By Jim Ellis
Sept. 2, 2021
Gail Huff Brown (R)
— Television news journalist Gail Huff Brown (R), wife of former Massachusetts senator and ex-US ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown, is reportedly preparing to run for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in what can arguably be considered the most competitive CD in the United States.
Scott Brown (R) served in the Massachusetts state House and Senate before winning the US Senate seat in a 2010 special election after veteran incumbent Ted Kennedy had passed away. Current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) then defeated Brown in the 2012 regular general election. In 2014, Brown, after moving back to his native state of New Hampshire, challenged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) but lost 51-48 percent despite running in a wave Republican election year.
Now, the Browns are looking to embark upon another political campaign, but this time the candidate will apparently be Gail Huff Brown, the former senator and ambassador’s wife of 35 years. A formal announcement is expected soon according to the NH Journal news site, which quotes Scott Brown as saying that “Gail is very close to a yes,” in responding to a question about whether his wife will run. Additionally, the ex-senator believes that former President Trump will endorse Ms. Brown, but such a move could be a long time in coming and may not be a sure bet.
Already in the Republican field hoping to challenge two-term Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) are at least two other candidates with strong Trump credentials. Matt Mowers is the 2020 GOP nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. Mowers, along with fellow 1st District congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, is a former Trump White House staff member. A third announced candidate is freshman state Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Portsmouth).
The 1st District electorate has defeated more incumbents since 2004 than any other. In fact, only twice in those eight succeeding elections did the incumbent win re-election. Republican optimism for 2022 is high, however, because the 2020 elections awarded the GOP both the state House and Senate and, with Gov. Sununu (R) in office, the Republicans have a redistricting trifecta.
The state has two congressional districts. The plan would be to make the marginal 1st District, the eastern seat that contains the state’s small coastline area, into a likely Republican domain while conceding the 2nd CD, or western seat, to five-term incumbent Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord). Currently, the 2nd plays relatively marginal – Rep. Kuster has averaged 52.9 percent of the vote over her five elections – but would be made safely Democratic under this discussed redistricting concept.
According to the Census Bureau’s per congressional district population report, the 2nd District needs 8,973 individuals from the 1st to equalize the resident figures. We can, however, expect a much bigger people swap if the defined partisan split plan is to become a political reality.
Rep. Pappas was initially elected in 2018 after then-incumbent Carol Shea-Porter (D) chose to retire. Shea-Porter first won in 2006, lost in 2010, was re-elected in 2012, defeated in 2014, and re-elected once more in 2016. Prior to his election to Congress, Pappas, a restaurant owner, was an elected member of the state’s Executive Council, a five-member board that holds certain checks and balances power over the Governor.
Pappas has said that he wants to survey the New Hampshire political situation before making his own 2022 electoral plans. If he deems the 1st District as becoming too Republican, he has not closed the door on running for governor, particularly if incumbent Sununu opts to run for the Senate. Sununu has been elected governor three times but is only in his fifth year of service because New Hampshire is one of two states, neighboring Vermont is the other, that maintains two-year terms for their state chief executives.
Though New Hampshire is a small state, the redistricting process will be closely watched because the GOP will need to convert the politically seesawing seat to meet their projected national majority numbers. With Gail Huff Brown potentially becoming a candidate, we can also expect increased national political attention coming to this race.
Additionally, it will be quite some time before we see the political patterns develop. New Hampshire still has a late primary, Sept. 13 for 2022, and candidate filing doesn’t close until June 10. Gov. Sununu is also indicating he will decide about the Senate race well into next year. Therefore, this political scenario is a long way from fully unfolding, and Gail Huff Brown’s potential entry into the congressional race brings us yet another new twist.