Republican Matt Mowers edged out Democrat Rep. Chris Pappas in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District race, according to a poll released Thursday, following Mowers confronting Pappas about his relationship with a lobbyist during a debate last week.
The latest Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center October 24–28, found Mowers leading Pappas by two points, 50 percent to 48 percent. With a margin of error of 4.6 percent among the 451 likely voters polled, the candidates are considered deadlocked in the final week of the race.
Mowers went on the offense during a debate October 21 by broaching a yet undisclosed relationship Pappas has with a former Amazon lobbyist while the incumbent Democrat has voted in favor of several pieces of legislation that benefit Amazon.
Pappas denied the relationship during the debate, repeating “that’s not true” and calling the charge “outrageous,” but Pappas’s campaign later clarified that Pappas is indeed dating the former lobbyist, Vann Bentley, per the Union Leader, and had been dating Bentley while he was a lobbyist for Amazon. The campaign denied any wrongdoing.
Although Mowers pointed to the conflict of interest surrounding the relationship, and specifically the potential ethics violation of accepting gifts from Bentley while Bentley worked on behalf of the corporate giant, Pappas claimed the attack was related to him being gay.
“Members of the LGBTQ+ community have always been held to a different standard when running for office and Mr. Mowers’s baseless attacks perpetuate those same harmful lines of attack,” Pappas wrote in a statement after the debate.
The New Hampshire arm of the gay rights group Log Cabin Republicans defended Mowers and described Pappas disregarding the conflict of interest concerns and deflecting to unsupported accusations of homophobia as “pretty insulting to the LGBT community”:
@NHLogCabin filed the attached letter. @ChrisPappasNH relationship with an Amazon Lobbyist needs investigation and transparency. Accusing @mowers of homophobia for asking the right questions is pretty insulting to the LGBT community. @WMUR9 @UnionLeader @NewHampJournal @NHGOP pic.twitter.com/2SnQ5QSUj2
— NH Log Cabin 🏳️🌈 (@NHLogCabin) October 27, 2020
The poll is significant in that it is the first public poll to show Pappas trailing Mowers; previous Granite State Poll results showed Pappas with a comfortable lead, of ten points earlier in October, 18 points in September, and 18 points in August. RealClearPolitics moved the race to a “toss-up” ranking this week.
The poll also shows a tightening race between President Donald Trump and Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. It found Biden leading Trump by eight points, 53 percent to 45 percent, which is a four-point shift in Trump’s favor from the last Granite State Poll taken earlier in October.
After the poll was published, Mowers, who previously worked on Trump’s campaign and has been endorsed by the president, credited his newfound lead in part to Pappas’s denial during their debate of his ties to the lobbyist.
“It is clear that Granite Staters are sick and tired of Congressman Pappas’ lies,” Mowers said Thursday in a press release. “Whether you’re a small business owner, a police officer or a middle-class family trying to pay the bills, Chris Pappas said he’d be an independent voice for you. Instead, he’s gone down to Washington and become a part of the swamp.”
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