CONCORD, NH — Representative-Elect Hal Rafter won an eye-popping victory Tuesday night in the highly-watched special election in Rockingham’s 1st district, in the towns of Northwood and Nottingham in a landslide win over his Republican opponent in a district Donald Trump won in 2020, overperforming the district by 18 points.
This victory is the 8th of 9 special election wins in a row for New Hampshire Democrats.
Rep-Elect Rafter’s opponent in the contest was, by all accounts, a mainstream member of the NH GOP, holding views largely in-line with the party’s platform, including opposition to marriage equality. Like many New Hampshire Republicans, he found himself embroiled in controversy as soon as his closely-held views came under public scrutiny.
In extensive video clips of Religious sermons and posts from a since-deleted social media account, Guzofski has flaunted a pattern of anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Black statements and opinions, collected here. He famously — and bizarrely — compared the fight for women’s reproductive rights to a "blood sacrifice to their god Molech."
Following the win, DNC Chair Jamie Harrison celebrated on social media, saying “Another major flip for Democrats this year, and the second in NH, helping bring Democrats within one vote of the NH Republican majority.“
FiveThirtyEight: Democrats have been winning big in special elections
Democrats just scored a big win in an election on Tuesday: Democrat Hal Rafter defeated Republican James Guzofski 56 percent to 44 percent in a special election to fill a Republican-held seat in the New Hampshire state House.
Assuming Democrats win another special election in November in a solidly blue seat, Rafter’s win means the New Hampshire state House will be tied at 198 Republicans and 198 Democrats (with two independents and two seats still vacant).
On paper, that will end full Republican control of New Hampshire state government.
The Washington Post: Trumpism costs the GOP in a crucial election, again
New Hampshire on Tuesday became the latest state in which Democrats over-performed in a special election — a trend that has held very steady ever since Roe was overturned last summer.
Democrat Hal Rafter won by 12 points in a state House district that went narrowly for Donald Trump in 2020. The 12-point improvement on the 2020 margin is in line with Democrats’ encouraging continued over-performances in special elections this year; Daily Kos Elections and FiveThirtyEight data on more than two dozen special elections show the party running an average of 7.6 points better than their 2020 margins — margins from a 2020 election that, it bears noting, were already good for Democrats — and double digits better than the normal partisan fundamentals.
Democrats flipped a key swing seat in New Hampshire on Tuesday, taking them within a whisker of denying Republicans control over the state's House of Representatives.
After Rafter is sworn in, the Republican majority in the New Hampshire House will fall to just 198-197, with the chamber also containing two independents and three vacant seats.
Responding to the win Laura Telerski, chairman of the House Democrats Victory Campaign Committee, commented: "The results tonight in the towns of Northwood and Nottingham speak for themselves: Granite Staters resoundingly reject Republican extremism and are motivated to vote for change in record numbers.
New Hampshire Democrat Hal Rafter scored a major pickup for his party on Tuesday by flipping a swingy seat in a special election for the state House, a triumph that puts Democrats one seat away from erasing the GOP's majority in the chamber.
Rafter beat Republican Jim Guzofski 56-44 to flip Rockingham County's 1st District, a constituency that favored Donald Trump by a tiny 49.1 to 48.7 margin in 2020. The seat became vacant in April when Republican Rep. Brian Bartlett resigned, citing health issues.
Rafter's win leaves Republicans with a bare 198-197 edge despite a map that they gerrymandered for their own benefit just last year. The enormous 400-member also includes a pair of independents and, importantly, three other vacant seats. Two of those vacancies occurred this very week: Democrat Bill Hatch announced his departure Monday, while Republican Troy Merner resigned the next day, just hours before Rafter's victory.
In New Hampshire, whose 400-member state house is the largest in the nation, Democrat Hal Rafter won a previously Republican-held seat northeast of Manchester, narrowing the Republican edge in the state house to just 198 Republicans to 197 Democrats. Democrats are heavily favored in a special election scheduled for November, meaning the party could soon split control of the chamber and break the GOP trifecta controlling state government.
… both continue a trend of Democrats overperforming both President Joe Biden’s 2020 results and the results of the 2022 midterms in special elections so far this year. The trend began after the Dobbs decision striking down abortion rights, and has only accelerated since the midterms.
For instance, former President Donald Trump narrowly won the New Hampshire district in 2020. But Rafter beat the GOP nominee, Jim Guzofski, by a 56% to 44% margin.
Nottingham Democrat Hal Rafter’s victory Tuesday night in a special election for a House seat brings the New Hampshire House one big step closer to an evenly divided chamber when the 2024 session opens in January.
"The results tonight in the towns of Northwood and Nottingham speak for themselves: Granite Staters resoundingly reject Republican extremism and are motivated to vote for change in record numbers," said Laura Telerski, chairman of the House Democrats Victory Campaign Committee.
"House Democrats have won eight of the last nine specials, and this red-to-blue flip is another step towards reclaiming control of the New Hampshire House. Thank you to Representative-elect Hal Rafter, the town committees, and countless volunteers who worked hard and laid the groundwork for victory. We are heading into 2024 with the momentum we need to flip the New Hampshire House blue.”
The race filled a vacancy caused when Republican Rep. Benjamin Bartlett resigned on April 26, 2023.
Since the seat had been held by a Republican, the Democrats picked up one seat, giving Republicans just a one-seat advantage in the state House.
There are now 198 Republicans, 197 Democrats, two Independents, and three vacant seats in the state House.