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Bucking GOP establishment, Bolduc triumphs in N.H. Senate primary race

Retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc and supporters kept a close eye on the returns at their primary night party at The Old Salt Restaurant at Lamie's Inn in Hampton Tuesday night.
Josh Rogers
Retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc and supporters kept a close eye on the returns at their primary night party at The Old Salt Restaurant at Lamie's Inn in Hampton Tuesday night.

This story was updated on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 1:00 p.m.

Army Gen. Don Bolduc has won the Republican primary for New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, bucking efforts by state and national GOP leaders to propel longtime state Sen. Chuck Morse to the nomination.

In a statement on Twitter, Morse thanked his supporters.

The Associated Press made a final call in the race midday Wednesday. With 94% of votes counted by noon, Bolduc was ahead of Morse by less than 2,000 votes, or slightly more than 1% of the total votes cast.

NHPR relies on the Associated Press for election results. You can find the most up-to-date results here.

Bolduc will now face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire’s closely watched race for U.S. Senate.

Bolduc and Morse were locked in a tight battle for first place in the five-way race for the Republican nomination for much of Tuesday evening, mirroring the increasingly combative tone this primary campaign took on in its final weeks.

After falling short in his 2020 U.S. Senate bid, the 60-year-old Bolduc rode a populist message throughout his campaign, fueled by dogged grassroots campaigning and contempt for the political establishment.

Chuck Morse stands alongside supporters at the polls on primary day 2022
Dan Tuohy
New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse was viewed as the favorite of the Republican party establishment in the U.S. Senate primary, securing a late endorsement from Gov. Chris Sununu.

On the campaign trail, Bolduc also echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was decided by voter fraud. And his rise to frontrunner — he never trailed in any poll — was boosted early on by anti-COVID vaccine activists who embraced Bolduc’s cries of “tyranny” in describing pandemic lockdowns.

Heading into the final stretch of the primary, Republican leaders in New Hampshire and Washington saw Morse — a longtime leader in the State House who campaigned on his record as a budget expert and secured a last-minute endorsement from Gov. Chris Sununu — as the better choice to defeat Hassan.

But Morse was also, by all accounts, the party establishment’s second choice: National GOP leaders wanted Sununu to run for Senate and spent much of last year trying to woo him into the race. Sununu’s decision to instead seek a fourth term in Concord left no obvious mainstream choice for Republicans and allowed Bolduc, who ran on minimal fundraising, time to build the kind of name recognition and support he lacked in his first campaign.

It also induced other candidates, none well known – including Bitcoin investor Bruce Fenton, businessman Vikram Mansharamani and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith – to get into the race.

Sununu formally endorsed Morse last week, but that couldn’t mold a candidate little known outside of political circles into a viable rival for Bolduc, whose “American Strength Agenda” — closed borders, increased checks on Chinese power — echoed policies championed by Trump.

Hassan faced a much less contested Democratic primary, easily defeating two lesser-known candidates. She is considered among the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. Senate, after just narrowly winning her first election against Republican Kelly Ayotte in 2016. But Democrats hope record-setting fundraising and a political atmosphere changed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion may help Hassan, who has never lost a statewide race since her election as governor in 2012.

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