Here comes the election train

The 2020 races are right around the corner

The off-year municipal elections are over, the World Series is decided, the leaves are virtually all off the trees.  The political season of 2019 now turns to 2020, which, as a presidential primary year, means “all politics, all the time” in New Hampshire. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is in the eye of the beholder.

First up is the Feb. 11, 2020 presidential primary. Until then, candidates of both parties, but mostly Democrats, will split their time between Iowa (which has those pesky and curious caucuses) and New Hampshire, where there will be 33 delegates selected, 24 by popular vote. How many Democratic candidates will remain on primary day has yet to be seen.

On the GOP side, I was at a dinner with a prominent Republican official who has access to the inside scoop on what is going on, and is not a particular fan of the president. He cautioned that the 2020 Trump campaign will be far different from the 2016 campaign, which he described as disorganized, amateurish and based on rallies and hope.

This time, Trump has assembled perhaps the best computerized database and team ever, with the aim of but who have never voted before. Combined with those who did or will support Trump for whatever reason, that could produce a victory in New Hampshire, which only went for Hillary Clinton by a couple of thousand votes.

Those who assume Trump cannot be re-elected are mistaken, this person warned, and that issue will be made worse if the Democrats nominate one of the more extreme candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, for whom many disaffected Republicans cannot vote.  He ventured that a Biden/Klobuchar ticket probably could help keep that from happening.

Of course, Democrats and those selecting a Democratic ballot will decide their party’s fate, not disaffected Republicans hoping for the best!

While the presidential primary gets all the attention, state primary candidates will be organizing for the September primary for all other open state and federal offices.

In the U.S. Senate contest, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen should be unopposed in the primary. On the GOP side, former Speaker Bill O’Brien, retired Gen. Don Bolduc, Colorado-turned-New Hampshire attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner are declared candidates, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski keeps toying with the idea of running.  It will be a steep slope to climb for any Republican in a presidential year, with the experienced Shaheen well-known, well-financed and well-organized. (It is interesting that Messner can run for the U.S. Senate, but does not meet the residency requirement to run for state office, since he just changed his residence to New Hampshire.)

Congress members Kuster and Pappas, both Democrats, look to be strong candidates for re-election, and challengers are not yet apparent.  Pappas’ 1st District seat should be more in play than Kuster’s, since he is a freshman, and the seat has exchanged hands many times in the last few years.

Gov. Chris Sununu, after two terms, is more vulnerable, given the tradition in New Hampshire of giving governors two terms unless they have really screwed up. Third terms are trickier.

On the Democratic side, a very interesting race is developing, with both Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord and Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, also of Concord, running.

Volinsky has a record as lead counsel in the Claremont lawsuits challenging New Hampshire’s method of school funding. He has declared that he will not take “the pledge” to veto all broad-based taxes and should attract substantial support from the liberal wing of his party and from those who think it is time for a thoughtful debate about funding services in New Hampshire.

Feltes, younger, energetic and the sponsor of much legislation, also is an attorney. Notwithstanding his support and sponsorship of various programs and legislation for new spending, Feltes has taken the pledge.

The debate between the two Democrats should be an interesting one, in search of the heart and soul of their party. The eventual winner should expect a vigorous anti-tax effort from Sununu and his supporters.

So hold on to your hats — here comes the political train!

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He can be reached at

Categories: Cook on Concord