Political recipe for success
The political landscape creates opportunities that are anything but boring
New Hampshire Republicans have a pretty weak record when it comes to electing candidates to major office, with the notable exception of Gov. Chris Sununu, who is in his fourth term. Sununu’s recent announcement that he will not seek a fourth term created a rush to rearrange the political landscape, and also pointed out what the GOP and its candidates will need to succeed.
In short, the road to success involves having candidates who are well known, have relevant experience, announce early enough to become better known to the voters, be viewed as coming from the political middle, and have sufficient funding to mount a meaningful campaign in the present media-rich environment. Based on the limited data so far, there is some hope for Republicans.
In the wake of the governor’s announcement, both former State Senate President Chuck Morse and former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte announced their candidacies, about 14 months before the 2024 state primary.
Both Morse and Ayotte are conservatives, but not viewed as coming from the far right. They have a record of accomplishment in state government — Morse especially in budgeting, and Ayotte having served as attorney general. Both can raise money, and Ayotte started with a credible amount raised quickly, as well as having an array of endorsements of her candidacy. The trick for both will be to appeal to the primary voters — more conservative than the general population — while not alienating the rest.
Also, with the expected entry into the race of more conservative Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Morse and Ayotte must appeal to his voters and avoid splitting the more centrist vote in the primary if either is to win the nomination and have a shot at keeping the governorship Republican. Both have time, and hopefully resources, to do so.
In another race in which the GOP has been relatively hapless of late, the first congressional district — where Manchester Democrat Chris Pappas has been successful in keeping the seat Democratic for several terms. There was a good sign for the GOP when former executive councilor and state senator Russell Prescott announced his candidacy in July.
Prescott has a record of getting things done in Concord for many terms in both offices. While conservative, his ability to get along with others and thoughtfully compromise on solutions, impressed many who have worked with him.
By announcing early, Prescott, who ran in the last primary for Congress, has over a year to get known in the district, impress those in Washington who have a lot to do with funding candidates, and, perhaps, foreclose the field through his hard work, so he will not have to fight off several other candidates in a GOP primary — a situation which often has resulted in unknown, unqualified and unfunded primary winners who go on to lose to opponents who might not have won otherwise.
On the other side of the aisle, New Hampshire Democrats, usually better organized and disciplined than the GOP, senses an opportunity in Sununu’s announcement: to recapture the corner office which they have held more often than Republicans in this century.
While the entire Congressional delegation has incumbent Democrats — and there is no U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2024 — it is a presidential primary year, complicated by President Biden’s mysterious refusal to file in the New Hampshire contest, and the open gubernatorial seat presents an opportunity.
Democrats will have to figure out how to retain the two House seats, and hope that their candidate for president has coattails. Then, depending on how the GOP primary contests come out, there could be a spirited race for governor and at least one house seat in the 1st District.
As of this writing, there are two Democrats announced for governor: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cindy Warmington. The party power structure has lined up behind Craig, although Warmington may have the more liberal side of the party supporting her.
While all this is going on, the state Ballot Law Commission and Secretary of State are going through the process of selecting a replacement ballot-counting device to count all the ballots for all offices.
Over the next several months, the selection process will narrow that to the one or possibly two devices to be certified to replace the Accuvote devices presently used.
Not a boring time at all.
Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.