Predictions are flying about the likelihood of the House and Senate changing hands in November's midterm elections. But before parties can plan their agendas for the next congressional session, their candidates first have to make it through their primaries. After Tuesday, the last big day of the 2010 primary season, nearly all of the nominees for the general election will have been chosen. Altogether, voters in seven states plus the District of Columbia on Tuesday will finalize their November ballots for 61 House seats, six Senate seats, and six gubernatorial races. Only the Hawaii primary and a House runoff primary in Louisiana will remain after this.
New Hampshire's Senate race is closely watched this year, and many election analysts consider this seat to be a "toss-up" or "leaning Republican," come November. The seat in question is being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg, who is retiring after three terms.
Gregg's departure has opened up a wide field of Republican candidates--seven will be on Tuesday's ballot for the GOP nomination. A poll released September 3 by Republican polling and consulting firm Magellan Strategies showed that four of these candidates register significant support, with former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte leading the field. Ayotte has the support of 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters, giving her a 13-point lead over attorney Ovide Lamontagne's 21 percent. Businessmen Bill Binnie and Jim Bender come in third and fourth, with 17 and 13 percent, respectively. However, there is room for surprises on Tuesday, since 11 percent of the voters in the survey said they were undecided (margin of error 3.3 percent).
Ayotte has the most impressive list of endorsements among the Republican candidates, with several high-profile Republicans from across the country lending their support. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has named Ayotte one of her "Mama Grizzlies" of the election season, and Republican leaders like Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have all voiced support. However, Binnie has the most substantial financial resources. The businessman has over $7 million in receipts over the election cycle, $5.8 million of which he loaned to the campaign himself. In the tough fight for the nomination, Binnie has spent much of this, with just over $425,000 left in his campaign account as of August 25. Ayotte, for her part, has raised over $2.9 million, with her most recent filing showing $823,431 in the bank. The Republican race had long been framed as a contest between Ayotte and Binnie, but Lamontagne's recent emergence as a top contender has complicated the situation. Lamontagne, boosted by some Tea Party-related support, has climbed into the top tier of candidates despite his significantly lower fundraising totals. Lamontagne has just over half a million dollars in receipts over the election cycle, with $109,000 remaining in his coffers.
The winner will face Rep. Paul Hodes, who is unopposed for the Democratic nod. Hodes has raised $3.8 million, and, with no primary to fight, is in the best financial shape of all candidates, with $1.2 million in his pocket as of August 25. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has put considerable resources into this race as well, and has already spent over $66,000 on promoting Hodes in New Hampshire.
Analysts from the Cook Political Report, the New York Times, and Congressional Quarterly characterize both of New Hampshire's House seats as "toss-ups" this year. Republicans are hoping to pick up seats in New Hampshire's House districts, both of which are currently represented by Democrats. In the First District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, is defending the seat she has held since 2007. Like Hodes, Shea-Porter has no Democratic challengers and has not been forced to exhaust her resources yet. Of the over $1 million she has raised, nearly $530,000 remain in the bank.
Shea-Porter will face one of the eight Republicans who will be on Tuesday's GOP ballot. Sean Mahoney, the president of a communications company and a former New Hampshire committeeman to the Republican National Committee, has the most resources of any candidate in this race, with over $1 million in receipts. Shea-Porter clearly sees him as a rival, and has already begin campaigning against him, mailing fliers criticizing Mahoney to voters around the district. Frank Guinta, a former mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire's largest city, is also one of the favorites for the GOP nomination. In addition to his mayoral experience, Guinta spent two terms in the state legislature, which may boost his name recognition with voters. He has shown that he has the fundraising ability to withstand a November campaign, with $875,000 in receipts and over $150,000 currently in his accounts. Rich Ashooh, an executive at a defense contracting firm, is also running a strong campaign and has also recently been meeting with New Hampshire Tea Party leaders, which could help give him added support in a crowded field. Ashooh has raised $375,000 this cycle, but a tough primary has left him with only $80,685 in the bank.
In the Second District, seven Republicans and two Democrats are vying to take the seat being vacated by Paul Hodes. The Democratic primary ballot features two candidates: attorney and activist Ann McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett, the president of a human rights foundation and wife of Dick Swett, who held the Second-District seat from 1991 to 1995. Pro-choice groups have been major players in this campaign and the source of all independent expenditures made for either candidate. Though both candidates are pro-choice, abortion rights groups EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood have both spent in support of Kuster in recent weeks. Pro-choice organization NARAL, however, has spent in support of both candidates.
Swett has been painting Kuster as a "far-left progressive," while Kuster has emphasized Swett's more moderate views as a negative. In a recent debate, Swett appealed to more moderate Democrats, acknowledging that she supported the Bush tax cuts. Kuster, meanwhile, has embraced liberal causes like the push for a public health insurance option and affirmative action.
Fundraising totals show both Democratic candidates to be ready for a November campaign. Swett came into the campaign with $870,000 already on hand from a failed 2008 Senate run and to that has added $580,000 from fundraising, Even after a protracted primary against Kuster, she still has nearly $800,000 in her war chest right now. Kuster has similar receipts, having taken in $1.4 million. She has outspent Swett, however, with $450,000 left in her pocket as of August 25.
The Republican race features several contenders who are no stranger to New Hampshire politics. Charles Bass is the most prominent of the five Republican contenders, having already served as New Hampshire's Second-District Representative from 1995 until 2007. Bass has received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as $5,000 from the leadership PAC associated with House Minority Leader Eric Cantor. The former House member has pulled in over $565,000 thus far and still maintains $312,000 in his accounts, according to his August 25 FEC report. Airline captain Bob Giuda has also held elective office, having served in the New Hampshire House from 2001 through 2007. Giuda's campaign is largely self-funded, as the candidate has provided $132,000 of the $173,000 of his campaign's total receipts. Another prominent Republican candidate, talk radio host Jennifer Horn, gained election experience in 2008, when she won the Republican nomination for the Second-District seat. She was defeated by Hodes in the general election, but is clearly fighting hard for a win this year. She has spent almost all of the $223,000 her campaign has amassed in receipts, with $32,150 now in the bank.