The New Hampshire House was never supposed to be this close—not after a fresh round of Republican gerrymandering, and certainly not after the red wave that was supposed to crash down on us in November. But a funny thing happened: In spite of everything, Democrats flipped a dozen seats last year to whittle the GOP’s majority down to the smallest in state history.
Now, a vulnerable Republican seat has become vacant—and that means Democrats can strip away that GOP majority and force the chamber into an exact tie. That’s why Daily Kos is proudly endorsing progressive stalwart Hal Rafter in the Sept. 19 special election for Rockingham County’s 1st District.
Rafter came extremely close to winning this seat last year, falling just 25 votes short of victory—less than two-tenths of a percent of the total vote. But that’s not the only reason he’s the perfect choice for this go-round. Rafter is a dedicated public servant who has served on his town’s governing board and school board. He’s a vocal advocate for reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion. He’s committed to protecting and improving public education. And as an avid outdoorsman, he knows we must address climate change if we’re to safeguard our environment.
His opponent, by contrast, is just flat-out disturbing. In all my years of doing this, I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered someone as unhinged as Jim Guzofski, a local government official and pastor—and I’ve written about a lot of deranged Republicans. There’s a lot I could tell you about him, but if you read no further, then you simply must read this very short excerpt from the very long sermon he delivered on Halloween two years ago:
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.
Forget about the tip of the iceberg—that’s not even a single cube. He believes “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.” He has preached that he believes being gay is “against nature” because “you never see two male dogs going at it and having kids.” He’s amplified crackpots who say that “your best chance of living to a ripe old age is to avoid doctors and hospitals and learn nutrition.” He thinks “the doctrine of demons has so permeated our society in establishing a perverted mindset”?
It’s not necessary for me to continue. The gulf between the candidates is as vast as they come—and the stakes are as high as they get. At the moment, Republicans hold 199 seats in the 400-member New Hampshire House to 196 for Democrats, with two independents and three seats vacant. Two of those vacancies are in safely blue districts. The third is this one, which includes the towns of Northwood and Nottingham, and it’s a true tossup.
Just how competitive is it? Donald Trump carried the district by less than a point in 2020, 49.1 to 48.7, and the trends appear to be favorable for Democrats, since Trump’s margin in 2016 was more than 8 points. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, meanwhile, won the district 50-48 during her successful campaign for reelection last year.
If Democrats can run the table and win all three special elections, that would yield a perfect 199-199 tie. In the giant state House, where functional control depends on who shows up on any given day, every member counts. And even though Republicans currently have a nominal majority, Democrats have on several occasions this year had superior numbers on the floor.
They’ve used that advantage to pass laws like a measure requiring utility companies to pay their fair share into the state’s Renewable Energy Fund and to block an odious anti-LGBTQ+ bill that would have required schools to share information about students’ gender identity with their parents. If Rafter is victorious, that would give Democrats one more reliable vote for fights like these.
But when Republicans do show up, they have complete control of the state, allowing them to pass all manner of conservative priorities, including restrictions that make it harder to vote. Anything we can do to make it harder for them to enact their agenda is a very, very good thing.
And there are certain to be more special elections in the future, meaning that Democrats could actually take an outright majority sometime before the 2024 elections. But even if not, building up our ranks to the greatest extent possible now will make it that much more likely we can win back the chamber next year.
There’s one final thing: Districts in the New Hampshire House are tiny. To put their size in context, if U.S. House districts were proportioned similarly, there would be more than 96,000 members of Congress. That means our small grassroots donations can have a massive impact. And if we unleash our people power, how glorious would it be to roll back a GOP majority in a swing state?