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One Year Away From Election, Trump’s Influence Looms Over GOP Race For N.H.’s First District

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But the politics of former President Donald Trump are already a major factor in this primary, even more than a year out from the race.

A large class of young Republicans have already declared they’re running to replace Democrat Chris Pappas in the first Congressional District.

Although Pappas hasn’t said whether he’ll run for reelection, the district is competitive and has flipped between Republican and Democratic control.

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But the politics of former President Donald Trump are already a major factor in this primary.

Trump’s influence extends beyond the issues he championed to the possibility that he could endorse a candidate.

“The potential endorsement of Donald Trump will probably be the most important aspect of this primary,” said Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute for Politics at St. Anselm College. Trump endorsed Matt Mowers early in 2020. It helped lift him to the GOP nomination.

Mowers is running again for the seat and kicked off his campaign this week. Mowers worked in the Trump State Department. At a Wednesday event, he invoked the former president‘s slogan.

“The biggest problem right now is the politicians down there don’t understand what’s truly made America great,” he said. “They believe that America needs to fundamentally change. Well, I say the only thing that needs to change are the politicians running America.”

At 32, he has been involved in New Hampshire politics since moving from New Jersey in 2013, where he was an aide to former Governor Chris Christie.

But no candidate has foregrounded Trump more than his former assistant press secretary Karoline Leavitt. The New Hampshire native, 24, has pointed to her role in helping the former president “combat the biased Fake News media that attacked us every day.”

She’s made election integrity an early focus of her campaign and has reiterated baseless claims that Trump won in 2020. “I will say that I am the only candidate in this race to say that President Trump won in 2020 and I will work my hardest every single day to get to the bottom of it,” Leavitt told far-right OAN News recently.

Others in the race so far are Tim Baxter, 24, a Seabrook state rep, who is a member of the New Hampshire House Freedom Caucus. Others include Julian Acciard, 33, a former Marine from Derry and Gilead Towne, 32, a jeweler who lives in Salem.

But not every Republican candidate is young. Gail Huff Brown, 59, a former Boston television reporter and wife of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown filed to run Thursday. In a tweet, she described herself as a “conservative working mother, military spouse and new grandmother.”

In an interview with WMUR, Brown indicated she backs “Trump’s ‘America First” agenda and is“much more conservative” than her husband, who served as the Trump administration’s ambassador to New Zealand.

Many Republicans expect the field to broaden. And if that happens, the role of any Trump endorsement may only grow.

“I suspect that some candidates will spend as much time and campaigning for support at Mar-a-Lago as they will in Manchester,” Levesque said.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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