HAMPTON, N.H. – The Associated Press projects that Karoline Leavitt will win the Republican primary in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, which has long been a highly contested swing House district.
Leavitt will now face-off in November’s midterm elections with two-term Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas, whom Republicans view as vulnerable amid a political climate that for the past year had favored the GOP.
Republicans need a net gain of just five seats in the 435-member House in November to take back the chamber’s majority they lost in the 2018 elections, and they’re heavily eyeing New Hampshire’s First District, which stretches from the Massachusetts border, Manchester, and the Seacoast region, up through the Lakes region and into the White Mountains.
“Our home-grown grassroots, America First campaign prevailed. We won tonight, Leavitt said to cheers from supporters as she delivered a primary victory speech in the seaside town of Hampton, New Hampshire.
The 25-year-old Leavitt – a New Hampshire native who worked in Trump’s White House press shop and later for GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who is now the number three ranking House Republican – will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress if she wins in November.
Republican congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt of New Hampshire delivers a primary victory speech, on Sept. 13, 2022 in Hampton, N.H. (Fox News )
Leavitt topped Matt Mowers, a former New Hampshire GOP executive director who worked on former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and served in the State Department during the Trump administration, who was making his second straight bid for Congress.
“Unfortunately, tonight’s results did not go our way, but I will never stop fighting for those middle-class families to make sure they are not forgotten,” Mowers said in a concession statement.
Mowers easily captured the 2020 congressional nomination in the district before losing to Pappas by five points in the general election.
The increasingly combustible battle between Leavitt and Mowers became one to the right, with both showcasing their Trump administration experience. However, Mowers did not go as far as Leavitt when it comes to Trump’s 2020 election loss to President Biden. Leavitt is a firm supporter of the former president’s unproven claims that the last election was “rigged” with “massive voter fraud” and “stolen.” Mowers, with more pragmatic language, has said that he continues to have concerns about voting “irregularities around the country.”
Republican U.S. House candidate Matt Mowers, who’s running in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, speaks with state Sen. Regina Birdsell at the English Muffin diner in Hampstead, N.H., on Sept. 12, 2022 (Fox News)
Trump, who endorsed Mowers two years ago, stayed neutral in this year’s showdown.
Leavitt was endorsed by Stefanik, as well as other major figures in the GOP who are allied with Trump — such as Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
She also enjoyed the backing for conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who traveled to New Hampshire last week to campaign with Leavitt.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas headlines a rally for GOP congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, on Sept. 8, 2022 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. (Fox News)
Mowers — who in June was endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who are the top two Republicans in the chamber — was backed by a seven-figure ad buy from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a powerful super PAC aligned with the House GOP leaders. Additionally, another outside Republican group, the more moderate Defending Main Street Super PAC, spent more than $1 million to blast Leavitt on the airwaves.
But Leavitt emphasized that “the people are with me” and charged that “the establishment in Washington is viciously smearing me with $5 million in negative attack ads.”
Following her victory speech, Leavitt in a Fox News interview called for party unity, saying that “kicking him [Pappas] out is key to taking back the House and getting rid of [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi once and for all and we must be joined together in that effort.”
The crowded GOP primary field also included Gail Huff Brown, a former longtime TV news reporter and wife of former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who served as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand during the Trump administration.
Huff Brown was in third place according to the latest unofficial results, followed by former state senator and executive councilor Russell Prescott; and state Rep. Tim Baxter — in single digits.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.
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