Shaheen Backs Pappas for Congress, As Some Democratic Rivals Grumble

Aug 7, 2018

Chris Pappas, a Manchester Democrat, chats with supporters at the American Legion Post 2, where he received Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's endorsement Tuesday.
Credit Lauren Chooljian / NHPR

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen has officially endorsed Chris Pappas in the race for the 1st Congressional District, a move that has stirred up some drama among other Democrats in the crowded field.

Shaheen and Pappas announced the endorsement together Tuesday at the American Legion Sweeney Post in Manchester. While Pappas supporters munched on chicken tenders from The Puritan, the Pappas family’s restaurant, Shaheen told the crowd she’s known Pappas since he was in high school, when he worked on her 1996 campaign for governor.

Shaheen said she’s closely watched Pappas’ political career since, and encouraged him to run for Executive Councilor in 2012 -- a position she said has prepared him for a role in Congress.

“He was able to get support from across the political spectrum, not just Democrats,” Shaheen said. “He’s able to get Independents and Republicans to support him as well and that’s going to be critical in November.”

Pappas now has the support of both the state’s U.S. senators as well as Rep. Annie Kuster, the Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District. But it’s Shaheen’s endorsement that doesn't sit well with some of the other Democrats in the 11-person primary.

News of the endorsement first broke Friday, and it didn't come from the Pappas campaign. Shaheen had apparently been making phone calls to some of the Democratic candidates, informing them of her decision to endorse Pappas, and candidate Deaglan McEachern decided to share the news—and his disappointment—in a statement blasted out to the press.

McEachern said there are “no sour grapes from me,” about Shaheen's choice, but because Shaheen is seen as a leader of New Hampshire Democrats, he thinks her endorsement gives off the innapropriate appearance that the party has picked a favorite.

Another candidate, state Rep. Mindi Messmer, shared a similar sentiment in statement that said, in part, “it is unfortunate that the establishment party thinks it’s necessary to get involved in the middle of a Democratic primary process.”

When asked to respond to this reaction from other candidates, Shaheen said she only speaks for herself, not the party, and that their comments “call more attention to my support for Chris, and that’s a good thing.”

Shaheen and Pappas weren’t the only CD1 endorsement news Tuesday. On the Democratic side, Messmer announced that the New Hampshire House Progressive caucus was backing her campaign. Earlier Tuesday morning, candidate Maura Sullivan toured the seacoast with former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The two major Republican candidates both received endorsements this week from former Republican presidential candidates. Eddie Edwards was endorsed by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, and state Sen. Andy Sanborn was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.