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Fresh Faces Running in New Hampshire District for First Time in Over a Decade

Neither Carol Shea-Porter nor Frank Guinta will be on the ballot this year

Eddie Edwards, Republican candidate for New Hampshire’s 1st District, would be the first African-American nominee in the district. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Eddie Edwards, Republican candidate for New Hampshire’s 1st District, would be the first African-American nominee in the district. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For the first time in over a decade, the race for New Hampshire’s 1st District will feature two fresh faces. 

Tuesday’s primaries in the Granite State — the last competitive primaries of 2018 — will determine those new candidates. And both the Democratic and Republican contests may offer some final insight into what each party has been searching for in its nominees this year.

Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who’s been running in the district since 2006, is retiring. Former Republican Rep. Frank Guinta, who traded the seat back and forth with Shea-Porter for four election cycles, lost in 2016 and is not running. 

The 1st District is one of 12 that are currently represented by a Democrat and backed President Donald Trump in 2016. He carried the district by fewer than 2 points, while Shea-Porter unseated Guinta by an even slimmer margin. With the national environment favoring Democrats, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Tilts Democratic.

The Democrats

Women have been winning Democratic primaries across the country this year, and although the candidate endorsed by EMILY’s List in this 11-way race has raised the most money, she’s not the favorite among the Granite State’s all-female delegation.

Maura Sullivan, a Marine Corps veteran and former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama administration, has the support of VoteVets and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who appeared with her in the state over the weekend.

But the entire New Hampshire delegation is backing someone else. Chris Pappas, an elected member of the state executive council, has the support of Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and 2nd District Rep. Ann McLane Kuster. Shea-Porter has gotten behind her former chief of staff Naomi Andrews, who trails the two other candidates in fundraising. 

A fourth Democrat has the name — but not the endorsement — of another prominent New England lawmaker. Levi Sanders, the son of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, had raised just shy of $40,000 by the end of the pre-primary reporting period and doesn’t live in the district. 

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 10: Carol Shea-Porter, Democratic candidate for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, talks with a guest at a Pride Day event in Rochester N.H., September 10, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Shea-Porter, center, is backing her former chief of staff and campaign manager Naomi Andrews, right. The rest of the New Hampshire delegation is behind Pappas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The race has come down to a contest between Sullivan and Pappas.

State and national Democrats have long been interested in Pappas, whose family has owned the Manchester restaurant The Puritan Backroom for over 100 years. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began trying to recruit him in 2014, after Shea-Porter’s second loss to Guinta. He considered running in 2016 but ultimately deferred to Shea-Porter. 

Sullivan moved to New Hampshire from Washington, D.C., in 2017. But that was after she entertained the idea of running for Congress in two districts in her native Illinois. Her TV spots tout her service and her dedication to protecting women’s health care, including funding for Planned Parenthood. (The group’s political arm has endorsed Pappas.) In another spot, she promises to “stand up” to the National Rifle Association and “take on” Trump. 

Sullivan has had to confront negative headlines in the local press. She didn’t vote in the past two midterm elections or the 2016 presidential primary, according to an analysis by the New Hampshire Union Leader. In a statement Sunday, Sullivan said she regretted not voting but tried to use it to distinguish herself from opponents who are “lifelong politicians.”

Local media, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, has also reported that Sullivan has received more money from out-of-state donors than any other House candidate in the country. 

Pappas, who has the backing of End Citizens United, talks about getting money out of politics.

“I’m the only candidate in this race pledging that the majority of my campaign donors live right here in New Hampshire,” he says in a recent spot.

His mailers have called attention to Sullivan’s out-of-state money and the fact that she’s raised $54,000 from Bain Capital executives.

Sullivan’s campaign is attacking Pappas for being endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business in his 2016 run for executive council, pointing out the group’s ties to the Koch Brothers. “No real back bone. Not a real progressive,” one Sullivan mailer concludes, according to WMUR. The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has backed Pappas, called her mailer a “dog whistle attack.”

Given Pappas’ strong support among local elected officials, Sullivan is trying to cast herself as the anti-establishment pick.

“There were a lot of people that told me not to run, that it wasn’t my turn, that this seat belonged to somebody else,” she said at a forum sponsored by the state Democratic Party last month. “And I’ll tell ya, I think that women around the country are really, really tired right now of being told to wait their turn.”

The Republicans

State Sen. Andy Sanborn and former police chief Eddie Edwards are the leading candidates in the five-way GOP primary.

Both are campaigning as conservatives who support the president’s agenda, but they’ve drawn distinctions over their experience and qualifications for office. Edwards would be the first African-American to win the nomination. 

He has attacked Sanborn for “serial predatory behavior” because of alleged inappropriate comments he made to male and female staffers and has said he won’t back Sanborn if he’s the nominee. An investigation by the state attorney general found no criminal wrongdoing. Sanborn has insisted his comments were a joke, saying in a debate last week, “I’m an Irishman who owns a sports bar.”

Sanborn has the support of conservatives such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, and from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s leadership PAC. The National Rifle Association has backed him too. He’s loaned his campaign over $500,000, giving him an advantage on the TV airwaves. He ended the pre-primary reporting period with $548,000.

Edwards has the backing of former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani, West Virginia Rep. Alex X. Mooney, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. He’s also received donations from the leadership PAC previously affiliated with former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, now the Interior secretary. Edwards has loaned his campaign $30,000 and ended the pre-primary reporting period with $175,000.

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