New Hampshire candidates to square off in Tuesday primary

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CONCORD, N.H. >> New Hampshire candidates for governor and Congress are squaring off Tuesday in primary contests for a chance to represent their parties in the November election.

The September primary is among the latest in the country, with voters in Delaware, New York and Rhode Island also heading to the polls that day. Democrats have a primary only in the three-way race for governor. Republicans, meanwhile, are competing in every major race, including U.S. Senate, governor and both congressional districts.

Candidates for the state Legislature are also squaring off.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is expecting 126,000 Republicans and 86,000 Democrats to vote.

The general election is Nov. 8.

Governor

The race to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan — she is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte — is one of the most competitive in recent memory.

The three Democrats in the race are Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and former state securities regulator Mark Connolly. The race has largely remained civil, with the candidates limiting attacks against one another. Instead, they're focusing on their records and largely promising to continue on the same trajectory as Hassan.

Van Ostern touts his work for Stonyfield Yogurt and Southern New Hampshire University. Before his business career, he worked as a Democratic political operative.

Connolly served as the state's chief financial regulator for several years, resigning in protest in 2010 after the Financial Resources Mortgage Ponzi scheme. The attorney general at the time blamed Connolly's office, but Connolly said his office had no jurisdiction and resigned to call attention to what he called broader mismanagement of the investigation. He touts his work pursuing successful cases against Tyco Corp., Merrill Lynch and other companies for financial fraud.

Marchand, meanwhile, stands apart from his rivals by calling for increased revenue by legalizing and taxing marijuana and raising business taxes.

The Republican candidates are Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and state Rep. Frank Edelblut. Gatsas and Sununu, the son of a former governor and brother of a former U.S. senator, are by far the most well-known. Each is pointing to his executive experience. Sununu runs Waterville Valley Ski Resort as a top qualification. Gatsas has a long career in business and government, serving his fourth term as mayor.

Forrester is attacking both as unprepared to tackle the drug crisis. Edelblut, meanwhile, is painting himself as a political outsider. He's in his first term and previously worked in private business, starting his own company.

The GOP contest is attracting outside attention. Ohio Gov. John Kasich campaigned with Sununu, and Carly Fiorina is backing Forrester.

U.S. Senate

First-term Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte appears well positioned to defeat primary challenger Jim Rubens, a former state senator who unsuccessfully ran in the 2014 primary against GOP Senate nominee Scott Brown.

Rubens has tied himself to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, particularly on the issue of immigration. And he's attempting to attract conservative voters who have been angered by some of Ayotte's more moderate positions. But he has been largely unable to build a following. Ayotte debated Rubens on two occasions but has largely been focusing her attention on the general election campaign against Hassan.

U.S. House

1st Congressional District Rep. Frank Guinta is facing a challenge from businessman Rich Ashooh, a repeat of the 2010 Republican primary. The district covers the eastern part of the state, excluding Eastern Coos County, and includes Portsmouth and Manchester.

Guinta has been dogged by a campaign finance scandal since last year, when the Federal Election Commission ruled he illegally accepted $355,000 from his parents during his 2010 campaign. He's kept a low profile in the primary contest.

Ashooh, meanwhile, is a former BAE Systems executive and past head of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy at UNH Law. The Democratic candidate is former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

In the 2nd Congressional District, former state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan is battling Jim Lawrence, a former state representative. The race has flown under the radar, with neither candidate raising much money. The winner faces Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster. That district covers the entire western portion of the state and much of the North Country, and includes Concord, Nashua and Franklin.


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