By Jim Ellis
Sept. 8, 2020 — Winding through the final state primaries, voters in the Granite State cast their ballots today in order to nominate candidates for US Senate, governor, and two congressional districts. After today, only three primaries remain: next Tuesday in Delaware and Rhode Island, and the Louisiana jungle primary that runs concurrently with the general election.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stands for a third term this year and draws only minor opposition on the Democratic ballot. On the Republican side, businessman Corky Messner, who has already loaned his campaign approximately $4 million, is favored to top retired Army General Don Bolduc.
Messner certainly has the resources to run a competitive race against Sen. Shaheen, but there is no question she is a heavy favorite in the general election. Prior to being elected to the Senate in 2008, Shaheen served three two-year terms as governor but lost her first Senate bid opposite then-US Rep. John E. Sununu (R) in 2002.
Since the turn of the century, however, New Hampshire has been one of the most volatile political states, and swingingly wildly from the top of the ticket all the way down the ballot has become a frequent occurrence. Therefore, incumbents from both parties can never be considered completely safe.
Gov. Chris Sununu (R) stands for a third two-year term – New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont are the only two states that mandate two-year gubernatorial terms – and faces only Franklin City councilwoman and radio talk show host Karen Testerman and a man named Nobody, who frequently runs for New Hampshire political office as a Republican or a Libertarian Party member.
The Democrats feature a two-way gubernatorial nomination race between state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D-Concord) and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. New Hampshire’s unique Executive Council is a five-member panel elected in districts and serve as gubernatorial advisors and a check on the governor’s power. The Executive Council has veto power over pardons, nominations and large state contracts. Polling suggests a close race.
The general election has the potential of becoming close, as all races in the Granite State do, but the latest University of New Hampshire survey (Aug. 28-Sept. 1; 1,889 likely New Hampshire voters) gives the governor wide and almost identical advantages over both Sen. Feltes (59-28 percent) and Councilor Volinsky (58-29 percent).
The Granite State’s 1st Congressional District, the eastern CD that stretches from the city of Manchester to the Atlantic Ocean and then north along the Maine border, has defeated more incumbents than any seat in the United States. In fact, only twice since 2002 has the sitting incumbent been re-elected. Former Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Frank Guinta (R) traded the seat between each other four times, with each person serving two non-consecutive terms.
In 2018, after Rep. Shea-Porter decided to retire, businessman and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas won the seat for the Democrats and has the potential to bring some political stability to the district.
Five Republicans are on the ballot today, but the favorite appears to be former Trump White House aide Matt Mowers who is expected to outpace ex-Dover City Councilman Matt Mayberry. The two are the only candidates to raise any campaign dollars for the race.
Rep. Pappas leads the Republicans in money – $2.18 million raised as compared to just under $700,000 for Mowers – and polling. The University of New Hampshire (Aug. 28-Sept. 1; 926 likely NH-1 voters) posts Rep. Pappas to an identical 52-34 percent margin over both Mowers and Mayberry in general election pairings.
Four-term Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Nashua) runs for a fifth term from the state’s western congressional district and faces one minor Democratic opponent today. Former state representatives and military veterans Steve Negron and Lynne Blankenbeker appear to be the strongest candidates in the four-person Republican field. Negron was the 2018 Republican congressional nominee, holding Rep. Kuster to a 55-42 percent re-election win.
The winner could become competitive against Rep. Kuster, who had a close 50-46 percent result in 2016 and has only averaged 52.5 percent in her four elections. Resources, however, will be an issue as the congresswoman already has almost $2.5 million in her campaign account and looks well-positioned for victory in November.