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On the trail: Big bucks already flowing in NH’s 2022 Senate race

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., left listens as Gov.-elect Chris Sununu speaks at the Governor's agency budget hearings Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

For the Monitor
Published: 8/26/2021 1:51:58 PM

U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan isn’t up for re-election for another 14 months and she still doesn’t have a bonafide opponent, but the money’s already flowing, even at this early stage of the race.

A new television commercial started airing this week that takes aim at the congressional Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending blueprint and urges Hassan to "vote no on the trillion dollar boondoggle.”

The ad from the Common Sense Leadership Fund, a newly formed conservative advocacy group steered by longtime Republican Party operatives, is the latest political spot to hit Granite State television screens already in 2021 ahead of Hassan’s 2022 reelection campaign.

Republicans are keying in on next year’s midterm elections to win back the U.S. Senate majority they lost in the 2020 cycle. The Senate GOP’s reelection arm views Hassan, a former governor and first-term senator, as one of the most vulnerable Democrats running in next year’s contests. And they see New Hampshire as one of their top four targets to flip a blue held seat red, especially if popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu or another high profile candidate challenges Hassan.

If that happens, New Hampshire’s 2022 Senate campaign will be one of the most crucial, competitive and expensive races in the country.

According to AdImpact, a leading national ad tracking firm, $4.4 million has already been spent – mostly by outside groups such as political advocacy organizations, political action committees, and super PACs – mainly to run TV, digital, and radio ads supporting or taking aim at Hassan.

Earlier this month End Citizens United/Let America Vote, a progressive group pushing for voting rights and campaign finance reform, went up with ads praising Hassan for her votes in support of two reforms bills in the Senate.

“Senator Hassan knows you can’t put a price on democracy. She voted to end dark money and tackle corruption so Washington works for us,” the narrator in the spot emphasized.

The spending has been relatively equal, with Republican groups dishing out roughly $2.3 million and Democratic organizations spending approximately $2 million.

The biggest spender to date – at nearly $1.2 million so far this cycle - is One Nation, a pro-GOP group that takes aim at Democrats in Senate races. End Citizens United/Let America Vote is in second place in the spending race, according to AdImpact, dishing out just over $1 million.

More than $50 million was spent by the campaigns, the political parties and outside groups such as super PACs in Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s single-digit victory over GOP challenger and former Sen. Scott Brown in 2014, making it the most expensive election in New Hampshire’s history.

But that record was shattered just two years later, when roughly $130 million was dished out by all sides as then-Gov. Hassan edged out of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016 by just over 1,000 votes.

Only a fraction of that amount was spent in the 2020 cycle, in Shaheen’s trouncing of GOP challenger Bryant “Corky” Messner in an uncompetitive race.

But overall, the costs of competitive Senate races has skyrocketed, with a record-breaking $280 million spent in North Carolina’s 2020 battle last year between Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham. And roughly $500 million was spent during the two month long Georgia twin runoff elections campaign.

With the price of Senate campaigns dramatically rising, Hassan’s 2022 re-election will likely break Granite State records again, if she faces off against a top tier GOP challenger. So far only one Republican is in the race: Retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc, who lost to Messner in last September’s GOP Senate primary, filed paperwork late last year to run again in 2022.

Kuster fundraising for Hassan

Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster is known in political circles as an effective fundraiser.

Now, the five-term representative in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District is helping to raise money for Hassan.

“If Sununu becomes the next Senator from N.H., he’ll work hard to undo all the progress Annie, Maggie, and Democrats in Congress have accomplished,” argues a new fundraising email from Kuster’s campaign.

“We’re working with the Hassan team to fight back against a potential Sununu bid by pooling our fundraising efforts. Can you make a $20 split donation right away to help us hit our goal,” it says.

Kuster’s team tells the Monitor this isn’t the first time she’s helped raise campaign cash for fellow Democrats.

While Hassan potentially faces a very challenging reelection in 2022, it’s doubtful Kuster will have to deal with a difficult race.

Kuster won reelection by 10 points last year and by 13 points in 2018. And things may get easier next year. With the once-in-a-decade redistricting process in New Hampshire in the hands of the GOP – they control the governor’s office, both houses of the legislature and the Executive Council – the 1st Congressional District is expected to become more Republican friendly while the 2nd district will likely see an infusion of more Democratic voters.

The state House Special Committee on Redistricting this week began the process of redrawing the congressional and legislative maps.

Pointing out that the process doesn’t allow for public comment, the New Hampshire Democratic Party took aim at Granite State Republicans and noted that Sununu last year vetoed legislation passed by the then-Democratic controlled legislature that would have created a nonpartisan, independent redistricting commission.




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