By Jim Ellis
Sept. 11, 2018 — The last two states to nominate candidates prior to the Nov. 6 general election will host primary elections this week. Voters in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York will go to the polls today, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively. New York held its federal primary on June 26, but the nominees for state offices will be chosen on Sept. 13.
The Ocean State features the only Wednesday primary in the nation. Two other states voted on a Thursday (Tennessee and Delaware), and one more on a Saturday (Hawaii). All others voted on Tuesdays.
Louisiana will hold its jungle primary concurrently with the Nov. 6 general election. If no candidate receives majority support the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will run-off on Dec. 8. The other post-general run-off will occur in Mississippi. If no candidate receives majority support in the Nov. 6 special US Senate election the top two finishers, again irrespective of party affiliation, will advance to a secondary Nov. 27 election.
First-term Gov. Chris Sununu (R) runs for a second term even though he was just elected in 2016. New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont are the remaining two states that hold a gubernatorial vote in every regular general election.
The governor is unopposed in tomorrow’s Republican primary, while Democrats feature a battle between former state Sen. Molly Kelly and ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand. Kelly is favored for the party nomination, but Gov. Sununu will begin the general election as a heavy favorite. Politically, New Hampshire has swung more wildly than any state for a decade, so any result is possible here.
The big attraction is the open 1st Congressional District, a seat that has defeated more incumbents than any in the nation since 2006. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) originally won this seat in 2006. She then lost (2010), won (2012), lost (2014), and won again (2016). Now, she is retiring.
Her political exit leaves 11 Democrats vying for the party nomination, but two stand above the rest.
The real contest appears to be between Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and former US Department of Veterans Affairs official Maura Sullivan. The latter candidate is the more robust fundraiser, having attracted more than $1.8 million before the pre-primary financial disclosure deadline. Pappas had raised slightly over $800,000 during the same period. Other candidates are credible, but are lagging behind Pappas and Sullivan.
One person of note who does not appear to be credible is Levi Sanders, son of Vermont senator and former presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The younger Sanders does not live in the district, has raised little money, and did not even earn his father’s public endorsement.
State Sen. Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford) appears to be the leading Republican candidate. His main opponent is former South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards.
This seat is always a toss-up, and while Democrats believe their candidate will begin as the favorite, and that is likely the case, this race could develop into a tight battle before Election Day approaches.
In the 2nd District, seven Republicans are running for the opportunity of challenging Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Concord). Though the congresswoman won a relatively close 50-45 percent victory in 2016 against what was perceived as weak opposition, she appears considerably stronger this year and is rated as a strong favorite for re-election in November.
The governor’s race will dominate the Wednesday primary, as Gov. Gina Raimondo faces strong opposition in the Democratic primary from former Secretary of State Matt Brown and ex-state Rep. Spencer Dickinson. Though the governor’s job approval and popularity scores are waning, her financial resources should pull her through the primary.
In the general election, she is likely to again face Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R), who came within five points of denying her the governorship in 2014. This race could become competitive if the governor notches only a close primary win.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) and Reps. David Cicciline (D-Providence) and Jim Langevin (D-Warwick) all face only minor opposition and will each be easily re-elected in November.
The New York state primary is being held Thursday, and two races are of note from a federal perspective.
First, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has been spending millions before the primary, faces a Democratic challenge from the left in the person of actress Cynthia Nixon. The governor is expected to easily prevail, but Nixon has forced him to spend millions, and will face him again in the general election as she is already the Working Families Party nominee.
US Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring/West Point) entered the Democratic primary for attorney general and, if he wins on Thursday, says he will vacate the congressional ballot. This would force the local Democratic Party to choose a new congressional nominee to replace Rep. Maloney in what could become a competitive open race. Such a candidate switch so late in the process could help Republican James O’Donnell, an Orange County legislator, to position himself for an upset.