The progressive group NextGen America has announced state Sen. Dan Feltes’ race for governor is a priority, which means an aggressive push to turn out young voters for the Concord Democrat.

But, as reported by NHJournal, NextGen America has also announced its support for the “Defund the Police” movement, in a state where local law enforcement is both respected and popular. Not surprisingly, Republicans immediately made the connection. The NHGOP tweeted:

“Just yesterday, Dan Feltes was touting the endorsement of liberal out-of-state group NextGen America which is committed to Defunding the Police. Governor Chris Sununu always supports the men and women on the front lines, and they know he’s fighting for them.”

And at Thursday’s presser, when Sununu was asked about the N.H. Troopers Association’s endorsement of Feltes (they backed Sununu two years ago), the governor pushed back with the #DefundThePolice issue.

“Dan Feltes accepts the support from Tom Steyer, the billionaire funding the ‘Defund the Police’ movements all across this country,” Sununu said, referencing the fact that NextGenAmerica was founded and funded by the California progressive. “Obviously that’s nowhere we want to be.”

Sununu also called out Feltes for saying he’d commute the sentence of Michael Addison, convicted of murdering Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

“I support the death penalty for cop killers,” Sununu told NHJournal. “Dan Feltes doesn’t.”

The death penalty and #DefundThePolice debate haven’t been common topics of political conversation in New Hampshire. And yet Republicans are seizing on law-and-order issues as November approaches, believing they’re general election winners.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, First Congressional District candidate Matt Mowers laid out three themes of his campaign against incumbent Democrat Rep. Chris Pappas: China, crime and keeping his word.

On the crime issue, Mowers targeted Pappas for supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which, among other things, would end qualified immunity for police officers. Supporters of qualified immunity like Mowers say it protects police from being swamped by lawsuits from criminals. Opponents of the policy say it keeps bad cops from suffering the consequences of their actions.

“The fact of the matter is that if you get rid of qualified immunity, like Chris Pappas voted to do, you’re not going to have law enforcement,” Mowers said on Wednesday as he received the endorsement of the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association and the Manchester Association of Police Supervisors. “You’re going to have record resignations across the country among law enforcement and it will be that much harder to recruit people into law enforcement every single day.”

Both unions endorsed Pappas two years ago, but have thrown their support to Mowers in part due to Pappas’s position on qualified immunity.

Pappas recently reaffirmed his support for stripping police officers of this legal protection on WMUR, telling Adam Sexton: “We have highlighted the work that good police officers are doing and look for ways to deal with the officers. No one hates a bad cop as much as a good cop, and we have to create a system to see a culture change in law enforcement.”

Targeting cops for cultural change can be dangerous in a state where a June St. Anselm College poll found that 85 percent of Granite Staters — including 82 percent of swing voters and 73 percent of moderates — say their local police behave professionally. And there’s no doubt Republicans believe the crime issue cuts in their favor, even in New Hampshire where crime is low and the streets are quiet.

“We have seen that voters in every county in New Hampshire definitely care, as this is an issue that transcends party lines,” RNC New Hampshire communications director Nina McLaughlin said. “People want to know that they are safe in their homes, their children are safe at school, and they can walk down the street without fear. President Trump understands that supporting law and order ensures safe and prosperous communities.”

Director of the UNH Survey Center Andy Smith agrees.

“I think that the law and order theme will resonate with many voters — particularly older voters — regardless of whether there is much crime, or many anti-police disturbances in their communities,” he told NHJournal. “In fact, it may have more resonance in places that are not in the midst of these issues as it can seem more distant, and ‘bigger’ if you don’t have a local context for what you are seeing or reading about.

“It’s 1968 all over again — every 50 years or so,” Smith said.

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