CONCORD, N.H. (CN) – New Hampshire voters decide Tuesday who will face off in crucial races for governor as well as both seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For the Democrats, former state Senator Molly Kelly and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand are vying for the chance to take on first-term Governor Chris Sununu in November. Kelly heads into the primary with the backing of party leaders, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, while Marchand is running as the more progressive choice.
Sununu’s approval ratings remain high though, and a University of New Hampshire poll in August showed the Republican incumbent beating both candidates by double digits.
The race is wide open in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District as a slew of candidates battle for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Representative Carol Shea-Porter. President Donald Trump carried the swing district, which encompasses the eastern part of the state, by a slight margin in 2016.
Leading the pack of 11 Democratic candidates is former Marine and Obama administration official Maura Sullivan and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas. Locals dubbed Sullivan a “carpet bagger” early in the race for moving to New Hampshire just months before announcing her run, and for getting the shape of New Hampshire wrong on her first campaign logo.
Despite the highly publicized mistake, Sullivan raised more money than any other candidate in the race. Supported by several veterans organizations and Emily’s List, Sullivan has received more than $800,000 in ads from outside groups in the run-up to the primary election. Her bid contrasts starkly against that of Pappas, who worked his way up through local offices and is considered a favorite among the Democratic establishment. Other candidates, including Levi Sanders, the son of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, are not considered strong contenders.
While the Democratic primary challenge remained civil, the six Republican contenders for the CD1 seat are locked in a battle that at times has turned personal and ugly. State Senator Andy Sanborn, considered the leading candidate, faced an investigation by the attorney general’s office earlier this year over allegations that he paid off an intern after making inappropriate comments.
While cleared of any wrongdoing, transcripts released from the investigation revealed Sanborn’s penchant for making sexual remarks to interns. The transcripts led his opponent, former Liquor Commission Chief of Enforcement Eddie Edwards, to proclaim in a press conference: “Senator Sanborn has trouble understanding that his pattern of behavior of preying on young people, female workers, young interns, is something that we reject here in New Hampshire.”
Edwards also announced he won’t endorse Sanborn if he wins the primary because of the sexual-harassment allegations surrounding him.
The Republican race is less heated in the 2nd Congressional District. Seven candidates are facing off for the chance to unseat four-term Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. Kuster has no primary challenger and, with more than $2.8 million cash on hand, is widely considered safe in the left-leaning district.
Secretary of State Gardner estimates 180,000 voters will turn out for the state’s primary on Tuesday.
It’s the first election since a federal judge ruled that the state’s signature match is unconstitutional. New rules on residency requirements, which were upheld by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in July and signed into law shortly after, won’t take effect until next July.