Is Chris Pappas a political dead man walking?
With a GOP majority in both chambers of the state legislature, a Republican in the corner office, and redistricting on the horizon, Rep. Chris Pappas’ future electoral prospects are problematic at best.
On Thursday, the National Republican Congressional Committee put Pappas’ name on their ‘Democrat Exit List,’ a group of vulnerable Democrats the NRCC thinks are likely to abandon their House seats in 2022, either via retirement or seeking a different office.
“These 27 Democrats see the writing on the wall and know they will lose the House majority or lose their election,” the NRCC said in a statement.
“House Democrats are running for the exits because they know they’re in for a bruising election cycle which will cost them their jobs and their House majority,” NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer added. “They’d rather move on than have to spend another election defending their socialist agenda that will strip Americans of their private health insurance, defund the police, open our borders and raise taxes.”
Partisan GOP spin? Certainly. But it also echoes the buzz being heard in New Hampshire political circles, where there’s widespread speculation the First District congressman will ditch a reelection campaign and instead run for governor, particularly if incumbent Republican Chris Sununu decides to run for the Senate or simply forgoes another run for re-election.
A major factor in the speculation is the GOP-controlled legislature will likely redistrict Pappas’ seat to make it more conservative, and thus tougher for any Democrat to win.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s “The Atlas of Redistricting”, a redistricted NH-01 could give a Republican candidate more than an 85 percent chance of winning Pappas’ seat. And even without any redistricting, FiveThirtyEight says there’s a 62 percent chance of a GOP pickup.
If Republicans change the map enough, it would actually be easier for Pappas to win the governorship than it would be to win the congressional seat he’s currently holding, assuming Sununu’s out of the race.
So. will Pappas actually abandon the 1st Congressional District in a run for governor?
“It’s 100 percent contingent on Sununu [vacating his seat]. Don’t think anyone would want to run against him. Not contingent on redistricting, but it obviously plays a factor.” one veteran GOP consultant told the NHJournal.
Dr. Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said it would be foolish for Pappas to not be weighing his electoral options.
“Pappas’ political career is at a crossroads in 2022,” Scala said. “It’s safe to assume he is examining all his options. Even if they redraw the district, it doesn’t mean he can’t win, but it certainly makes it more difficult.”
Scala said there are multiple considerations for Pappas. One is history. The incumbent president’s party traditionally performs poorly in midterm elections, which would be a major factor in Pappas’ decision according to Scala.
“How Republican is this district going to look by the time Republicans are done [redistricting] and what kind of a year is it looking like for Democrats nationally?” Scala said “It might be the case that both the answers to both those questions are so negative for Pappas that he figures ‘Hey, why not? Even if Sununu is running for governor again, why not take a shot anyway?’”
“He’d be foolish not to be looking at a gubernatorial run and I don’t think he’s a foolish politician,” Scala added.