The Merrimack Republican Town Committee’s event on May 19 was a popular destination for GOP candidates in the September primary. Both of the Republicans running for governor were on hand, as was Second Congressional District GOP hopeful William Hamlen.

“He did very well. I liked what he had to say,” Merrimack Republican Town Committee Chair Ginger Heald said of the real estate investor and former commodities trader. But she won’t be voting for Hamlen in the primary.

Why? Because she can’t. Merrimack is in the First Congressional District. Hamlen’s running in the Second.

Photos of the event featuring Hamlen campaigning alongside First District Republican candidates Hollie Noveletsky and Russell Prescott.

NH-01 GOP candidate Russell Prescott (left) speaks with NH-02 candidate William Hamlen at Merrimack GOP event on May 19, 2024.

“I just thought it was another eye rolling, tongue in cheek moment of frustration, as a CD2 voter looking at our drastic lack of quality candidates,” one GOP insider familiar with the event told NHJournal.

In fact, Hamlen’s entire candidacy has inspired a lot of head scratching inside state GOP circles.

The Hanover Republican declined to speak to NHJournal on the record when contacted about his appearance in Merrimack.

And he’s still refusing to confirm on the record that he’s even running for Congress despite having filed his statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission back on April 5.

Not to mention that Hamlen’s LinkedIn profile currently lists him as “NH Congressional candidate.”

And even when he’s inside his district, Hamlen’s candidacy is off the beaten political path. A pro-choice Republican, Hamlen voted in the Democratic presidential primary in January.

While the Democrats running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster have gotten most of the attention, the Republican primary is well underway. Weare, N.H. Republican Lily Tang Williams, who came in third in the 2022 GOP primary, announced her candidacy before Kuster’s retirement news hit. She’s been joined by 2022 U.S. Senate candidate Vikram Mansharamani, an author and business strategist who lives in Lincoln.

“Kuster’s departure gives Republicans in the Second District a real shot at taking the seat back from the left-wing ‘open borders’ crowd,” New Hampshire state GOP chair Chris Ager told NHJournal at the time.

The Democratic field includes state Sen. Becky Whitley (D-Contoocook), former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, and former U.S. Department of Justice official Maggie Goodlander. That latter has her own “what district is this?” issues. Goodlander is a former Biden administration official who, like her husband, Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, lives in Washington, D.C.

While Goodlander and her husband do own a home in New Hampshire — a $1.2 million house in Portsmouth — it’s in the First District. Goodlander told the left-leaning Boston Globe she’s renting a place to live in her hometown of Nashua. “There should be more renters in Congress,” she argued.

Despite Kuster’s retirement, the Cook Political Report still rates the Second District as “Likely Democrat.” Republicans have won the district just once since 2006.