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9/13 Primary Recap

SENATE

In the GOP Senate primary, Trump-backed retired Army brigadier general Don Bolduc eked out a victory over Chuck Morse by a mere percentage point. The tight margin came as a surprise to most observers, with pre-election polls suggesting a double-digit deficit for the state senate president. Bolduc will now face Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in a November matchup.

Split Ticket thinks Hassan has a clear advantage in this contest. Bolduc, as mentioned by multiple outlets, has made a number of controversial remarks regarding the 2020 electionthe FBI, and Governor Chris Sununu himself, whom he called a “communist sympathizer”.

Hassan has a moderate lead in Granite State polling right now, and the state did back Biden by 7 points; more importantly, though, the former Governor maintains a colossal edge in fundraising over Bolduc, who has less than $1M on hand. New Hampshire also happens to have some of the most pro-choice attitudes in the nation, an attribute that could prove decisive this fall.

At this moment, Split Ticket rates this race LEANS DEMOCRATIC. However, if Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund pulls its $23 million ad reservation, or if new polling comes out showing Hassan comfortably ahead of Bolduc, a shift may be in the works.

GOVERNOR

Rhode Island’s unelected Governor Dan McKee avoided political disaster on Tuesday, narrowly defeating former CVS executive Helena Foulkes and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea in the state’s Democratic primary. Polling had shown Gorbea as McKee’s main opponent, though that indication did not ultimately pan out. McKee, who replaced Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo after Biden entered office, has now received his first electoral mandate. He is the favorite to win a full term in a SAFE DEMOCRATIC November race.

An interesting note. According to election expert J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, 2022 is the first midterm cycle since 2002 where no incumbent Governors have lost primaries.

HOUSE

RHODE ISLAND

In Rhode Island’s 2nd district (Biden +14), which encompasses the Ocean State’s western half, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner won the Democratic primary comfortably against both David Segal and Sarah Morgenthau. Segal had been endorsed by progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders, but struggled to match Magaziner’s monopolization of union endorsements.

Magaziner will now face ex-Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, one of the GOP’s top House recruits. Despite the 2nd’s presidential lean and post-Dobbs Democratic momentum at the national level, Republicans are hoping that Fung can attract enough crossover support to threaten Magaziner. For what it is worth, he did outrun fundamentals around Cranston in both his 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial bids. The conversion of traditionally-Democratic WWC voters is also an integral part of the GOP’s strategy in the 2nd.

While Fung is definitely expected to exceed the generic Republican baseline, it is difficult to see him winning outright. Split Ticket had moved the 2nd to a tossup in July based on polling evidence, but recently brought the seat back to LEANS DEMOCRATIC to reflect a national environment that is nominally neutral or somewhat Republican-leaning. Put another way, even though Fung is not expected to win, he is in a competitive race.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Just as Don Bolduc won the GOP’s Senate nomination, similarly-controversial Republicans secured primary nominations in New Hampshire’s contested 1st (Biden +6) and 2nd (Biden +9) districts. Republican voters in the 1st backed Karoline Leavitt over 2020 nominee Matt Mowers. Leavitt, the most conservative candidate in the race, amassed a broad geographic coalition running north from the Massachusetts border towns. She even came close to winning well-populated Manchester, Mowers’s adopted home region. 

Leavitt, who is only 25, now advances to face two-term incumbent Democrat Chris Pappas in the general election. Split Ticket is keeping this district at TOSSUP for now, but a ratings change to LEANS DEMOCRATIC could be on the horizon.

Republican fortunes in the 2nd district are grimmer. There, incumbent Democrat Ann Kuster is set to face Robert Burns, who defeated fellow Republicans George Hansel, a moderate, and Lily Tang Williams, a libertarian. Geographically, Hansel’s support has been concentrated in the southern half of the district that is closest to his hometown of Keene. Burns, meanwhile, ran up the score in towns like Nashua. This race will stay LEANS DEMOCRATIC for now.

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