising $4,000, a significant amount for a New Hampshire State Representative’s campaign. Bill Walker, a prominent Upper Valley libertarian, cited Dean-Bailey’s advocacy for school choice as his primary reason for supporting her. Nevertheless, she was still considerably outspent by Mann, who raised at least $6,000 and likely much more if money from teachers’ unions is included in the total.

In addition to significant grassroots excitement, Dean-Bailey also received several assists from high-profile Republican politicians, including presidential candidates working to raise their profiles in New Hampshire. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Senator for New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former State Representative and congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia all campaigned with Dean-Bailey. U.S. Senator for Florida Marco Rubio also tweeted to get-out-the-vote for her, and former New York Governor George Pataki was quick to congratulate Dean-Bailey on her eventual victory.

While Dean-Bailey ran an effective and well-publicized campaign in a conservative district, her victory was far from a sure thing. Mann had been elected twice to the State House, and she was a known quantity with a solid base of support. The relatively low turnout for special elections also added a huge degree of uncertainty to the election. In addition to raising more money, Mann had a large number of volunteers on the ground in the form of unionized teachers. Mann also had some star power behind her candidacy: former Maryland Governor and potential presidential candidate Martin O’Malley campaigned for her during a swing through the state.

With statewide attention, the race soon began to heat up. Mann controls many of the newspapers in the district and used her leverage to attack Dean-Bailey. However, Dean-Bailey, who has already received her first death threat from her work at Campus Reform, was more than prepared for the grueling campaign despite her young age.

In addition, one of Mann’s supporters engaged in underhanded and unwarranted, as well as illegal, behavior. Carl Gibson, a liberal activist who had previously been removed from Mann’s campaign, sent a fake email as Dean-Bailey stating that she was dropping out of the race to focus on her studies. Gibson was identified as the perpetrator of the effort to suppress Republican turnout when his name was discovered in the metadata of an attached Microsoft Word document (no NSA necessary). He claims that the incident was a joke and that he “probably had one too many beers.” Nevertheless, he has since been arrested on a felony charge of voter suppression.

Mann ran on a platform that consisted of little more than fixing potholes, attacking Dean-Bailey for allegedly supporting measures allowing infrastructure to depreciate. Meanwhile, Dean-Bailey ran on a typical Republican platform of supporting the Second Amendment, opposing tax increases, supporting school choice, and opposing Obamacare. In the end, Dean-Bailey prevailed, taking 1,359 votes to Mann’s 1,230 votes (52 percent to 48 percent), a level of turnout exceptionally high for a local special election.

In the aftermath of the election, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley blamed Dean-Bailey’s victory on the Koch Brothers as well as the conservative-leaning nature of the district. While Buckley’s floundering attempt to save face after such an embarrassing loss is quite amusing, it also demonstrates how truly out of touch his party is. Needless to say, if Democrats insist on running campaigns based on potholes and attacking nineteen-year-olds for being bought and paid for by the Kochs, they will not have very much success.

Dean-Bailey was recently sworn in by Governor Maggie Hassan on May 27. She will be transferring to the University of New Hampshire next fall so as to better handle the demands of being a part-time legislator. Dean-Bailey is one of the youngest state legislators ever elected in New Hampshire and is currently the second youngest in the country after eighteen-year-old West Virginia Delegate Saira Blair. We at The Review heartily congratulate Dean-Bailey and expect great things of her throughout her tenure in the State House.