What to watch in last multistate primaries of midterm season

·6 min read

New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware will host the final multistate primary elections of the 2022 midterm season Tuesday, with contests to select candidates for governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House.

Because of their late primaries, the winners of Tuesday's races will have a mere eight weeks to win over voters ahead of the Nov. 8 general election. Delaware's primary will feature just one contested statewide race — the Democratic primary for auditor.

As in earlier contests in other states, former President Donald Trump's shadow looms large over some key races to be decided Tuesday, particularly in New Hampshire.

What to watch:

SUNUNU SEEKS A FOURTH TERM AS NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR

Until late last year, New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu was widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate, taking on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. Instead, he opted to seek a fourth two-year term as governor, dealing a major blow to Republicans who had hoped he could help them retake control of the Senate.

Although he faced intense pressure to run for the Senate, Sununu insists he can have a bigger and more direct impact as governor than as a senator. And despite efforts by Trump's former campaign manager to recruit a challenger, none of the other five Republicans on the ballot Tuesday poses a serious threat.

Democratic state Sen. Tom Sherman is running unopposed for his party's nomination for governor.

REPUBLICANS' SCRAMBLE FOR U.S. SENATE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

With Sununu out of the running, a crowd of 11 candidates stepped forward to seek the GOP Senate nomination, including state Senate President Chuck Morse, former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith and cryptocurrency entrepreneur Bruce Fenton. But retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who lost the GOP primary for New Hampshire's other Senate seat in 2020, quickly emerged as the front-runner via dogged grassroots campaigning to compensate for his lack of cash.

That has made establishment Republicans nervous, with Sununu calling Bolduc “not a serious candidate” and a conspiracy theorist. Sununu issued a last-minute endorsement for Morse.

Democratic groups, meanwhile, have put up ads promoting Bolduc, hoping he'll be an easy opponent for Hassan in November.

Hassan, seeking a second term in the battleground state, faces two virtually unknown challengers on the Democratic side. Although Democrats hold all four of New Hampshire’s congressional seats, Republicans control the state Legislature, and Hassan’s 2016 win was a narrow one.

GOP EYES 2 CONGRESSIONAL SEATS IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

Many expected major changes in New Hampshire's two congressional districts thanks to the once-a-decade redistricting process, but that didn't happen. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the state’s two districts to give the GOP an advantage in the 1st District. But Sununu vetoed the plans, and the maps were updated by the courts instead with only minor changes.

Still, Republicans are bullish about their chances in New Hampshire and are eagerly eyeing both Democratic-held seats as potential pickups in November.

New Hampshire's 1st District flipped five times in seven elections before Democrat Chris Pappas won his first term in 2018. He faces no primary opponent this year, while more than 10 Republicans are competing for a chance to challenge him.

The field includes a number of candidates with ties to Trump: Matt Mowers, the district's 2020 Republican nominee and a former Trump State Department adviser; Karoline Leavitt, a former assistant press secretary in the Trump White House; and former TV broadcaster Gail Huff Brown, who is married to Scott Brown, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the Trump administration ambassador to New Zealand. While Trump hasn't endorsed in the race, the candidates haven't been shy about emphasizing their connections to him.

In the second district, Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster faces no primary challenge as she seeks a sixth term. Seven Republicans are vying for their party's nomination to challenge her, including pro-Trump candidate Bob Burns, a former county treasurer who runs a pharmaceutical safety company, and the more moderate George Hansel, mayor of Keene.

TOUGH DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee is trying to fend off four Democratic challengers as he seeks his first full term in office. McKee, the former lieutenant governor, became governor a year and a half ago when then-Gov. Gina Raimondo was tapped to be the U.S. commerce secretary in the Biden administration.

McKee is expected to be in a close contest against Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Both were first elected to statewide office in 2014 and maintain a base of support and name recognition among voters.

Also running in the Democratic primary: Helena Foulkes, a former CVS Health executive who has proved to be an adept fundraiser and is spending heavily on the race in her first bid for public office; former Rhode Island secretary of state and progressive candidate Matt Brown; and community activist Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

McKee is hoping his stewardship during the COVID-19 pandemic — and his 94-year-old mother — will earn him the Democratic nomination.

Willa McKee is a star of her son's first television ad, titled “motha” because that's how she pronounces “mother.” The two are playing cards as the governor talks about helping the economy, eliminating the state’s car tax, creating affordable housing and passing gun safety laws to keep families safe.

“Not bad for a year and a half,” the governor says.

He laughs as his mother replies, “Not bad for a governor that lives with his motha.”

A RHODE ISLAND CONGRESSIONAL SEAT RIPE FOR FLIPPING?

The 2nd Congressional District seat has been held by Democrats for more than three decades in a state traditionally dominated by the party. National Republican leaders think now is their best chance to flip it.

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, who has represented the district since 2001, announced his retirement in January. The state's Democratic treasurer, Seth Magaziner, had been running for governor but switched races after Langevin's announcement to try to keep the seat in Democratic control.

Magaziner, who is considered the front-runner and has been endorsed by Langevin, faces a crowded Democratic field, including Joy Fox, a former top aide to Langevin; former Biden administration official Sarah Morgenthau; Omar Bah, executive director of The Refugee Dream Center in Providence; and former state lawmakers David Segal and Spencer Dickinson.

A popular former Rhode Island mayor, Allan Fung, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination after two rivals dropped out of the race. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy visited Rhode Island in August to raise money for Fung.

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Holly Ramer And Jennifer Mcdermott, The Associated Press