Former Institute of Politics Director Jeanne Shaheen won her race for U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, national media outlets projected Tuesday evening.
Shaheen resigned her post at the IOP in 2007 to pursue the seat held by Republican John E. Sununu, who has represented the state in Congress since 1997.
The contest reprised the 2002 election for that seat, when Shaheen—a former governor of the state—lost to then-Representative Sununu as Republicans gained seats nationwide.
This time, Shaheen benefited from strong anti-incumbent sentiment that experts predict led to Democratic pickups in the House and Senate races and a presidential victory for Democrat Barack Obama.
In recent years, Democrats have swept New England states: the party took a pair of House seats in both New Hampshire and Connecticut in 2006, and this year, the last remaining New England Republican member of the House, Chris Shays, was felled by James A. Himes ’88. With Shaheen’s win, that leaves just one New England Republican in Congress—New Hampshire’s senior senator, Judd Gregg.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat who was once the dean of admissions at Harvard Business School, also won reelection yesterday. Shaheen’s close ties to Harvard have brought her strong volunteer support from students since she announced her candidacy.
The Harvard College Democrats held meetings with Shaheen soon after she entered the race and began formulating plans to mobilize members, said Dems President Jarret A. Zafran ’09.
The Dems campaigned in New Hampshire for the past seven weekends and estimated that they have talked to almost 25,000 voters in the state.
Jackson S. Salovaara ’11, who worked as assistant to the political director of Shaheen’s campaign this summer, said he believes the student turnout at the campaign’s canvassing and phonebanking operations made a real difference.
“We were definitely helpful this weekend,” Salovaara said. “You need bodies, you need people, and we were able to do that.”
In an interview from New Hampshire, Zafran praised his club’s Election Day efforts to get Shaheen and Obama victories in the state.
“We’ve kept our nose to the grindstone,” Zafran said. “We feel like we’ve helped a lot, The governor is very thankful. She was in the headquarters today rallying the troops.”
When the bus carrying the canvassers home heard the news that Shaheen was projected to win New Hampshire, the passengers erupted in screams. “We’re thrilled,” Zafran said over the cries of celebration. “It’s great to have another Democrat in the Senate.”
Zafran said he hopes Harvard students will be able to maintain their close relationship with Shaheen as she moves to Capitol Hill.
IOP Communications Director Esten Perez praised Shaheen’s work at the Institute but carefully stuck to non-partisan language.
“Those of us who worked with her as Director certainly enjoyed doing so,” Perez wrote in an e-mail. “We wish her well—as we would anyone aiming to improve our communities through public service.”
Shaheen and her campaign were unavailable for comment.