CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race features an incumbent offering steady service and a challenger looking to shake things up.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat seeking a third term, faces Republican Corky Messner, a newcomer to both politics and the state. While Shaheen has represented the state for decades as a state senator, governor and U.S. senator, Messner only moved to the state permanently in 2018 and has never held political office. He insists that is part of his strength.
“I see it as a significant benefit. I think we need political outsiders in Washington, D.C., to clean up the corruption there,” he said in an interview. “It’s time for a change.”
Shaheen counters that Messner has no record of standing up for New Hampshire.
"Clearly he has not been in New Hampshire, doesn’t know the state, hasn’t worked on the concerns that the people of New Hampshire have, whether it’s health care, whether it’s economic concerns or small businesses,” Shaheen said in an interview.
During the campaign, Shaheen has emphasized her record of helping small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, securing funding to fight the opioid crisis and improving veterans’ access to health care. Health care has become an even greater focus for Democrats since Amy Coney Barrett ’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is set to take up a challenge to the Affordable Care Act the week after the election.
“That would create significant hardships for tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire if it’s overturned, and there is no plan to replace it,” Shaheen said. “What I hear people are most concerned about is the coronavirus, and the idea that there’s an effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the middle of this pandemic is just hard to fathom. It’s outrageous.”
While he supports repealing the Obama-era health care law, Messner says he supports continuing coverage for those with preexisiting conditions. As for the pandemic, he been critical of Shaheen for pushing for a more ambitious coronavirus relief bill instead of voting for a Republican-backed measure.
“It would have only taken one Democrat senator with some courage to say let’s pass this as a first step and then we can negotiate and talk about all the other stuff later,” he said.
Shaheen said more help is needed for small businesses, hospitals and state and local governments.
“I am not going to leave half of the state behind when we have hospitals that still need help, when we have an airline industry that still needs help, when we have small businesses that need more help than has been provided in that package,” Shaheen said in a recent debate.
Shaheen was the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire and the first woman in U.S. history to serve as both governor and senator. If she wins Tuesday, she will become only the second New Hampshire Democrat to win a third Senate term. The first was Thomas McIntyre in 1978.
Messner hasn't built up much name recognition beyond his endorsement by President Donald Trump, while Shaheen "enjoys all the advantages of incumbency, especially name ID,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Messner has lagged behind Shaheen in both polls and fundraising. As of Oct. 14, Shaheen had raised nearly $19 million and had $3 million on hand. Messner had taken in $6.8 million, including nearly $6 million he loaned his campaign, and had $2.5 million on hand.