Primary Preview: The race for New Hampshire governor

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire incumbent Governor Chris Sununu is seeking a fourth term, but the popular moderate Republican will first have to fend off a slew of fellow GOP members during next Tuesday’s primary.

There’s only one Democrat who is running uncontested in his primary. That leaves all the action on the GOP side, where Governor Chis Sununu is being challenged by a handful of GOP candidates.

“His health policies during COVID, occasionally criticizing Donald Trump -- that does create an anti-Sununu faction within the GOP,” said John Lappie, a political science professor at Plymouth State University. But he says Sununu will likely sail through the primary, mainly because his challengers are relatively unknown or not mounting serious campaigns.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, a doctor from the seacoast, does not have a single primary challenger. “The fact that only one Democrat is running against Sununu tells me most leading Democrats don’t think they have a good chance of defeating him. If they did, if they did think that, there would be a lot more Democrats seeking the party’s nomination,” Lappie said.

Sherman has been campaigning as the party nominee for months and two new ads are laser-focused on one issue--abortion. On the heels of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, It’s a topic that experts say could bring out voters to the polls, especially women. Sununu calls himself a pro-choice governor, however, he signed a budget bill that included a ban on abortions after 24 weeks that went into effect at the beginning of this year.

“It makes the ground fertile for Democrats and a lot of this is being driven by the anti-contraception, no exceptions for abortion that the national Republicans are pushing,” said Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth College. A recent poll from St. Anselm College shows the vast majority of Granite Staters identify as pro-choice and the Fowler says Sherman is among Democrats trying to capitalize on that. “It is going to raise doubts about how pro-choice is he really. And the fact that he caved, he caved on that to the radicals in the party.”

But in the likely head-to-head match-up in November, Lappie says Sherman will likely have an uphill battle. “He doesn’t really have that much time to introduce himself to the voters. He has a very popular incumbent to face,” he said.

Another positive for Sununu, the majority of voters in New Hampshire are undeclared or Independent and they supported Sununu in past elections.

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