Republican backer of Trump’s big lie wins New Hampshire

A far-right Republican who backs Donald Trump’s election fraud lie and has vowed to decertify results in 2024 will be the GOP candidate for US Senate in New Hampshire.

Don Bolduc, a retired special forces general who has said he suffered from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, edged out Chuck Morse, the state senate president, to face the incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, in November.

Most if not all forecasters called the race for Bolduc before Morse conceded on Wednesday.

The primary was the last in a series that have seen Republicans select candidates aligned with Trump, causing some to fear damage to their chances of winning the Senate in November.

Bolduc, 61, has echoed Trump’s lie about election fraud in his defeat by Joe Biden. He has also questioned whether the FBI should be abolished following its search of Trump’s Florida estate, which turned up a cache of classified documents.

Though Bolduc has courted Trump, he has not won an endorsement. Trump did call Bolduc a “strong guy”.

Last October, Bolduc spoke to the New Yorker. Saying he thought his “values and principles as an American, and the constitution, which I served for 33-plus years in the military, was safe with President Trump”, he said Trump’s appeal stemmed from the (notoriously reading-averse) former president’s reading and understanding of the constitution.

He also said “there was a tremendous amount of fraud” in 2020, adding: “I very much believe it and I think it exists, and I think it happens and it’s been happening for a long time in this country. When you try to steal the presidency, a lot of people are going to go, ‘OK, wait a minute. What the hell’s going on here?’”

On 6 January 2021, nine senators were among 147 Republicans who voted to object to results in key states, even after the Capitol was stormed by a pro-Trump mob, a riot now linked to nine deaths, including suicides among law enforcement.

Asked if he would “walk the walk” on certification in the Senate in 2024, Bolduc told the New Yorker: “Oh, absolutely … everybody I talk to believes that in me.”

Bolduc also said January 6 represented “a complete failure of the political system”, blaming “the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, the minority leader” and the vice-president, Mike Pence, who refused to reject electoral votes.

“They failed us,” Bolduc said, “and so, therefore, now they’re trying to politicise it, turn it into something that it’s not.”

He said Trump supporters should not have used violence and destroyed property, but “believed that their rights were violated. They believed that they lost their voice.”

Morse was backed by a national Republican group that spent at least $4.6m and endorsed by the Republican governor, Chris Sununu, whose decision not to take on Hassan himself disappointed Republicans.

Sununu called Bolduc a “conspiracy theorist”. Bolduc called Sununu a “Chinese communist sympathiser”. But the governor promised to “endorse whoever the nominee is, and support him, of course I will, no question”.

Linda Fowler, a political science professor at Dartmouth, told Reuters Morse would have stood a better chance of beating Hassan because he would have appealed to independents, the majority in New Hampshire.

“If Bolduc gets the nomination, the independents will go to Hassan,” Fowler said, speaking before the result was known. “If he doesn’t get the nomination, the independents will have a serious choice.”

Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, told the Associated Press Bolduc was the kind of candidate who would have struggled to succeed before Trump’s rise.

Bolduc has never held elected office and had just $75,000 in cash on hand last week. But he was able to position himself as an ally of Trumps.

“If it mirrors the former president, it’s been effective,” Levesque said.

On Tuesday, the Democrat Tom Sherman, Sununu’s opponent for governor in November, a state senator and a doctor, reminded voters Sununu signed an abortion ban last year.

“As governor I will stand up for our freedoms and protect a woman’s right to choose, not cave to extremists like Chris Sununu,” Sherman said.

Since the supreme court overturned the right to abortion, Democrats have enjoyed electoral success on the issue.

In Senate elections, nominations of backers of Trump’s election fraud lie and novices including the former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia and the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania have dimmed Republican chances.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has put his party’s chances at “50-50”, noting concerns about “candidate quality”.