Annie Kuster is Keeping a Low Profile

The Middle-of-the-road Democrat seems on track to make history
Politics Art Oct22

Illustration by Peter Noonan

Congresswoman Annie Kuster doesn’t make headlines in New Hampshire very often. Kuster, a former adoption lawyer and Concord lobbyist, largely keeps her head down.

She initially ran as a progressive but governs as a middle-of-the-road Democrat. She also raises gobs of money for her campaign account and does the necessary roundtables back in the district, which stretches from Nashua to the Canadian border.

Perhaps it is because of this strategy of being purposefully uninteresting that no one has recognized that Kuster is about to make history.

If Kuster wins reelection in November, she will be the first Democrat in state history to win major office six times in a row.

This puts her in a category that even Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the creator of the modern New Hampshire Democratic Party, cannot match. Shaheen has won six times herself but not consecutively. She lost a race for U.S. Senate in 2002. If the state’s other senator, Maggie Hassan, wins this fall, it would be only her fourth consecutive win.

With a win in November, Kuster would pass former U.S. Rep. Norm D’Amours, who won five times in a row in the 1970s and 1980s.

The interesting thing is that in New Hampshire this is a big deal, whereas in most states a six-term member of the U.S. House is the norm.

While Kuster lost her first bid for Congress in 2010, she has been essentially elusive to Republicans ever since. Even Republicans admit that Kuster raises enough money and her district is just Democratic enough that it has been hard to convince serious GOP candidates to take her on.

Consider the dynamic this year: When national political analysts run the numbers her. Second Congressional District is considered a toss-up contest between a simple Republican and Democrat.

But when you put the actual candidates up, no Republican can match her name recognition or money raised, and most have little support even within their own party. Gov. Chris Sununu had originally recruited one candidate who many thought would be a significant threat to Kuster, but he dropped out before the candidate filing period.

Kuster comes from a well-known political family. Her great-grandfather, John McLane, served as governor. Her father served as a Concord mayor. Her mother was a state senator who even ran for the same Congressional seat she holds now.

Still, the path to Congress wasn’t laid out on a silver platter for Kuster. She famously backed a primary challenge against Shaheen in 2000 that put her on the outs with some in the Democratic establishment. She then was a prominent supporter of Barack Obama in the 2008 New Hampshire primary when most of the big names lined up with Hillary Clinton.

The first time she ran for Congress, in 2010, she was viewed as the underdog for even the Democratic nomination. Her opponent back then was Katrina Swett, the wife of Dick Swett, who held the same seat for a pair of terms.

Kuster was able to swing to the left in that primary and win the nomination but lost the general. Since then, no Democrat — or Republican — has come particularly close to her at the ballot box.

It’s unclear how long she will continue to run for the House or if she will seek higher office. But after the latest round of redistricting, she could continue to break her own record.

Categories: Politics