Her tenure may have inspired the nickname “Manch-ghanistan,” and her hand-picked successor may have lost to an unknown Republican, but Joyce Craig’s campaign says her record as Manchester mayor is a winner for Democrats in November.
According to a memo from her campaign manager, Craig Brown, and first reported by the Union-Leader, the former mayor is a stronger nominee for governor than Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington. It references Craig’s campaign polling that Brown says shows “Joyce puts Democrats in the best position to flip the governor’s office in 2024.”
Brown writes the campaign’s numbers give former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) a 37-point lead in name identification but just a seven-point lead (42-49 percent) in a hypothetical match-up with Craig.
“This poll makes it clear that as voters learn more about Joyce’s successful record as mayor and her vision as governor, she will steadily climb as Ayotte’s name-ID advantage vanishes.”
The memo doesn’t mention Republican gubernatorial candidate Chuck Morse.
Claiming that Craig’s record in Manchester will be a “success” stands in stark contrast with the conventional political wisdom. Indeed, Republican Jay Ruais’s upset victory in the Manchester mayor’s race in November is widely attributed to dissatisfaction in the Democrat-majority city with conditions under Craig’s leadership. Ruais made addressing crime and homelessness, both of which spiked on Craig’s watch, the centerpiece of his campaign.
“Voters don’t want a governor who’ll turn New Hampshire into Manchester,” House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) said when Craig entered the race. “Craig is the New Hampshire Democrats’ Donald Trump: The more she campaigns, the more Republican voters will turn out.”
Craig’s campaign appears to have some doubts as well, based on the content of the memo. Rather than touting Craig’s accomplishments, the majority of the document is an attack on Warmington — in particular, her background in the pharmaceutical industry.
“Warmington does not have a path through the primary or general elections with her record,” Craig’s campaign manager declares.
“Since Cinde Warmington announced her campaign for governor, her record of profiting from the opioid crisis in New Hampshire for the last 20 years has come to light. Warmington was a paid lobbyist for Purdue Pharma who fought against restrictions for prescribing OxyContin in New Hampshire, calling it a ‘miracle drug’ despite the overwhelming evidence of its dangers,” the memo reads. The Craig campaign also accuses Warmington of working for a “pill mill.”
If, as the memo claims, “[Democratic] primary voters favor Joyce by a 50-point margin (62-12) once they learn about Warmington’s past work and the political contributions she’s taken from the owners of a pain clinic,” why focus so much on the executive councilor? Why not talk more about Craig’s six years as Manchester mayor?
Because the argument that Craig’s record is a campaign plus is “laughable,” says Ayotte spokesman John Corbett.
“Joyce Craig lives in a fantasy world. Manchester residents roundly rejected Craig’s agenda because she delivered nothing but crime, homelessness, and chaos to the city. If elected governor, Craig would continue her failed agenda and bring dangerous Massachusetts policies to Concord. Granite Staters will once again reject her this November,” Corbett said.
Both Craig and Warmington refused to respond to multiple requests for comment from NHJournal. The Union-Leader quoted Warmington’s campaign manager, Philip Stein, calling out Craig’s struggles in Manchester.
“It’s disappointing that after her record was squarely rejected by voters in Manchester last year, which cost Democrats the mayor’s office and the board of aldermen for the first time in decades. Joyce Craig recognizes the only way for her to win this primary is by attacking her fellow Democrat with a deliberately deceptive poll,” said Stein.
Over the past two decades, Granite State Democrats have largely avoided competitive primaries, leaving their Republican counterparts to battle it out until the mid-September election. And because New Hampshire has one of the latest primary dates in the country, Republican nominees have been left with little time to raise money and unify the party.
The Craig vs. Warmington contest is shaping up to be very different from the relatively low-key Democratic primaries in the recent past. Both candidates have big-name endorsements. Former Gov. John Lynch and three of the four previous gubernatorial nominees (who all lost to Gov. Chris Sununu) are backing Craig. Former First Congressional District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is supporting Warmington, as are previous N.H. House Speakers Terie Norelli and Steve Shurtleff.
Craig has the endorsement of Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, while Warmington was endorsed on Saturday by former Vermont Governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean.