Pappas, Kuster, face pro-Trump Republicans in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire’s two congressional races pit Democratic incumbents against pro-Donald Trump Republican challengers, with one poised to make history as the youngest woman in Congress at age 25 if elected.

Up for reelection as voting ends Tuesday are 1st Congressional District Rep. Chris Pappas and 2nd Congressional District Rep. Annie Kuster. Pappas is seeking a third term, Kuster a sixth.

The 1st District has a history of switching between parties. It flipped five times in seven elections before Pappas, now 42, won the open seat in 2018. The district includes Manchester, the state’s most populous city, Portsmouth on the Seacoast and rural communities farther north.

Pappas, who helped run his family’s restaurant, faces Republican Karoline Leavitt, who worked in former President Donald Trump’s White House press office and then as communications director for Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

Leavitt would be the youngest woman elected to Congress if she wins, four years younger than current recordholder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she was elected in 2018.

Kuster, an attorney, faces Republican Robert Burns, who runs a pharmaceutical quality control business.

The sprawling, mostly rural district stretches from New Hampshire’s border with Canada to the Massachusetts line. It includes the cities of Nashua and Concord.

Burns ran for the seat once before in 2018, but lost in that primary to Steve Negron, who was later defeated by Kuster.

If Burns wins, it will be the first time the district is back in GOP hands since Kuster defeated former Republican Rep. Charles Bass in 2012.

But it wouldn’t be the first time New Hampshire sends a Robert Burns to Congress. Voters elected one in the 19th century. Robert Burns, who practiced medicine and was a Jacksonian, served as a U.S. representative from 1833-1837.

Both the current Robert Burns and Leavitt, who campaigned on a pro-Trump “America First” platform, defeated candidates favored to win in their primary races.

Leavitt beat Matt Mowers, who won the nomination in 2020 and was endorsed at the time by Trump, but lost in the general election to Pappas. Burns defeated George Hansel, the mayor of Keene and a moderate who was endorsed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

Leavitt said she believed the 2020 election was stolen from Trump; Burns said Joe Biden had enough votes to win the presidency. Trump recently endorsed both of them.

Pappas and Kuster focused their campaigns on the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which caps the amounts seniors pay for prescription drugs and allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices. It includes Kuster’s bill to make vaccines available to seniors for free. Leavitt and Burns argued that the measure actually increases inflation and that the price negotiations don’t go into effect until 2026.

Democrats kept abortion rights at the forefront of the campaigns. Pappas and Kuster said they would support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to access abortion care throughout the nation in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Leavitt and Burns both describe themselves as pro-life. Leavitt said she supports having state legislatures make decisions on abortion regulations and would oppose a federal abortion ban. Burns initially said he supports a federal “heartbeat bill” banning abortions, with an exception if the mother’s life is at risk. He now says he’d support a ban at 12 or 15 weeks.

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