Primary Preview: The race for US Senate in New Hampshire

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - In the race for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, nearly a dozen Republican candidates are vying for their party’s nomination to take on the likely nominee for the Democrats, incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan.

There’s a lot on the line when it comes to this race-- the balance of power in Washington is potentially at stake for the Democrats.

“The Democrats could hold onto the Senate but they really can’t afford to lose a seat that they already have,” said John Lappie, a political science professor at Plymouth State University.

There are a total of 11 Republican Senate candidates on the ballot for New Hampshire’s Sept. 13 primary.

Leading the pack, according to a recent St. Anselm College poll, is retired Army brigadier general Don Buldoc. Polling in second is New Hampshire state Senate President Chuck Morse. Tied for a distant third-- former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith and freedom and liberty advocate Bruce Fenton.

“This is a political party that is in transition from that middle class that nominated Mitt Romney to one that is more working-class voters that nominated Donald Trump,” Lappie said.

Morse has been involved in New Hampshire politics for more than two decades. He’s rallied against broad-based taxes, opposes government regulation and helped pass New Hampshire’s ban on abortions after 24 weeks.

Buldoc, on the other hand, has closely aligned himself with the former president Trump since he unsuccessfully ran for the party’s Senate nomination in 2020. He has attacked the establishment, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, and questioned the results of the 2020 election.

“Those things that are weaknesses for Don Buldoc in the general election are not weaknesses for him in the context of the Republican primary which makes it really hard for Chuck Morse to catch up,” Lappie said.

Whoever comes out on top is likely to get a lot of support from the national party, with the balance of power in the U.S. Senate potentially on the line. However, Dartmouth College Politics Professor Linda Fowler says it’s likely there will be less money to go around.

“The Republicans are defending a lot more seats than they thought they would,” Fowler said.

The party in power typically loses seats during the midterm elections. But Fowler says the recent Supreme Court Ruling over abortion could play a big factor this time around.

“The times that history has not been the guide to the outcome have been weird times like George Bush after 9/11 where his party picked up seats. Bill Clinton picked up seats after the Republicans’ unsuccessfully tried to impeach him,” Fowler said.

Hassan has raised more than $30 million this election cycle and is a seasoned campaigner, having won statewide elections for both the Senate and governor’s office. She is facing two challengers in her own party but is expected to easily cruise to victory in the primary.