By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
State Sen. Jeff Woodburn declared himself the primary winner for the District 1 Senate seat Tuesday night against his last minute write-in opponent Kathleen Kelley of Randolph.
Kelley initially called for a recount, saying she noticed some anomalies in the unofficial totals. But later Wednesday she changed her mind when the official tally showed 2,354 votes for Sen. Jeff Woodburn and 1,014 for her.
Woodburn, 53, who has pleaded not guilty to nine misdemeanor charges involving alleged domestic violence, thanked supporters for standing by him.
“I have enough places to know I won big,” Woodburn said.
“A month ago, I suspended my campaign to focus on clearing my name and protecting my family. My friends in the North Country, who know me best, stood by me. Today, the people have spoken and I am grateful and humbled by their support,” Woodburn said.
The three-term state senator was considered a rising star in North Country and statewide politics until his arrest Aug. 2 when many party leaders called for him to step down. He did step aside as Senate minority leader, but vowed to continue fighting the allegations and representing his constituents.
Kelley is also well-known in the region for her work serving on many boards. She and her husband, Mark, run White Mountain Lumber in Randolph. She has served on the Randolph School Board and is a currently on the board of the North Country Education Services.
She stepped in as a write-in candidate three and a half weeks ago saying the North Country is facing too many serious issues to be represented right now by Woodburn. He would be too distracted fighting the charges against him to provide effective leadership, she said.
Kelley was concerned that the Democrats didn’t take a stronger public stand against domestic violence during the campaign.
That may have been complicated because Woodburn’s alleged victim, Emily Stone Jacobs, chairs the Coos County Democratic Committee and is running for Coos County Treasurer.
Kelley had asked Jacobs to temporarily step down to avoid any appearance of conflict, but she declined, Kelley said. Not tackling domestic violence head-on as a serious issue was a disservice to their constituents, she said.
“It’s a messy situation and I’m not the judge and jury,” Kelley said. “It is about maintaining respect for our constituents. I did the right thing and what I felt needed to happen.”
Woodburn was charged with biting the alleged victim’s arm and hand, hitting her in the stomach, throwing a cup of water in her face, then throwing the empty cup striking her in the face, breaking her dryer by kicking the door, kicking the locked door of her home and trespassing, all misdemeanors.
The state has withheld detailed information about the allegations against Woodburn, including not identifying the alleged victim by name. The Berlin Sun has argued that court records in his case should be unsealed, but the state says they should remain confidential because the investigation is ongoing.
A court hearing was held Monday in Lancaster on the Berlin Sun’s motion to unseal the Woodburn affidavit and arrest warrant, but the hearing was closed to everyone except the parties in the case.
InDepthNH.org is published online by the nonprofit New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism.