Primary Results: New Hampshire, Rhode Island Choose Nominees in Key Races

by Erin Covey September 14, 2022 · 11:08 AM EDT

Three of the smallest states in the country were home to several key primaries on Tuesday night, finally bringing the 2022 primary season to a close.

New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Delaware provided nominees in one competitive Senate race, three competitive House races, and a race for governor, allowing both parties to look ahead to the general election.

New Hampshire Senate

The GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan was emblematic of Senate Republican primaries across the country — defined by recruitment failures and MAGA candidates who threaten to jeopardize Republicans’ chances in November. 

Republicans ultimately nominated Don Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, to face Hassan, who’s among Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. Bolduc received 37 percent while state Senate President Chuck Morse finished second with 36 percent, with an estimated 91 percent of the vote counted, according to DecisionDeskHQ. 

Once Gov. Chris Sununu, Republicans’ dream candidate, confirmed last year that he wouldn’t run against Hassan, the party leadership had scrambled to find a challenger. Establishment Republicans, including Sununu, ultimately backed Morse. But even with the support of a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that spent over $4.7 million, the state senator was unable to overcome Bolduc’s momentum.

Bolduc, who finished second in the 2020 GOP Senate primary with 42 percent, has touted former President Donald Trump’s unsupported claims of a stolen 2020 election and called Sununu a “Chinese Communiest sympathizer.” Despite his fringe views, the retired general led GOP primary polls. Capitalizing on Bolduc’s apparent lead, the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC aired ads attacking Morse.

Thanks to Bolduc’s win, Hassan’s odds of winning in November are likely to improve. She had $7.3 million on hand compared to Bolduc’s $83,000 (as of Aug. 24). The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund has reserved over $19 million in TV ads in New Hampshire, though if this race appears to be less competitive, Republican outside groups might decide to prioritize other races.

Initial general election rating: Tilt Democratic.

New Hampshire’s 1st District

After a long, bitter Republican primary, Karoline Leavitt emerged victorious and will face Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in November. The 25-year-old former White House staffer won 34 percent of the primary vote, defeating Republicans’ 2020 nominee, Matt Mowers, and a host of other candidates vying for the nomination. Mowers came in second with 25 percent, followed by former TV reporter Gail Huff Brown, who had 17 percent.

Mowers launched his campaign as the clear favorite after coming within 5 points of defeating Pappas in 2020. But Leavitt successfully mobilized the Republican base, asserting that the 2020 election was stolen and attacking Mowers for working with Dr. Deborah Birx, the leader of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force.

The primary divided Republican leadership in Washington. House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik backed Leavitt, one of her former staffers, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Mowers. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with McCarthy, spent $2.3 million on the race to boost Mowers. 

Democrats believe that Pappas would have had the edge against either Leavitt or Mowers, though Leavitt’s victory could leave them in a slightly better position. As of Aug. 24, Pappas had amassed a $2.3 million war chest as Republicans duked it out. Leavitt had $574,000 on hand, and likely spent some of that before Tuesday’s primary.

Initial general election rating: Tilt Democratic.

New Hampshire’s 2nd District

Like in the 1st District and in the Senate race, Republicans’ pick in the 2nd District could hamper their chances of winning what should be a competitive race. Bob Burns, a Republican activist from Pembroke, won the GOP primary with 33 percent and will face Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in November. Keene Mayor George Hansel, who was backed by Sununu, came in second with 30 percent.

Believing Hansel to be a stronger challenger to Kuster, the liberal super PAC Democrats Serve spent over $500,000 on ads ostensibly attacking Burns that had the effect of boosting his candidacy. The TV spot featured a clip of Burns, who chaired the Trump campaign’s National Youth Coalition in 2016, listing his MAGA-bona fides and calling himself the “only pro-Trump” candidate in the primary.

But Hansel had outside support as well. American Liberty Action PAC, a new group that’s played in a few other contentious GOP primaries this year, spent more than $700,000 for Hansel. In contrast with the majority of Republicans running for Congress this fall, Hansel identifies as pro-choice, with the caveat that he’s against late-term abortions. 

The 2nd District is slightly more friendly to Democrats than the 1st District, and Burns’ win leaves Kuster in a more comfortable position. The congresswoman had $2.9 million in her war chest on Aug. 24, while Burns only had $57,000. 

Initial general election rating: Likely Democratic.

Rhode Island Governor

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee narrowly survived his primary, scraping by with 33 percent of the vote.

McKee ascended to the governorship last March after Biden picked then-Gov. Gina Raimondo to lead the Commerce Department. Despite technically being the incumbent, he faced several other Democrats vying for the state’s highest office. Earlier this year, news broke that the FBI was investigating the state government’s handling of an education-related contract, throwing another wrench in the race.

In the days leading up to the primary, Helena Foulkes, a former executive at CVS, appeared to be surging. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a friend of Foulkes’ mother, stumped for her this past weekend, and Foulkes nabbed the endorsement of the Boston Globe’s editorial board a week ago. She ultimately came in second-place with 30 percent of the primary vote.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who would have been Rhode Island’s first Latina governor, came in third place with 26 percent. The two other challengers, former Secretary of State Matthew Brown and Dr. Luis Munoz, won a combined 11 percent.

McKee should sail to victory in November against Republican businesswoman Ashley Kalus in this reliably Democratic state.

Initial general election rating: Solid Democratic.

Rhode Island’s 2nd District

For the first time in a dozen years, the Ocean State has an open congressional district, thanks to Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin’s decision not to seek re-election.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner cruised to victory in the Democratic primary and will face former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung in one of the most competitive congressional races in New England. Facing five other Democrats on the ballot, Magaziner won with 54 percent. Former state Rep. David Segal came in a distant second-place with 16 percent.

Initially running for governor, Magaziner launched his congressional campaign shortly after Langevin announced his decision. Throughout the primary, Magaziner led his opponents in polls, fundraising, endorsements, and outside groups including the League of Conservation Voters and Web3 Forward, a cryptocurrency-funded PAC, spent over $500,000 on ads supporting his candidacy. Anticipating a tight race in November, Magaziner’s campaign ads were general election-focused. 

Were Magaziner running against any other Republican, he’d be the clear favorite in a district that Biden won with 56 percent. But Fung, who was unopposed in the GOP primary, has made this race competitive. The two-time gubernatorial nominee served as mayor of Cranston, one of the largest cities in the state, from 2009 to 2021.

As of Aug. 24, Magaziner had $1.4 million on hand, while Fung had $958,000.

Initial general election rating: Lean Democratic.