Beaming it in?

Some candidates have tenuous local connections.



Illustration by Peter Noonan

In 2006, the state’s Republican nominee for governor ran with a simple motto: Keep New Hampshire, New Hampshire.

The candidate, Joe Kenney, who is now an executive councilor, rarely explained what he meant by the ambiguous phrase, but at the same time people understood.

A dozen years ago, there was a feeling that the Granite State was apart from the rest of New England, uniquely prospering under yet another ambiguous phrase — “the New Hampshire advantage.” But in those times there was also an argument to be made that all these new people who doubled the state’s population in the last 30 years weren’t natives and were changing the state’s way of life.

That conversation is now at a new level. Just eight years after Kenney ran with his “Keep New Hampshire, New Hampshire,” motto, his Republican Party hasn’t exactly lived up to those words. The only two Republican statewide nominees, Scott Brown for US Senate and Walt Havenstein, aren’t exactly lifelong Granite Staters. Brown moved to the state just a few months before entering the race and Havenstein only survived a challenge to his residency requirement by a single vote on the state’s Ballot Law Commission. (And neither gentleman lives in the state today.)

So maybe it shouldn’t be all that shocking to find a very odd situation in 2018, where there are two legitimate candidates for Congress who don’t live in their districts, and a third who was considering a run for Congress earlier in the cycle before moving to Portsmouth and running in the corresponding First District.

What’s particularly notable in 2018 is that, while each of the candidates is being asked about current residency, being from somewhere else isn’t an automatic disqualification. The new Portsmouth resident mentioned above, Maura Sullivan, has raised record amounts of money and may well be the Democratic nominee against 10 others in the field, many of whom have lived in the state their entire lives and have been involved in politics for decades.

One of the 10 people Sullivan is running against is Bernie Sanders’ son Levi Sanders, who lives in Claremont, a full hour’s drive away from the nearest border of the First District. If Sanders loses the nomination in September, it won’t be because he doesn’t live near the district but rather because he has run a lackluster campaign.

The Democrats mentioned above may have inspired the late entry for Manchester Republican Bob Burns, who is running Congress in a district that largely includes western and northern parts of the state as well as Nashua.

Burns mentioned his time going to college in Keene, but what he really stresses is his close ties to President Trump.

And with that line of argument Burns shows — along with Sullivan and Sanders — that a huge shift in American political life has occurred without much discussion: All politics isn’t local anymore. Today, all politics is ideological and driven by money.

There might be a group of people who are genuinely offended by what this trio is trying to pull off, but many of these same people prefer other candidates anyway. In 2018, voters don’t seem to care at all about keeping New Hampshire, New Hampshire, but about how well the GOP keeps backing Trump or how well the Democratics keep their party liberal.    

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