In an increasingly loud, irrational, and divisive political world, US Representative Chris Pappas still wants to be a voice of reason, compromise, and civility. Those are principles worth defending, and why The Boston Globe endorses Pappas, the incumbent Democrat, in the race to represent New Hampshire’s First Congressional District.
The contrast between the centrist Pappas and his opponent is stark. Republican nominee Karoline Leavitt has the blessing of Donald Trump as she embraces the GOP’s fiery, midterm election bible for 2022. That means painting the darkest and scariest picture of inflation and the economy, for which she blames President Biden, and by extension, Pappas. She also whips up voters with dire warnings such as her tweet that “cultural Marxism is trickling into every institution.”
This congressional district has a history of swinging between Democrats and Republicans, and in this very volatile election cycle, Pappas is walking a cautious line. He has tried to separate himself from Biden by saying the president was slow to recognize inflation as a problem, and he also returned an unsolicited contribution from a political action committee associated with progressive US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Although such maneuvers reflect the purple tinge of the district he represents, they can also make Pappas come across as a little short on passion and ideological commitment. But he’s clearly the more thoughtful choice. Asked what message he wants voters to take from his campaign, he told the Globe editorial board it is that “Bipartisanship is not dead.” Despite his opponent’s attacks on him, he still has faith that voters will appreciate a “problem-solver” — as he describes himself — not a “bomb-thrower,” as he describes Leavitt. However, as the race tightened, he, too, has ramped up his rhetoric, calling Leavitt a radical and extremist.
On his campaign website, Pappas lists his priorities in Congress as improving access to health care, lowering the high cost of prescription drugs, combating the addiction epidemic, and protecting the environment and drinking water. The traditionally Republican-leaning US Chamber of Commerce endorsed Pappas as the candidate who will support public policy that advances economic growth, supports jobs, and promotes fiscal responsibility.
Pappas was the first openly gay man to represent New Hampshire in Congress. He previously served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and on the New Hampshire Executive Council. A graduate of Harvard, he grew up in a Greek American family that operates a Manchester restaurant, where he washed dishes and cleared tables.
Leavitt says she worked summers scooping ice cream at the family’s stand in Atkinson, so that shared background is rare common ground between these two candidates.
If she beats Pappas, Leavitt, 25, would be the youngest person elected to Congress. Leavitt, who declined an invitation to meet with the Globe editorial board, is a graduate of St. Anselm College and worked as an assistant press secretary in the Trump White House.
She has called Trump “certainly the greatest president in the history of my life” and he recently endorsed her. That endorsement is not posted among others on her website. Just like Pappas is seeking separation from Biden, it appears she’s seeking some separation from Trump.
But there’s little doubt she’s a Trump acolyte who will march in lockstep with the most extreme members of her party. She started off the campaign saying Trump had won the 2020 election. Now, like other Republican candidates trying to transform their hardcore, antidemocratic rhetoric into something less threatening, she’s saying Biden is “the legitimate president” because his victory was certified.
On her campaign website she also promises to be, “a fearless pro-life advocate to defend the lives of the unborn and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will also fight to codify the Hyde Amendment to guarantee a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion.”
The last thing Congress needs is more hard-right figures seeking to undermine democracy and carry water for the disgraced former president. Pappas is a better, more moderate fit for this congressional district and deserves reelection to a third term.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.