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Distant Dome is co-published by Manchester Ink Link and InDepthNH.org
By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome
Pity whoever stages televised debates for the First Congressional District race with 11 Democrats, six Republicans and one Libertarian filing in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who is not seeking re-election.
There are seven Republicans and two Libertarians seeking their parties’ nominations for the Second Congressional District seat held by Democratic incumbent Ann McLane Kuster of Hopkinton, who has a million dollar campaign war chest to help in her fight to retain the seat.
President Donald Trump may not be on the ballot, but the upcoming primary and general elections will be referendums on his first two years in office.
Republicans are growing more fond of Trump, and while his approval ratings are still under 50 percent in New Hampshire, recent GOP primary voters in other states have favored candidates backing the president over those who buck him once in a while.
On the Democratic side, the President is the primary target and the more anti-Trump rhetoric the better.
In this political climate their is talk of renewed interest or enthusiasm along with the “year-of-the-woman” candidate. Both tendencies are in play for the Granite State’s two Congressional races this year.
Democratic candidates include some familiar names and some no one has heard of before.
The more familiar names include current District 4 Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester, former AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie of Manchester and former Strafford County Attorney Lincoln Soldati of Portsmouth.
The next level down in name recognition includes state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, Shea-Porter chief-of-staff Naomi Andrews of Epping, Rochester City Attorney Terence O’Rourke of Alton, son of former state Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Paul McEachern, Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth and Bernie Sanders’s son, Levi Sanders, who lives in Claremont, but is running for the First Congressional seat.
Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth may not have much name recognition in New Hampshire but has probably the biggest war chest and the backing of Emily’s List and national Democratic operatives.
Also running are Merrimack businessman Paul Cardinal and William Martin of Manchester.
On the GOP side two candidates have been running for the seat for sometime with fairly good name recognition, which is about all you hope for at this stage of the race.
Former Liquor Commission Enforcement Division chief Eddie Edwards of Dover and current District 9 state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford have been traveling the district in recent months searching for votes.
A frequent candidate for federal office, former legislative aid and judicial reform advocate Andy Martin of Manchester and technology executive Bruce Crochetiere of Hampton Falls also have some name recognition.
Contractor Michael Callis of Conway is a frequent candidate for the state and US House and Jeffory Denaro of Auburn is a plumbing contractor.
The Libertarian in the race is Dan Belforti of Portsmouth who has run before.
The large fields reflect the belief that anything can happen in the current political climate. However, both the Democratic and Republican primaries will tend to favor the candidates with name recognition, with Pappas having the edge on the Democratic side but a large campaign fund like Sullivan’s can do some serious damage in a large multi-candidate field.
On the GOP ticket, Edwards and Sanborn are the obvious names, but Crochetiere has grabbed a lot of insider attention.
In the Second CD, Kuster has the Democratic primary all to herself.
The Republican side includes some former or current state Representatives including small business owner and Rep. Steven Negron of Nashua, and former Rep. and military nurse Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord.
Physician and Manchester VA hospital whistle blower Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton has garnered decent attention, while Jay Mercer is taking his second shot at the GOP nomination running in 2016 as well.
Robert Burns of Manchester has run for the executive council several times and was elected Hillsborough County treasurer in the past.
New Boston small businessman Brian Belanger is running for the Second CD for the first time as is Gerard Beloin of Colebrook.
For the Libertarians, former Rep. Tom Alciere of Hudson has run for several offices in the past without success resigning at one point for his views on police, while this is 28-year-old Nashua resident Justin O’Donnell’s first run for Congress.
The Second CD tends to lean Democratic but Kuster has not had easy races since she beat former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass in 2012.
The Republican side has some solid candidates who could make things very interesting in November.
The governor’s race is the only statewide contest this fall, but has not attracted a large field to challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Chris Sununu of Newfields.
As might be expected, Sununu has no challengers from his party. After being shut out of the corner office for 12 years, Republicans are happy to have one of their own as the state’s chief executive.
That does not mean the entire party is happy with Sununu. Religious conservatives are particularly upset with his support for transgender rights legislation and the bill banning gay conversion therapy, both of which he signed.
Aaron Day of Bedford made noise about challenging Sununu in the GOP primary but he filed to run for governor as a Libertarian. Jilletta Jarvis of Sandown has been running for the party’s nomination almost since the last general election.
On the Democratic side are two familiar faces.
Steve Marchand is a former Portsmouth mayor and was a gubernatorial candidate in 2016, where he finished a distant second to Colin Van Ostern.
Marchand, like Jarvis, has been running for the gubernatorial nomination almost since the 2016 general election.
Five-term state Sen. Molly Kelly of Harrisville entered the race rather late but has quickly picked up the endorsements of legislative leaders as well as the two U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, who have this campaign season off. Shaheen’s term is up in 2020 and Hassan’s in 2022.
In the Senate, Kelly was a leading Democratic voice on education as well as women’s reproductive rights.
This should be a good race and is not likely to turn ugly.
Sununu remains a popular governor and in most cases — former Gov. Craig Benson was an exception — New Hampshire voters are prone to give governors at least two terms before they sour on his or her leadership.
The names in a number of executive council races will have familiar rings.
In the first district incumbent Republican Joe Kenney of Wakefield is likely to have his umpteenth rematch with Democrat Michael J. Cryans of Hanover.
But first Kenney has to face Kim Strathdee of Lincoln in the Republican primary.
Libertarian Tobin Menard of Newport is also seeking the District 1 seat.
In the District 5 seat there will be another rematch between two old foes, incumbent David Wheeler of Milford and Debra Pignatelli of Nashua. The two have traded the seat several times, but Wheeler has held the seat since Pignatelli decided not to run in 2014 due to a health issue.
Brian Chabot of Nashua is running as a Libertarian.
In District 2, Democratic incumbent Andru Volinsky of Concord will face off against either Linda Rae Banfill of Concord or James S. Beard of Lempster, who will fight it out in the Republican primary.
In District 3, race incumbent Republican Russell Prescott of Kingston faces Democrat Joe Pace of Kensington.
The District 4 race to replace Pappas features primaries on both sides. Former state Senator and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas will face former state Rep. Jane Cormier of Hooksett in the Republican primary.
On the Democratic side, technology executive Gray Chynoweth of Manchester faces off against former Manchester Alderman Garth Corriveau.
District 4 leans Republican so this should be a good race from the primaries to the general election.
Next week a look at who is running for state Senate seats.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.