Democrats flip key New Hampshire seat, putting them inches from erasing GOP’s majority

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.

The final unoccupied seat was last held by Democrat David Cote, who stepped down in July. Only the race to replace Cote has been scheduled, so if Democrats defend his safely blue district in the Nashua area on Nov. 7, they’d force a tie in the chamber―assuming nothing else happens, that is.

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The other two vacant seats are less likely to change hands, but in New Hampshire, nothing is impossible. Both, as it happens, are in Coos County in the state’s far north: Hatch’s 6th District voted 55-43 for Biden and 58-41 for Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan last year, while Merner’s 1st District went for Donald Trump 53-45 and also favored far-right Republican Don Bolduc 50-46 in his challenge to Hassan.

The eventual Republican nominees in those upcoming specials, though, would need to work hard to be as … interesting as Guzofski, a local government official and pastor. He once declared that “the majority of the people” who come down with COVID “are the ones that took the jab” since they “literally infected you with the virus;” that being gay is “against nature” because “you never see two male dogs going at it and having kids;” and that “the doctrine of demons has so permeated our society in establishing a perverted mindset.”

And who can forget his 2021 Halloween sermon?

No, it’s a shade of witchcraft! Is probably what you’re seeing. And you don’t want to be bold enough to stand up and speak out against it. See, witchcraft is the religion of the fallen humanity. It’s rooted in murder. Why do you think they fight so hard to keep abortion? I mean, to a lunatic frenzy! Because they know blood sacrifices to their god Molech.

All of these pronouncements were already public before last month’s primary, but that didn’t stop Guzofski, who is a member of the governing board in his hometown of Northwood, from scoring a 56-44 victory against Jessica Sternberg, an official with the state chapter of the College Republicans who had the support of party leaders. GOP donors weren’t quite so fond of their nominee, though: Guzofski reported raising all of $450 as of early August (at which point he stopped filing financial reports altogether), which was less than 1% of Rafter’s $47,000 haul.

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