NORTHWOOD, N.H. — Republicans lost the state representative race here Tuesday by a double-digit margin, giving Democrats the momentum they were seeking to erase the GOP’s advantage in the 400-member House.
Democrat Hal Rafter of Nottingham prevailed over Republican James Guzofski of Northwood in Tuesday’s special election. Rafter got 1,571 votes and Guzofski garnered 1,240, a margin of nearly 11.8 percentage points, according to unofficial results.
Representative Laura Telerski of Nashua, who chairs the NH House Democratic Victory Campaign Committee, celebrated the flip as another step toward reclaiming control.
“We are heading into 2024 with the momentum we need to flip the New Hampshire House blue,” Telerski said.
Once Rafter is sworn in, the House will have 197 Democrats, 198 Republicans, two independents (one recent defector from each party), and three vacancies. But the GOP’s one-seat lead likely won’t last long. Nashua will decide the outcome of another special election in November, and Democrats are heavily favored to win, which would create an even split.
These numbers account for two recent resignations. Representative William A. Hatch, a Democrat from Gorham, resigned Monday, then Representative Troy Merner, a Republican from Lancaster, resigned Tuesday. Neither responded to the Globe’s requests for comment.
Hatch had a low attendance rate earlier this year due to illness, according to the New Hampshire Bulletin. Merner’s resignation came after the attorney general’s office received a complaint questioning his residency, according to the Caledonian Record.
The vacancy that Tuesday’s special election filled was created by Republican Representative Benjamin Bartlett’s resignation in April. Bartlett cited personal health concerns as his reason for stepping down, then the Globe confirmed that Bartlett had been a federal employee while holding partisan office, an apparent no-no under the federal Hatch Act.
Some Republicans who are backing Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida in the GOP presidential primary suggested that Guzofski’s bruising defeat on Tuesday is due to his vocal support for former president Donald Trump.
Guzofski, a pentecostal pastor, has preached that “prophets” said the 2020 election was stolen. He has also described LGBTQ people as “malfunctioning spirit beings,” the Black Lives Matter movement as " a doctrine of demons,” and abortions as “blood sacrifices” to Moloch.
When asked about the criticism he has received for such comments, Guzofski told the Globe that it’s easy for outsiders to misunderstand the way members of his faith community speak to each other.
“When you have someone looking inside the windows from outside who’s not part of the culture or part of that church, they can definitely misinterpret and see things differently,” he said.
Guzofski secured the GOP nomination after an Aug. 1 primary against Jessica Sternberg, who had backing from party leaders.
Rafter, a programmer and analyst for New Hampshire Housing, said he looks forward to putting the divisiveness of the electoral season behind him, so he can represent all of his constituents when he gets to Concord.
Rafter said he hopes to address cost-of-living concerns, including by exploring ways to reduce the burden of property taxes. He said he’s an advocate for reproductive rights, voting rights, and climate action.
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