Hopkinton hops out front with early straw poll in 2nd Congressional District

  • Hopkinton Republicans held perhaps the first straw poll in the race for New Hampshire’s congressional seat in the second district. On the right is state Rep. Michael Moffett of Loudon, who represented candidate Steve Negron; Dr. Stewart Levenson; and former state Rep. Lynn Blankenbeker of Concord. Courtesy—

For the Monitor
Friday, February 09, 2018

Hopkinton Republicans held what’s believed to be the first straw poll in the race for the GOP nomination in the state’s Second Congressional District.

Straw polls, often a barometer of a campaign’s ability to organize and bring out supporters, are usually not very consequential.

But what made this straw poll interesting was that the winner, state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua, was the only one of three candidates in the race who wasn’t able to show up at the Thursday night event in person.

And what made it even more interesting is that Hopkinton is the hometown of the Democratic congresswoman Republicans hope to defeat in November – three-term incumbent Rep. Annie Kuster.

The straw poll was open to any Republicans registered in the 2nd District, which stretches from Salem to Nashua to Keene in the south, to Concord, the Upper Valley, and all the way up to the North Country. Forty-one of the 51 people in attendance fit that description and cast a ballot.

Hopkinton GOP Chair Lorianne Updike Toler said that nearly half of those who voted were town residents.

Negron, a businessman and U.S. Air Force veteran, received 20 votes. Former state Rep. Lynn Blankenbeker of Concord, who jumped into the race last month after spending three decades in the military as a combat nurse, won 12 votes. And Hopkinton resident Dr. Stewart Levenson, a former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regional director who last year was one of the top whistleblowers at the Manchester VA Medical Center, grabbed nine votes.

“It was very clear what the strengths of the different candidates were from the night,” Toler explained.

“You have Levenson as the very well-spoken intellectual,” she said. “You have the vast varied experience of Blankenbeker.”

“And Negron is able to organize, which was very clear because he had his people turnout,” she added. “And he wasn’t even there.”

Meetings in Washington prevented Negron from attending in person. He was represented by state Rep. Michael Moffett of Loudon.

Toler said Negron’s campaign was “well prepared.”

Toler said that “it’s perceived that Hopkinton is a very liberal.”

And the town’s results from the 2016 election seem to back up that image. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton topped now-President Donald Trump by more than 20 percentage points. Then-Gov. Maggie Hassan defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte by double digits. And Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern also won by double digits, beating now-Gov. Chris Sununu.

But Toler said the town’s voters are pretty evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

She did mention that signs for the Hopkinton GOP’s meeting and straw poll were knocked down several times.

“I don’t know if that was snowplows or wind or what not. But it was one too many times possibly for it to be unin tentional,” she said.