Mowers, Testerman, Hansel face different challenges

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Jun. 7—CONCORD — The front-running Republican seeking to unseat Congressman Chris Pappas, a longshot returning candidate hoping to take out Gov. Chris Sununu and a new face looking to retire Congresswoman Annie Kuster made their 2022 campaigns official on Tuesday.

Matt Mowers, Karen Testerman and George Hansel each took a turn on center stage before Secretary of State David Scanlan as New Hampshire passed the halfway mark of its candidate filing period. Hopefuls can sign on the dotted line until Friday at 5 p.m.

Former Trump State Department aide Mowers of Gilford first showed up with his wife, Cassie, and son, Jack, to mark his second bid in the 1st Congressional District.

In 2020, Mowers easily beat former GOP Vice Chairman Matt Mayberry, going on to lose to Pappas by 5 points.

This time, Mowers, 33, will have to win a Sept. 13 primary with more than a half dozen opponents.

"Look, a lot of folks are in the race, God bless them, I am glad they are running, they will bring their own issues," Mowers said.

"My focus is on replacing Chris Pappas who, with Joe Biden, has totally ignored the needs of the middle class."

Outside the State House, Mowers attracted a small crowd of Democratic protesters who held signs mocking Mowers for voting twice for Trump in a presidential primary in 2016, once in New Hampshire and four months later after moving back to New Jersey to work on Trump's campaign.

Attorney General John Formella's office cleared Mowers of violating any state election law.

Some Democratic critics maintain he may have run afoul of a little-enforced federal law that outlaws citizens from voting for president in more than one "similar election."

A Democratic Party spokesman said if it comes to pass, Pappas would win a rematch more easily this time.

Karoline Leavitt, a former Trump aide from Hampton, will make official her own GOP 1st District bid Wednesday, and on Thursday former TV news anchor Gail Huff Brown of Rye and state Rep. Timothy Baxter of Seabrook each will formally jump in as well.

Ex-Sen. Russell Prescott of Kensington also is seeking the GOP nomination.

Governor's race

Karen Testerman, a former state rep and ex-city councilor from Franklin, said law enforcement moves to quash anti-vaccine mandate protesters were a "deciding point" for her to run against Sununu again.

"When they arrested the New Hampshire nine in October of last year, that was a deciding moment for everybody in our state. We have now lost our right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, even our freedom of religion," said Testerman.

Testerman, a vocal anti-abortion activist, said Sununu's support for family planning money going to abortion clinic providers was another decisive issue.

Testerman has run for statewide office numerous times, going back to a run for governor in 2010.

In 2020, Sununu won his GOP primary over Testerman with 89% of the vote.

This time, at least three other little-known Republicans have joined Testerman in opposing Sununu.

Chris Galdieri, associate professor of politics at Saint Anselm College, said perennial and unknown candidates thrive in New Hampshire where access to the ballot is cheap — a $100 filing fee — with no petition requirement or party bosses with rules that tip the scales of who gets to run.

Galdieri attended graduate school in Minnesota, a state where even a big city mayor will drop out of a statewide race if he or she fails to win a major party's convention endorsement.

"What's the downside? If you feel like you have something to say, it gives you a platform and voters here are notoriously willing to hear what any candidate has to say," Galdieri said.

"The worst thing that happens is you don't win, the best thing is you do win. But win or lose, most candidates come through with a pretty good feeling about it all."

2nd Congressional District

Hansel, the two-term mayor of Keene, said he recently decided to enter the 2nd District primary for the right to face Democrat Annie Kuster, who is seeking a sixth term.

"Annie Kuster has been a proxy vote for the (Democratic) leadership over the last decade. That doesn't fly. The people of the 2nd District expect someone who is going to show some independence," said Hansel.

In this race, Hansel presents as a moderate Republican who supports abortion rights and the fight against climate change and publicly celebrates the Black Lives Matter movement.

But Hansel insisted this doesn't put him out of step with the GOP mainstream.

Second District GOP rival Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert Burns of Pembroke already has tried to brand Hansel as undeserving of votes from those who are "pro-life, pro-Trump, pro-America First."

Chinese born law professor Lily Tang Williams of Weare, Salem jeweler Gilead Towne and Don Poirier of Concord are also seeking the GOP nomination in the 2nd District.

klandrigan@unionleader.com