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Former N.H. Senate Election Law chair to challenge incumbent Secretary of State

Dan Tuohy
Melanie Levesque said Thursday she will challenge David Scanlan, who took over the position in January when longtime Secretary of State Bill Gardner retired.

New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan will face his first election next month, and his first challenger.

Democrat Melanie Levesque, a former state senator from Nashua, said Thursday she is running for the position Scanlan took over in January when longtime Secretary of State Bill Gardner retired. The Legislature will choose the winner Dec. 7.

"It is no secret. Over the past decade in New Hampshire, our sacred right — the right to vote — has been under attack," she said in a statement. "I am proud to be running for Secretary of State to protect our voters from these attacks and make critical reforms to this office to better serve Granite Staters."

Scanlan, a Republican and former lawmaker who served as deputy secretary of state for 20 years, said Friday he has put together "an amazing bipartisan team" in the last 10 months.

"We have a long and significant list of accomplishments and improvements during that time frame, culminating in a smooth and successful midterm election that had record turnout," he said in an email. "I will run on that record any day of the week!"

Levesque previously served three terms in the House and one term in the Senate, where she was chair of the Senate Election Law Committee before being ousted by Republican Kevin Avard in 2020. She attempted a comeback this year but was defeated by Avard again.

Republicans maintained control of the 24-member Senate this month, but the balance of power in the 400-member House remains unknown, with multiple pending recounts. Also unknown is the fate of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, which was fiercely protected for decades by Gardner, who was first elected in 1976.

A state law requires the state's primary to be held at least seven days ahead of any similar contest, and gives the secretary of state exclusive authority to set the date. But the Democratic National Committee wants to shake up the nominating calendar to better reflect the party's diverse electorate. Its rule-making arm had planned to make recommendations in August but delayed the decision until after this month's elections.

Gardner, the nation's longest serving secretary of state, had faced little or no competition for his job, aside from 2018, when he defeated former gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern by just four votes. But in recent years, he came under fire from fellow Democrats for his participation in former President Donald Trump's commission on voter fraud, and both he and Scanlan were criticized for backing GOP legislation to tighten voter registration rules.

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