The status quo is doing just fine here.
illustration by peter noonan
In February, New Hampshire voters sent a message to the nation and around the world. During the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, local Republicans and Democrats alike said it was time to elect political outsiders who deliver a populist message about how to help the country’s shrinking middle class.
But as the filing period for New Hampshire’s elected positions — from county commissioner to governor and US Senate — open up in the first part of June, most of the contenders aren’t outsider candidates carrying a populist message. And the few who are, aren’t catching on. Instead of a new political order, New Hampshire’s local politics is business as usual.
There was no denying that New Hampshire voters knew what they liked and didn’t like during the presidential primary. Donald Trump won the state’s Republican primary by 20 percentage points and Bernie Sanders won the state’s Democratic primary by 22 percentage points. This was no fluke.
Even more stunning is that this was the first time either had won a Republican or Democratic primary.
And yet the candidates for governor are all either currently in elected office or have been part of the state political infrastructure for years. No one in the state Senate backed Sanders or Trump, and all are expected to be re-elected next year. When it comes to the Congressional races, the likely Republican and Democratic nominees didn’t go with the winners of the primary. The same is true for the state’s US Senate contest.
Sanders argued that it is time for a political revolution, but no one is exactly picking up a pitchfork to help lead the movement here, despite the fact many in New Hampshire agree with the sentiment.
There are a few interested in taking up the cause, but their prospects don’t look great. In the First Congressional District, Democratic newcomer Shawn O’Connor promotes himself as the only Congressional candidate to back Sanders. But hes has been in the race for some time and it appears unlikely at this writing that he can defeat former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who has won five straight Democratic primaries for this seat. In the US Senate race, Republican Jim Rubens is trying to overcome three straight losses to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. In the hours before the presidential primary, he backed Trump.
Following the presidential primary, there was a lot of discussion about what the big wins for outsiders would mean for New Hampshire politics going forward. There have been many examples of political players who got started in politics because of the state’s presidential primary, including US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who got involved because of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign.
Key players of the Sanders campaign in New Hampshire say they want to remake the Democratic Party here. They believe that the party needs to listen to the more liberal voters. On the Republican side, Trump supporters are spending their time trying to get state Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn removed from office because she told the Boston Globe in the fall that Trump wouldn’t win the New Hampshire Primary and listed the reasons why he wouldn’t. (Oops.)
But so far, elected politics on the local level is still made up of those willing to volunteer to be part of the system, and most incumbents are re-elected. While New Hampshire voters appear to be angry, they are not so angry that they want a political revolution at home.