A crowd of about 600 New Hampshire Democrats gathered in Nashua for one of their biggest events of the year, the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner.
It was a chance for the party to boost their financial war chest heading into this fall’s elections – raking in an estimated $250,000, according to staff – but also to showcase candidates who will be competing in those races.
Heading into this fall, Democrats are looking at contested primaries up and down the ticket: in the race for the First Congressional District, the District 4 seat on the executive council and several State Senate races.
And with a newly contested gubernatorial primary taking shape between former State Senator Molly Kelly and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, state Democratic chairman Ray Buckley used the dinner to urge those two candidates – and their supporters – to keep things civil in the months ahead.
“We cannot allow [Gov. Chris Sununu] to squeak by in November because our nominee was bloodied up in the primary,” Buckley said. “Every one of us must do all we can to defeat the Sununu family cartel. Are you with me?”
“So don’t cry when I call and yell at you for tweeting something,” added Buckley, who is himself known to engage in occasional Twitter banter.
While Buckley and other top Democrats are eager to unseat Sununu, it is rare for an incumbent governor of any party to lose a reelection bid after only one term, and Sununu has enjoyed relatively high approval ratings throughout his time in office.
Heading into this fall, Democrats are also looking at contested primaries for the first congressional district, the executive council and several state Senate races.
Also on hand for Saturday’s dinner was former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who has been a frequent visitor to party events over the last year and is laying the groundwork for a potential 2020 presidential bid.
A political committee Kander launched last year called Let America Vote has already spent thousands to campaign on behalf of local Democrats and raise awareness around voting rights in New Hampshire.
In his keynote speech called the Granite State “ground zero” in the fight against voter suppression, citing
Heading into the fall, Kander plans to aggressively target state-level Republicans who support stricter voting laws – including Gov. Chris Sununu.
“I volunteered to serve in the army because I wanted to protect the rights and the freedoms that our nation has to offer,” Kander said during his keynote speech on Saturday. “And I’ll be damned if I’m going to come home and watch Chris Sununu and Donald Trump take those rights away.”
Since winning his seat in 2016, Sununu has said he would be open to getting rid of New Hampshire's same-day registration rules and has supported other recent efforts to enact stricter voter registration requirements, including Senate Bill 3, which passed last year but is currently being challenged in court.
More recently, however, Sununu has said he opposes another still-pending proposal to redefine residency standards, House Bill 372, “as it is currently written” and has expressed concerns that it could suppress student participation. The governor has not said, definitively, whether he plans to veto the measure if the Legislature sends it to his desk.