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The presidential race could sway Granite State races

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 4:27 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - There’s a chance New Hampshire voters could decide the presidency. But, those who know the Granite State landscape the best, argue it’s a near certainty the race at the top, will swing contests below.

The candidate next door campaigns in driveways, by lending a hand, and over ice cream. But, those running to represent a slice of Grafton County in New Hampshire’s statehouse acknowledge: the presidential race is the talk of the town.

“In an election year like this, obviously you can’t avoid the national politics,” said Rep. Denny Ruprecht (D-Grafton).

The DNC gave 21-year-old Ruprecht - the youngest lawmaker in the state - a taste of the national stage this summer. This year he’s running in a different Grafton district, but his campaign is still built on local roots and connections.

His competition – Republican Wes Chapmon – is trying to string together a similar network. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” he said conceding Ruprecht has an advantage on that front, “the problem has been actually getting in front of people to talk about local issues.”

In New Hampshire independents - known there as unaffiliated - outnumber Democrats and Republicans. Voters in the Granite State also have a reputation for considering every candidate regardless of party.

But University of New Hampshire Political Science Prof. Dante Scala said national partisan fights still play out in local races. “Polarization and party identification, they certainly have their effects,” he said, “and they’re very powerful effects, even in New Hampshire.”

This year, he expects the down-ballot impact from the top of the ticket will be larger-than-usual. Scala said a presidential nail-biter may sway tight local races; a blowout could shape control of state government.

Back in February, a U.N.H. poll showed President Donald Trump with a narrow lead over the eventual Democratic Nominee Joe Biden. By July though, Biden led by 13 points.

Chapmon and Ruprecht admit, they’ll win and lose votes based on voters' presidential preference.

“I can’t do anything about Trump or whether people love him or hate him,” said Chapmon, “my fight is for the citizens of New Hampshire to protect their individual rights.”

“I do think who I am, and the personal politics, will be able to transcend the national politics,” said Ruprecht.

Hillary Clinton won the Grafton 3rd district they hope to represent by just 0.1% in 2016. If voters cast a total of about 2,500 ballots again, just a few could carry a lot of weight locally this November.

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