Pappas earns second term in Congress, holding off challenge from Mowers

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File Photo of Congressman Chris Pappas. Photo/Allegra Boverman for NHPR

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Democratic incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas has won a second term in Congress, besting Republican challenger Matt Mowers for New Hampshire’s First District seat by a 6-point margin with close to 90 percent of the vote tallied early Wednesday morning.

Pappas, a Manchester business owner and former state lawmaker and executive councilor, told supporters Tuesday night that he viewed his work in Congress was a form of public service.

“You know, public service has never been a political game to me – it’s always been about making people’s lives better,” Pappas said.

Pappas’ victory came at the end of one of the most heated races in New Hampshire this cycle, in a notoriously swing-district that covers the greater Manchester area, Seacoast, Lakes Region and eastern White Mountains.

The district has frequently flipped between Democrats and Republicans, in congressional and presidential races, over the past decade. Pappas’ election in 2018 marked the first time the district had changed hands from one Democrat to another in at least half a century.

Pappas joined fellow Democrats in sweeping New Hampshire’s federal races. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster also won reelection, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took the state handily.

Pappas campaigned largely on his first-term work in Congress, including his appointment on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and his support for coronavirus relief packages and health care reform.

“We have got to build on the Affordable Care Act, make it better, and expand coverage and lower costs, but we can’t do that if it’s constantly under assault,” Pappas said during the NHPR debate.

Mowers, who worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign and then at the White House and Trump Administration State Department, was endorsed by the president just before the state primary in September. He sought to ride that support to victory by focusing on staples of Trump’s platform: opposition to many police reform proposals, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and others.

“Congressman Pappas has marched lockstep with his party from the moment he got to Congress,” Mowers said during a debate on NHPR in October. “That’s not the type of leadership we need. We need somebody who’s going to go down to Washington, D.C., and be an independent voice.”

The race was sharply personal at times, with Mowers leveling unfounded accusations of corruption against Pappas, and Pappas highlighting Mowers’ relatively recent move to the state and his ties to Trump.

Mowers, a New Jersey native, first moved to New Hampshire in 2014 to work as executive director of the state Republican Party. Through his time working for Trump, he’s rented a home in New Hampshire while owning one in Washington, D.C. He worked in the pharmaceutical industry after his time in the Trump administration, which drew criticism from Pappas.

Meanwhile, Mowers cast Pappas as out of touch with his constituents and too in line with the Democratic establishment in Washington. Mowers frequently invoked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as he criticized Pappas’ party-line votes on the campaign trail.

Pappas’ reelection maintains the Democratic hold on New Hampshire’s four-person congressional delegation.

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