CONCORD, N.H.—Democratic Gov. John Lynch is back where he started six years ago -- at New Hampshire's helm with a Republican-controlled Legislature in charge.
When Lynch won his first term in 2004, he had to work with a Republican Legislature, as well. But this time, it is different.
Now, Republicans are reveling in a return to power after being ousted by Democrats in 2006.
This time, Lynch may be tested by conservatives eager to undo Democratic priorities ranging from spending in the state budget to social issues such as the state's gay marriage law that took effect in January.
This time, Lynch has a record of working with Republicans -- for better or worse -- and has made choices they didn't like in the past. He has the honor of being elected to a fourth consecutive term -- making him the longest serving New Hampshire governor since colonial times. But, with that honor comes the baggage of disappointing, perhaps angering, lawmakers over his tenure.
Both parties were still counting votes Tuesday night to determine how great the GOP margin is in the 400-member House and 24-member Senate.
Conservatives are hoping for enough votes to repeal gay marriage and overturn a Lynch veto. Cornerstone Action and the National Organization for Marriage spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads trying to defeat Lynch and elect lawmakers who will vote to repeal the law.
Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon of Milford interpreted Tuesday's vote as a clear message from voters on fiscal issues.
"They want Concord to stop the reckless spending, stop taxing and borrowing to balance the budget and to focus on helping small businesses, not attacking them," he said.
Bragdon reached out to Lynch -- sort of -- in saying Republicans look forward to working with him and the House "to resolve the looming deficit without higher taxes and more government spending."
In his victory speech, Lynch acknowledged that Democrats had lost control of the Legislature.
"But I am committed to working with the members of the next Legislature, regardless of party, to get results for the people of New Hampshire," he said. "Our state faces challenges over the next two years, but with good New Hampshire common sense, hard work and cooperation, we will conquer those challenges."
In conceding, Republican John Stephen claimed his message of low taxes, spending cuts and less government may not have propelled him to victory, but was heard by voters who elected Republicans in other state races.
"This election has sent a clear message that our citizens simply don't want more taxes. They don't want more spending and borrowing," he said.
Lynch, a millionaire businessman turned politician, said he could produce a balanced budget with spending cuts and a moderate growth in state revenues. He pointed out that he and the Democratic-controlled Legislature used a mix of spending cuts, potential land sales and borrowing to balance the budget in 2010 and leave the state with a projected $70 million surplus.
Republicans objected then and aren't likely to allow more borrowing again to balance the next budget.
Lynch has consistently defused a potent Republican issue by pledging to veto any general sales or personal income tax in a state that has neither. He repeated that pledge Tuesday night.
Lynch, 57, of Hopkinton, won the first of his three two-year terms as governor in 2004 when he unseated an unpopular Republican governor by promising to restore integrity to government.
Lynch is a native of Waltham, Mass. Before his 2004 election, he was president of a Manchester consulting firm, The Lynch Group. Prior to that, he was an admissions director of Harvard Business School and president and chief executive of Knoll Inc., a Pennsylvania furniture company. He has degrees from the University of New Hampshire, Harvard Business School and Georgetown University Law Center.
Libertarian John Babiarz of Grafton also was on the ballot.