The 2016 Proxy Race Has Begun in New Hampshire

National Journal
Lauren Fox
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Lauren Fox
May 18, 2015, 2:08 p.m.

Yvonne Dean-Bailey glad-handed with voters at the Nine Lions’ Tav­ern, a small cafe in Deer­field, New Hamp­shire—pop­u­la­tion 4,300—earli­er this month. It was a typ­ic­al cam­paign event in most ways. She was just weeks away from a spe­cial elec­tion to serve in the state House and rep­res­ent Rock­ing­ham County’s 32nd Dis­trict. But the 19-year-old Re­pub­lic­an had a spe­cial as­sist from one of her party’s biggest names.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was in town. He worked the crowd, de­livered a speech, and signed a Har­ley-Dav­id­son mo­tor­cycle. Ac­cord­ing to the Con­cord Mon­it­or, he told Dean-Bailey not to “be ashamed” of her age, and that it’d likely be an as­set in the le­gis­lature.

Tues­day, New Hamp­shire voters in Deer­field, North­wood, Not­ting­ham, and Can­dia will de­cide between elect­ing Re­pub­lic­an Dean-Bailey, a stu­dent, and Demo­crat Maur­een Mann, a re­tired pub­lic school teach­er and former state House mem­ber, to serve as one of 400 mem­bers of the state’s House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. But the race has an­oth­er im­port­ant role: It serves as an early ex­am for each party’s mes­saging as they gear up for the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

“We are be­com­ing an even more con­ten­tious polit­ic­al state, and one of the ways we keep score is through spe­cial elec­tions,” says Tom Rath, a Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ant in the state.

Po­ten­tial and con­firmed 2016 can­did­ates have been tromp­ing through the 32nd Dis­trict over the last sev­er­al weeks in hopes of not only show­ing sup­port for their party’s can­did­ate, but also ex­hib­it­ing their own ded­ic­a­tion to New Hamp­shire’s unique brand of homespun politick­ing.

“It was great to bring pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates to an area in New Hamp­shire which is of­ten over­looked by pres­id­en­tial cam­paigns be­cause of our prox­im­ity to New Hamp­shire’s lar­ger com­munit­ies,” Dean-Bailey said in an email.

Be­fore she an­nounced her of­fi­cial entry in­to the pres­id­en­tial fray, Carly Fior­ina joined Dean-Bailey at a North­wood Com­munity Cen­ter meet-and-greet. Sen. Marco Ru­bio tweeted his sup­port for her. Former Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley phone-banked for Mann last week. Ru­bio had also knocked doors with an­oth­er spe­cial-elec­tion can­did­ate in the state, Den­nis Green, who won his race in April.

The in­jec­tion of 2016 polit­ics in­to state races, though, isn’t just for the be­ne­fit of less­er-known, loc­al politi­cians. For Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial con­tenders, help­ing out with loc­al races is crit­ic­ally im­port­ant to win­ning the trust of the small-town power brokers they will need to im­press if they want to har­ness grass­roots power and win the crit­ic­al New Hamp­shire primary.

“It al­lows them to get in­volved with the tra­di­tion­al New Hamp­shire style of cam­paign­ing, which is door to door, town to town, and per­son to per­son,” says Ry­an Wil­li­ams, a former Mitt Rom­ney aide who is act­ively work­ing along­side Re­pub­lic­ans in the state to win the spe­cial elec­tion. “It builds good­will for pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates.”

The fact that the race for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion is in deep flux—with roughly 20 can­did­ates in or con­sid­er­ing a run—has been a huge boost for Dean-Bailey. On the Demo­crat­ic side, Mann has won sup­port from O’Mal­ley, but her race has not been cent­ral to Demo­crat­ic con­tender Hil­lary Clin­ton’s state mes­saging.

Rais­ing the stakes for each party is the fact that the 32nd Dis­trict is swing ter­rit­ory. The dis­trict has shif­ted between Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an hands sev­er­al times over the last few years. Mann was elec­ted in 2012 only to be de­feated by Re­pub­lic­an Bri­an Dob­son two years later. And after Dob­son left his seat to work for Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Frank Guinta, Mann is look­ing for a new chance to get back to work in her old seat.

The race’s high pro­file has also raised the price tag for the seat. The cam­paign, which most New Hamp­shire in­siders say would typ­ic­ally in­clude a few marches in parades and be a $500 pro­pos­i­tion, is cost­ing each can­did­ate thou­sands. Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent cam­paign-fin­ance re­ports for the spe­cial elec­tion, Dean-Bailey has raised about $4,000 and Mann has raised just over $9,000.

Out­side groups have also jumped at the chance to mo­bil­ize and per­fect their own turnout op­er­a­tions be­fore try­ing them out on big­ger races. Greg Moore, the state dir­ect­or for Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity in New Hamp­shire, says AFP has phone-banked, gone door-to-door, and sent out mail­ers in hopes of drum­ming up turnout for the spe­cial elec­tion. The group tried a phone-bank­ing and door-to-door mod­el in the April 28 spe­cial elec­tion for the 13th dis­trict and claims turnout jumped from the typ­ic­al 6 per­cent to 12 per­cent. For out­side groups, any elec­tion is a chance to col­lect voter in­form­a­tion that’ll come in handy later.

“We can really work on our field pro­gram and de­vel­op best prac­tices,” Moore says. “It’s an op­por­tun­ity to see what kind of lift we can get.”

Of course, a high-pro­file race also at­tracts an­oth­er level of cam­paign shenanigans. Thursday, a prank­ster—a former so­cial-me­dia cam­paign work­er for Mann—sent re­leases to news or­gan­iz­a­tions claim­ing that Dean-Bailey was drop­ping out be­cause she had con­cerns over her course load at school. The former staffer had not worked for Mann for sev­er­al weeks, and Mann sent out a state­ment dis­tan­cing her­self from the in­cid­ent. But the prank is just an­oth­er re­mind­er of how much more seems to be at stake in an elec­tion where ex­perts ex­pect just 1,000 voters to turn out.

If Mann wins, the Demo­crat­ic Party of New Hamp­shire says it would prove voters know that “the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate in the Rock­ing­ham-32 spe­cial elec­tion is yet an­oth­er de­votee to the back­ward Koch Broth­ers agenda that would turn back the clock on New Hamp­shire wo­men and drastic­ally cut crit­ic­al eco­nom­ic pri­or­it­ies in­clud­ing high­er edu­ca­tion, main­tain­ing roads and bridges, and caring for the state’s seni­ors and most vul­ner­able cit­izens.”

But if Dean-Bailey wins, Re­pub­lic­ans say, it is a clear in­dic­a­tion that mo­mentum is mov­ing in their dir­ec­tion ahead of the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

Of course, there is an­oth­er ex­plan­a­tion for either vic­tory.

“In a va­cu­um, this race looks big­ger than it really is,” says Rath. “It tells you which of these can­did­ates is bet­ter. That is all. It doesn’t tell us much about the Re­pub­lic­an Party.”

What We're Following See More »
Trump Campaign Encouraged Papadopoulos To Contact Russian Media
1 days ago

"When a Russian news agency reached out to George Papadopoulos to request an interview shortly before the 2016 election," deputy communications director Bryan Lanza encouraged him to respond. "You should do it," Lanza wrote in a September 2016 email, "emphasizing the benefits of a U.S. 'partnership with Russia.'" The Trump campaign has "sought to paint the 30-year old energy consultant as a low level volunteer" in the campaign, but recently disclosed emails show that Papadopoulos had contact with "senior campaign figures" in the Trump campaign, "such as chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and adviser Michael Flynn," who encouraged him to "broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials."

Trump Signs Omnibus, Expresses Reservations
1 days ago
Omnibus Press Conference at 1 PM
1 days ago
John Bolton Named National Security Advisor
1 days ago

"President Trump named John R. Bolton, a hard-line former American ambassador to the United Nations, as his third national security adviser on Thursday, continuing a shake-up that creates one of the most hawkish national security teams of any White House in recent history. Mr. Bolton will replace Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer who was tapped last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation but who never developed a comfortable relationship with the president." Bolton was an outspoken advocate of military action during the George W. Bush administration, and has "called for action against Iran and North Korea."

Trump Threatens Omnibus Veto
1 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.