CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — It's time for the other New Hampshire primary.
Seven months after it launched the presidential primary season, New Hampshire will be one of the last states to hold a state primary Tuesday. The gulf feels extra wide this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected both how candidates have campaigned and how voters will cast their ballots.
Under a temporary change to state law, anyone concerned about the virus will be allowed to vote by absentee ballot, either by mail or by dropping off completed ballots with election officials on or before Tuesday. Safety measures will in place at the polls, though it was up to each community on whether or not mask wearing is required.
Key races include the Democratic gubernatorial primary, where two Concord attorneys from blue-collar backgrounds are hoping to upgrade their Statehouse experience to the corner office. State Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky are competing for a chance to replace Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who faces longshot candidates Karen Testerman and a man who changed his name to “Nobody” in the GOP primary.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat seeking a third term, faces two longshot challengers in her primary: former state Rep. Tom Alciere and retired dentist Paul Krautmann. The Republican race features two leading candidates — Bryant “Corky” Messner and Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc —along with Andy Martin and Gerard Beloin.
Messner, an Army veteran and attorney, has poured more than $3.8 million of his own money into the race and was endorsed by President Donald Trump. But Bolduc insists the race is about “roots,” and contrasts his lifetime in New Hampshire with Messner's recent arrival from Colorado.
The outcome could reveal how much support Trump has in the state, said Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center.
“Is Trump’s power within the party strong enough to overcome someone from being from out of state and parachuting into the state?” he said. “I’m really curious to see how that works out.”
Recent polls show neither candidate was well known even within the GOP, however.
“I think most voters are treating them as generic Republicans, they don’t know anything about either of them," Smith said.
Trump also made an endorsement in the 1st Congressional District, where five Republicans are competing for a chance to deny U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas a second term. The top two contenders are Matt Mowers — Trump's pick — and Matt Mayberry, with Michael Callis, Jeff Denaro and Kevin Rondeau rounding out the ballot. Pappas is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In the 2nd District, the GOP primary features 2018 nominee Steven Negron and Lynne Blankenbeker, who also ran that year, along with Eli Clemmer and Matthew Bjelobrk. The winner will likely face U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, who’s seeking her fifth term and faced retiree Joseph Mirzoeff in the Democratic primary.
Voters also will be choosing nominees for all 400 House seats, the 24 Senate districts, the five-member Executive Council and county offices.
As of Friday morning, just over 99,000 absentee ballots had been requested, according to the secretary of state's office. About 67,600 had been returned.