By Jim Ellis
Sept. 9, 2020 — The New Hampshire nomination vote was held yesterday, ironically very late in an election cycle in which this state was the first to host a presidential primary. The results unfolded as generally predicted.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stands for a third term and was easily re-nominated with 94 percent of the vote against a weak Democratic opposition field. On the Republican side, businessman Bryant “Corky” Messner, who has already loaned his campaign approximately $4 million, defeated retired Army general Don Bolduc with a 51-42 percent victory margin. Sen. Shaheen is a clear favorite for the general election, but upsets are a frequent occurrence in New Hampshire politics, so no victory can be taken for granted.
A close election here is possible again. In Sen. Shaheen’s two federal election victories, her win percentages were only 51.6 and 51.5 percent in 2008 and 2014, respectively. Additionally, in the 2002 campaign, as the sitting governor, she lost to then-US Rep. John E. Sununu (R), 51-46 percent. Returning for the 2008 race she unseated her former opponent, and then six years later defeated former Massachusetts US Sen. Scott Brown (R) who launched a new Senate bid from his neighboring state.
The last election for the state’s other Senate seat was also very close. In 2016, then-Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) unseated Sen. Kelly Ayotte, 48.0 – 47.8 percent, a margin of just 1,017 votes from more than 739,000 ballots cast.
Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is running for a third two-year term – New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont are the only two states that mandate two-year gubernatorial terms – and was easily re-nominated with 90 percent of the Republican primary vote. The Democrats, however, featured a more competitive contest, with state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes (D-Concord) apparently topping Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, 51-49 percent, but with several precincts still outstanding. It is likely the Feltes margin will hold, though it is still mathematically possible for the final outcome to switch.
Turnout in the state was interesting because of its inconsistency between the two statewide offices, which is unusual. In the governor’s race, more Republicans than Democrats voted, so far 129,404 to 124,697 with further ballots to count. The Senate campaign, however, featuring a Democratic incumbent, saw a reversal of the turnout model. In that race, more Democrats have voted so far, 133,729 to 122,676.
As we mentioned in our pre-primary report, New Hampshire’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 and not since 2008. 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.
The freshman incumbent, businessman and former executive councilor Chris Pappas won the seat for the Democrats in 2018 and appears as the best positioned 1st District congressman to claim re-election in more than a decade. Pappas was unopposed in the Democratic primary and he will now face former Trump White House aide Matt Mowers who easily upended ex-Dover city councilman Matt Mayberry, 60-26 percent, within a field of five candidates.
Though this seat is obviously competitive, and could be so again, Rep. Pappas begins this shortened general election cycle as the clear favorite. The congressman sits on over $2 million that he hasn’t had to spend, while Mowers will have to rely upon a post-primary fundraising burst and expenditures from outside groups to position himself for an upset win.
Whether or not President Trump’s campaign decides to heavily target the Granite State – he lost here by just 2,736 votes in 2016 – will matter greatly to Mowers’ chances. If the president carried the 1st District, as he did in 2016, it would go a long way toward boosting Mowers into the more competitive realm.
In the 2nd District, where four-term Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Nashua) is again on the ballot, former state representative and military veteran Steve Negron defeated another ex-state rep and veteran, Lynne Blankenbeker, by a 47-40 percent margin in yesterday’s GOP nomination contest.
Negron was the 2018 Republican congressional nominee, holding Rep. Kuster to a 55-42 percent re-election win, and another such finish is again forecast for this year. Even if President Trump runs strong here, it is unlikely he would be able to propel Negron through to victory.