Hassan vs. Bolduc: Close New Hampshire Senate race could decide balance of power

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan faces Republican Don Bolduc Tuesday in a closely watched race that could decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Flipping the seat would be a key pickup for Republicans hoping to win control of the Senate. But though Hassan has been considered vulnerable since her narrow 2016 win, her odds improved after popular Gov. Chris Sununu took a pass at challenging her, and Republicans nominated Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general who has espoused conspiracy theories about vaccines and the 2020 presidential election.

Bolduc, an Army veteran who has previously run for but not won elected office, is hoping to both harness voters’ dissatisfaction over the economy and draw upon the connections he’s forged from the nearly constant grassroots campaigning he’s done since he unsuccessfully sought the nomination for the state’s other senate seat two years ago. Everywhere he goes, Bolduc says, he hears three main complaints: inflation, inflation, inflation.

“That problem has been created by the failed policies of Joe Biden,” he said during a recent debate. “My opponent has voted with him 100% of the time. I intend on going down to Washington, D.C. and reversing those policies and bringing back our livelihoods and the future for our children.”

Hassan, meanwhile, has highlighted her work on the bipartisan infrastructure law Biden signed last year and the $280 billion package aimed at creating more high-tech jobs by boosting the semiconductor industry and scientific research. And she cast Bolduc as an extremist, pouncing on his past statements on abortion, Social Security and the 2020 presidential election.

Bolduc initially promoted Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election but after winning the Republican primary said it wasn’t stolen and then, more recently, said that he wasn’t sure. Trump endorsed him last week, calling him a “strong and proud ‘Election Denier’.”

Nearly two years after Trump’s defeat, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud. Numerous reviews in the battleground states where Trump disputed his loss have affirmed the results, courts have rejected dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies, and even Trump’s own Department of Justice concluded the results were accurate.

On abortion, Bolduc has gone from saying: “I’m not going to vote contrary to pro-life” to saying he would vote against a national abortion ban.

“He has said on the record that he would never vote in Washington against anti-choice legislation,” Hassan said during a debate. “(Sen.) Mitch McConnell has been pursuing a national abortion ban for decades. And Don Buldoc’s record makes clear he would be a ‘Yes’ vote for a national abortion ban.”

Hassan defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016 to become the second woman in American history to be elected both governor and U.S. senator, following fellow New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.

Bolduc spent 33 years in the U.S. Army, leading units in Afghanistan and commanding special forces in Africa. He lost the 2020 GOP primary to Corky Messner, who was then defeated by Shaheen. But Bolduc defeated 10 opponents in this year’s primary, including state Senate President Chuck Morse, a mainstream Republican endorsed by Sununu.

Sununu — who Bolduc dubbed a “Chinese communist sympathizer” — dismissed Bolduc as a conspiracy theorist before the primary. But Sununu later said he would back the entire Republican ticket in the general election and that he wouldn’t withhold his support over one issue.

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