One year after the 2016 elections resulted in a new governor, U.S. senator, and president, Granite Staters head to the polls to vote on a number of important races and ballot initiatives.
Below are five of the most crucial factors to be on the lookout for during the 2017 election cycle as New Hampshire voters enter the voting booth.
1.) Manchester Mayoral Election
The race to helm New Hampshire’s largest city features a rematch between incumbent Republican Mayor Ted Gatsas and Democratic challenger Joyce Craig.
Gatsas was first elected mayor of the Queen City in 2009 and ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year.
In 2015, Gatsas won a tight race, defeating Craig by 64 total votes. In the non-partisan municipal primary in September, however, Craig finished in first place ahead of Gatsas.
Craig, an alderman, has a chance to make Manchester municipal history. If elected, she would become the first woman to win the office as well as the first Democrat to serve as mayor since 2005.
Both Gatsas and Craig have enlisted significant political firepower to support their respective candidacies during the homestretch of the campaign.
Gatsas has received support from popular Gov. Chris Sununu, setting aside their previous political rivalry in favor of pushing for a fourth consecutive reelection for Gatsas.
Craig has received the endorsements of a number of leading officials and rising stars in Democratic Party, including from former Vice President Joe Biden, which has helped to fuel speculation he may run for president. Craig has also campaigned with Democratic presidential candidate Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., former Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.
2.) Hillsborough 15 Special Election
There is another important election in Manchester on Tuesday: a special election which will test whether the Republican Party can retain one of its seats in the General Court. So far in 2017, Republicans have lost six of eight special elections, including five of seven in the General Court.
The Hillsborough District 15 seat became vacant in March after the sudden passing of Republican Rep. Steve Vallaincourt.
The special election features Democratic nominee Erika Connors against Republican Albert MacArthur Jr. to see who will serve out the remainder of Vaillancourt’s term before running for a full two-year term next fall.
MacArthur Jr. defeated Andy Parent in the Republican primary in September, while Connors ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Both candidates have run low-spending campaigns, though the issue of mail attack ads issued by independent groups has surfaced in the finals days of the race.
3.) Keno’s Fate on Local Ballots
Voters around the state will have an opportunity to decide if their municipalities will allow restaurants and bars to utilize Keno, a newly authorized gambling game. Last year, Keno brought in $900 million in tax revenue for Massachusetts. The game would be regulated by the New Hampshire Lottery, with the tax revenues going to the Education Trust Fund.
Most referendums will be held Tuesday while some will be voted on in the spring.
Deputy Director of New Hampshire Lottery Lynda Plante told NH Journal in a phone interview in September the agency is anticipating Keno operations in 250 locations across the state while generating an estimated $43 million in total sales revenue. The Education Trust Fund, which will finance the proposed full-day kindergarten program, is projected to receive an estimated $8 million.
Plante said some community leaders have expressed hesitation about the plan but added most are leaving the choice up to the voters.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for communities that already have [full-day kindergarten] to get additional funding,” Plante said. “I’m not sure what other opportunities we’ll have to get another $8 million for education. We’re answering the questions and letting the voters say ‘Yes, we’d like New Hampshire Lottery to do this,’ or ‘No, we don’t’ and we’ll go from there.”
4.) Sullivan 1 Special Election
The second special election features Democratic nominee Brian Sullivan facing off against Republican Margaret Drye for the vacant seat in Sullivan District 1.
Democratic Rep. Andrew Schmidt resigned the seat on June 22 after he announced his move to New London.
The winner of Tuesday’s election will serve the remainder of Schmidt’s term before running for a full two-year term next fall.
Sullivan defeated Cody Dziegelewski in the Democratic primary in September, while Drye ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
While Democrats significantly out-register Republicans in the district, there is an equally high percentage of independents who will likely determine the outcome of the election.
5.) Voter Turnout
Despite the important ballot measures and candidates running for elected office, there is expected to be a low turnout as a result of an “off-year” between presidential and congressional races.
Most communities in New Hampshire, as well as in states across the country, experience significant decline in ballots cast during municipal elections.
Elected officials in communities along the Seacoast region told Seacoastonline.com they are expecting low double digit percentages of voter turnout, with highs estimated only around 30 percent.