Sep. 22—Retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc defeated N.H. Sen. Chuck Morse by a narrow margin statewide in their Republican primary for U.S. Senate last week — but there were a couple of places in Cheshire County where it was a landslide.
Countywide, Republican voters favored Bolduc, of Stratham, 2,432 to 1,857, according to the N.H. Secretary of State’s office.
But he won in Rindge, 441 to 128, and in Jaffrey, 212 to 121. Statewide, Bolduc topped Morse, of Salem, 52,121 to 50,350.
Bolduc, 60, ran as a far-right election denier, but after winning the nomination, immediately tacked more to the center by saying he had come to believe the 2020 election wasn’t stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Morse, 61, positioned himself as more of a mainstream Republican and earned the endorsement of GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, whom Bolduc once called “a Chinese Communist sympathizer.”
Bolduc will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of Newfields in the Nov. 8 general election.
Trump easily won in Rindge two years ago, but lost handily to Joe Biden statewide.
Rep. Matthew Santonastaso, R-Rindge, said he sees a strong pro-Trump and “pro-liberty” sentiment in Republicans who live in that 6,000-person town.
He said these views may be attributable in part to what he described as conservativism originating in Finnish immigrants who settled in this general area, including nearby New Ipswich, many years ago.
“Bolduc was extremely popular around here,” Santonastaso said Wednesday. “People can’t get over him.”
This past legislative session, Santonastaso supported a proposal for a statewide vote on whether New Hampshire should secede from the United States.
He is one of three Republican representatives from Rindge in what is otherwise a largely Democratic Cheshire County delegation in the N.H. House.
The county, as a whole, is strongly Democratic and favored Biden over Trump, 25,522 to 17,898, in the 2020 presidential election.
Associate Professor Philip Barker at Keene State College said there may be other factors that lead people in certain areas of the county to be farther to the right on the political spectrum.
“Because we are in a more Democratic-leaning area of the state, there can be a tendency for people out of power, Republicans in this area, to be more polarized. There can be less willingness to compromise from both parties,” he said.
“You see this playing out in gerrymandered political districts around the country. There becomes less of a need to appeal to centrist voters. You could also see Democrats shifting to be more progressive because they are in safe districts.”
He also said rural areas tend to be more conservative than urban areas.
Keene resident Shaun Filiault, a political-science lecturer at the college and a Democratic candidate for the N.H. House, said the city’s status as a county seat and a more urban area helps explain its Democratic bent.
“It also has the college and the hospital, both of which bring in highly educated people, so that’s going to skew further blue [Democratic],” he said.
President Biden won about 60 percent of college-educated voters in 2020, according to a Pew Research Center study.
Rick Green can be reached at [email protected] or 603-355-8567.