WASHINGTON — The Republican resurgence that swept so much of the country blew with less gusto in most of New England.
Democrats there largely held firm against the anti-incumbent, GOP tide that was strong in the Rust Belt and South. Republicans did make serious inroads elsewhere in the Northeast, though, lending credence to the argument that voters’ choices depended on how the economy is doing where they live.
“There’s an independent streak here that doesn’t always go along with what the rest of the country does,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who cruised to re-election despite concerns about being caught in a GOP wave. “It passed us by, pretty much.”
New England Republicans energized by Scott Brown’s surprise win for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat began thinking the unthinkable this year, hoping to pick off plum congressional seats in a region long dominated by Democrats.
But despite high hopes, Republicans failed to snatch retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt’s seat in a district that winds from Cape Cod to Quincy, outside Boston, and includes the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port. It would have been a GOP trophy.
The same goes for Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, a close ally of President Barack Obama who won a second term after a bruising fight.
“Though the economy is still struggling, the economic news in places like Massachusetts is not as bad, and that definitely contributed to things for Democrats,” he said.
In Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut, it was a Democratic sweep in the House. The region’s marquee Senate contest went to Democrats, with Connecticut’s longtime state attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, beating former pro wrestling executive Linda McMahon.
Democrats also won the governor’s races in Vermont and in Connecticut, where the Secretary of State declared Dan Malloy the winner, making him the first Democratic governor in two decades. Rhode Island opted for Republican-turned-independent Lincoln Chafee.
One bright spot for the GOP in New England was New Hampshire, where Republicans retained a Senate seat with Kelly Ayotte’s victory and won both the House seats.
Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University in Rhode Island, says one reason New England bucked the national tide is because there’s more public support for the role government plays in people’s lives for jobs and other kinds of help.
“To them, government still does good things,” she said.
Because New England states tend to be smaller than big swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, Schiller said, voters often have a better sense of the individual candidates and are less susceptible to national political trends and national partisan themes.
“They look at individual candidates and don’t vote the party so much,” Schiller said, citing Blumenthal’s win against the well-funded McMahon as a prime example.
McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, faced questions about the WWE’s role in steroids, the health of the wrestlers and the way wrestling portrays women. Blumenthal stressed his long career as Connecticut’s attorney general as a contrast to McMahon, a political newcomer.
Republicans made serious gains in sprawling New York and Pennsylvania, a traditional swing state that has been hard hit by economic woes.
Several House seats in New York and Pennsylvania flipped to the GOP in an election that produced a split Congress. Republicans grabbed control of the House while Democrats are facing a slimmed-down majority in the Senate.
In New York, every statewide office went to a Democrat, continuing the party’s stranglehold at the top. Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand led the ticket, providing enough energy to carry Democrats to wins in the race for attorney general and comptroller.
The coattails didn’t reach down the ballot, though. Five of eight House seats deemed vulnerable flipped from Democrat to Republican, a sixth that went to the Democrat will be challenged and a seventh is too close to call.
In Pennsylvania, the GOP picked up five Democratic-held House seats, and Pat Toomey clinched Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter’s Senate seat in Pennsylvania after a hard-fought contest against Democratic Rep. and former Navy admiral Joe Sestak.
Republicans also recaptured Pennsylvania’s governorship as part of their biggest electoral win since 1994. Economic issues dominated the state, which has been hard hit with job losses.
New England Democrats, meanwhile, will be challenged to find ways to work with the GOP-controlled House, Schiller said.
“That’s the downside when you have so many representatives from one party,” she said.
Associated Press writer Rik Stevens in New York contributed to this report.