The races are on for September’s primary

Some interesting races will determine the ballot in November

Those looking to find reason to think election administration is impossible this year may be disappointed to learn that in New Hampshire, filing for elective office took place, remotely and in person, earlier this summer, as planned.

In the race for governor, incumbent Chris Sununu is the odds-on favorite to defeat his two opponents in the GOP primary, Karen Testerman, perennial right-wing activist, and someone who has changed his name to “Nobody.” Sununu, seeking his third two-year term, would be considered a shoo-in, given his high ratings in the polls for his deft handling of the pandemic. But other trends might give him pause, especially the possibility that the GOP will suffer from President Trump being at the top of the ticket, if that drag turns out to be true.

On the Democratic side, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes are vying to challenge the incumbent. Volinsky may be the more liberal candidate, having had vast experience on the issue of school funding and many environmental matters, and having headed Bernie Sanders’ bid for president previously. He can expect support from those sympathetic with the causes with which he has been associated. The younger Feltes enjoys the support of much of the Democratic establishment — who reportedly fear Volinsky’s unwillingness to take the “no broad-base tax” pledge will be a drag on the ticket — so he may have the lead, but the tendency of activists to vote in primaries may make that assumption questionable.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, seeking a third term, appears to be in a good position to get it. In the primary, she has two opponents, neither of whom has a chance. On the Republican side, as part of a trend, the candidates are not prominent current or former New Hampshire officeholders, as is often the case in a Senate election. The two front-runners are a retired Army general and Laconia native, Donald Bolduc, and very recent New Hampshire resident Corky Messner, a Colorado attorney.

People note that Messner has not lived in New Hampshire long enough to run for state representative or state senator but somehow thinks the people of this state will send him to the U.S. Senate. He has self-funding, the support of President Trump (for whatever that is or is not worth) and has been doing much more advertising than Bolduc.

Having served as state senator, governor and two terms in the Senate, Shaheen would have to be considered the significant front-runner.

In the 1st Congressional District, first-term Congressman Chris Pappas is running unopposed in the primary. His GOP would-be opponents include two: Matt Mayberry, a New Hampshire native and activist, and Matt Mowers, who moved here from New Jersey to work on political campaigns and is endorsed by Trump.

It will be interesting to see what effect the presidential endorsements, rare in party primaries, will have on the results. If it is a Democratic year, Pappas would seem to have the inside track for re-election.

Annie Kuster, Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District, faces one Joseph Mirzoeff of Keene in the primary. After she defeats this unknown, she will face the winner of the Republican contest between Steve Negron, the nominee two years ago, and three lesser-known entries. With none of them apparently able to raise much money against the incumbent, the chances of this seat changing hands appears slight.

For Executive Council, there are some interesting races, since Volinsky and Republican Russell Prescott are not running again.

In Volinsky’s district, designed to favor Democrats, six Democratic candidates are running. Two Republicans are vying for the unenviable chance to challenge the winner of the Democratic race. In Prescott’s district, three Republicans and two Democrats are seeking the nomination in a district that could swing either way but has traditionally been Republican.

The other incumbents are running again, with an interesting primary in District 5, where former Executive Councilor David Wheeler and former state Sen. Bob Clegg are among the Republicans seeking the nomination to run against Deborah Pignatelli, the incumbent. In District 1, former Executive Councilor Joe Kenney is facing a primary opponent in his attempt to get a chance to oust Michael Cryans, who beat him two years ago.

The takeaways: Who wins elections is important. Your vote counts in September, just as it does in November.

Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at

Categories: Cook on Concord