Abortion Emerges as an Issue To Watch in GOP Primary in New Hampshire
Gail Huff Brown, Republican, vows to protect abortion rights in the Granite State.
By CAROLINE McCAUGHEY
As Republicans, like U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona, pivot to the general election by softening their opposition to legal abortion, a GOP congressional candidate in New Hampshire is advertising her abortion-rights stance ahead of the state’s September 13 primary.
“Is it a risk? Absolutely,” the candidate, Gail Huff Brown, tells the Sun.
Her campaign just released a television ad outlining her support for New Hampshire’s law that permits abortion until the third trimester, with exceptions later for the health of the mother and anomalies in the fetus. In the ad, she recounts the harrowing experience of giving birth to her daughter at 20 weeks.
“I was rushed to the emergency room where the doctor looked me in the eye and asked, ‘Whose life do we save?’” she says, staring directly into the camera. “I chose my unborn child. But in that agonizing moment, I was comforted to know I had a choice.”
“I will protect the New Hampshire law and the choice that it guarantees,” Ms. Huff Brown says.
In the first televised debate of the election held Tuesday night, Ms. Huff Brown doubled down: “My uterus is not for sale. Never was, never will be.”
Polling in third place at 16 percent, Ms. Huff Brown is taking a gamble to differentiate herself from the pack of staunchly anti-abortion Republicans. Only 15 percent of registered Granite State Republicans identify as favoring abortion rights, according to an August St. Anselm College poll. The state’s primaries, though, are open to undeclared voters, the largest constituency.
The race is wide open with only one week to go until election day. The front runners, a Trump administration state department official, Matt Mowers, and an assistant press secretary for President Trump, Karoline Leavitt, are polling at 26 percent and 24 percent, respectively. More than a quarter of GOP voters are undecided, according to an August 31 University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll.
The Cook Political Report lists the seat as a “Democratic toss-up.” Only 38 percent of registered voters believe the incumbent Democrat, Representative Chris Pappas, “deserves re-election.”
Unlike Mr. Masters of Arizona, if Ms. Huff Brown wins the primary, she won’t have to do an about-face for the general election: More than 70 percent of New Hampshire voters support legalized abortion with limits.
Nationally, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has thrown a wrench in what was last spring predicted to be a red wave this fall. The recent Democratic victory in the special election in New York’s 19th and the decisive rejection of a constitutional amendment in Kansas that would have severely restricted access to abortion are seen as early indicators of the formidable power of this issue come November. A Wall Street Journal poll found that 34 percent of respondents cited the reversal of Roe v. Wade as the issue making them more likely to vote in November — ahead of inflation.
In an acknowledgment of this potential landmine for Republicans, Ms. Huff Brown calls herself “the most electable” person in the race. On Sunday, the state’s largest newspaper, the Union Leader, endorsed her: “We don’t think Chris Pappas and the Democrats want to face Gail Huff Brown this November.”
Ms. McCaughey is a native New Yorker now based in New Hampshire. Her interests include politics, drug policy, and counterculture.