Republicans in New Hampshire Disagree on How Fiercely to Gerrymander Seats

An intraparty battle over a congressional reapportionment map has engulfed New Hampshire for months.

The state’s governing Republican Party has been arguing, often openly, over whether to secure one safe seat, while giving the other to Democrats, or keep both competitive.

It would be a major break from the state’s redistricting norms, which have essentially stayed unchanged since the 1880s.

Purple State

With only two House seats at risk, New Hampshire’s Republican-on-Republican gerrymandering battle pales in comparison to mega-states like Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Yet, every vote matters in the House race. To regain their majority in the 435-member House, Republicans need to gain five seats.

“I don’t like maps. That has been made very apparent,” Republican Gov. Chris Sununu told WMUR television.

“You have to understand New Hampshire is a purple state. The thought of continually having those seats up for grabs keeps our already active electorate even more interested.”

Republican state lawmakers don’t seem to share Sununu’s confidence.

State Republicans gave in to former Congressman Charlie Bass’ requests to keep competitive the Democratic-leaning 2nd Congressional District, which straddles the Vermont-New Hampshire border.

To do this, Democrats were moved into the 1st Congressional District, which includes parts of New Hampshire’s Atlantic coast and some of its biggest cities.

Four years later, Bass regained his House position for only two years. He lost in 2012 to current Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster.

So, to avoid a repeat of the 2014 election, state legislators have proposed redistricting to give Republicans the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts.

The map has passed the state House but not the state Senate. It’s unclear if Sununu will issue a veto, which Republican state lawmakers can’t overturn.

To avoid alienating his party, Sununu has been slowly nudging them away from their approach, Smith said.

Unlike Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has publicly vowed a veto over redistricting, Sununu has not produced his map. Rather, he has pressured the legislature both explicitly and implicitly.

With no primaries until September, Republicans have plenty of time to resolve their disputes.

Redrawing the Electoral Map

As the party attempts to ride the red wave nationwide, they should do well in congressional contests if the state keeps its district borders.

In 2010, the party won both House seats. After that, ruling Republicans gave in to Bass’ request for district lines where he could make a comeback; this backfired when he lost two years later.

Even the current plan to unseat Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the 1st Congressional District may fail.

Smith thinks New Hampshire leans Democratic, especially in presidential elections. He remarked Republicans do well in midterm elections, but struggle in presidential campaigns.

To secure a safe congressional seat, Republican state legislators redraw the electoral map.

The Merrimack River has long divided the state’s two districts. Smith said most updated maps in the state make minor changes. In the history of modern New Hampshire, this plan is one of the most radical changes to the map.

Last Monday, a Senate committee adopted the House-passed map. It must pass the Senate as a whole to go to the governor. Democratic operatives have said they will sue if the revised maps are passed, but Smith doubts it will work.