In New Hampshire, a Primary Full of Unfamiliarity

 

The primary ballot may look unfamiliar to New Hampshire voters on Tuesday (September 11). That’s because the state’s longest serving governor in more than two centuries will not be an option.

John Lynch, New Hampshire’s popular moderate Democratic governor, is not seeking reelection this year, creating a window of opportunity for Republicans wishing to take back the office. 

Such a shift could have large implications in a state whose legislature turned solidly red in 2010. The new GOP majority made the last of Lynch’s four two-year terms exceedingly difficult, forcing vetoes on a range of divisive bills, including a measure granting personhood to fetuses and one that eroded collective bargaining for public employees.   

Whether a Republican candidate can seize the opportunity is another matter. Lynch’s decision to step aside “to refresh and revive democracy,” yields the field to a host of candidates struggling for name recognition. In a poll conducted last month, “undecided” was named the most popular candidate in both parties, Foster’s Daily Democrat notes.

Voters will whittle down the field on Tuesday.

On the Democratic side, two former relatively unknown state senators, Maggie Hassan and Jackie Cilley, are seeking the nomination. For the Republicans, Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1996, is the best known of the candidates. Lamontagne has polled slightly higher than the Democratic candidates, according to Ballotpedia.

New Hampshire’s primary also will be the first test for the state’s new voter ID law, which was vetoed by Lynch but overridden by the legislature and approved last week by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The law, which is much less strict than those passed by other conservative legislatures, allows voters to identify themselves with a wide range of documents, including student IDs and driver’s licenses from any state, regardless of the expiration date. That list, however, will be shortened starting in 2013.

Those who lack photo identification on Tuesday may still cast a ballot, but they’ll have to sign “a challenged voter affidavit” and have their pictures taken.

 
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