Sep 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Stefanik-backed Karoline Leavitt wins N.H. House GOP primary

Karoline Leavitt, a candidate for U.S. House in New Hampshire's 01 district, walks in front of a campaign banner.

Karoline Leavitt walks in front of a campaign banner in New Hampshire. [Karoline for Congress, @kleavittnh, on Twitter.]

Karoline Leavitt, a 25-year-old former aide to the Trump White House and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), on Tuesday won the Republican primary for a key swing U.S. House district in New Hampshire, according to the AP.

Why it matters: Leavitt’s win represents a victory for the conservative wing of the Republican Party at the tail end of the 2022 primaries, and sets the stage for what is expected to be one of the most competitive House races in the country.

The backdrop: Leavitt, a first-time candidate, struggled at first to break out of the pack in a crowded eight-person primary after launching her campaign last July.

  • However, she steadily emerged as the main opposition to Matt Mowers, 33, a former state GOP chair and candidate for the seat in 2020.
  • The GOP field also included Gail Huff Brown, a local TV journalist and wife of Scott Brown, who served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and later ran for Senate in New Hampshire before serving as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand.

The state of play: The crowded race became a proxy battle between members of House GOP leadership, as well as the broader conservative and establishment wings of the party.

  • Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vocal defender of former President Trump, endorsed Leavitt, her former communications director.
  • Leavitt was also backed by conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), as well as several members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus.
  • Mowers, meanwhile, was backed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), as well as more establishment figures like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Between the lines: New Hampshire holds a first-in-the-nation presidential primary, incentivizing prospective 2024 presidential candidates like Cruz, Pompeo and Haley to make endorsements there.

Yes, but: Mowers, a former Trump campaign aide, also had some conservative credentials, with support from Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and former Trump campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

  • He and Leavitt were mostly aligned on policy, and instead attacked each other as being insufficiently committed to the “Make America Great Again” cause.

The intrigue: If she wins in November, Leavitt will likely join 25-year-old Florida Democrat Maxwell Frost as the first members of Congress from Generation Z.

  • Her age became a factor in the race, with Defending Main Street Super PAC running an ad calling her a “woke Gen Zer” who “records everything,” and playing candid videos she posted to social media.

What’s next: In November, Leavitt will face Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

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