New Hampshire Executive Councilor Announces For Congress

By John Celock

A three-term member of the of New Hampshire’s Executive Council and member of a prominent Manchester restaurant family has kicked off his campaign for a seat in Congress.

Executive Councilor Chris Pappas announced Thursday that he would seek the Democratic nomination for the state’s first district seat in Congress, confirming speculation that he would seek the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D). Pappas is the sixth Democrat to entire the race for one of New England’s most competitive congressional seats.

“I am grounded in the people and places of New Hampshire and I am running for Congress to make a meaningful difference for our future,” Pappas said in a statement. “Washington Republicans are not addressing the needs of middle class families. I want to be part of a new generation of leadership to turn things around.”

Pappas, 37, has been long speculated as the Democratic frontrunner to succeed Shea-Porter, who surprised many earlier this year with her decision not to seek reelection in 2018. Several weeks ago, Pappas announced that he was considering entering the race. Pappas has long been considered a likely candidate for Congress or statewide office in New Hampshire.

Pappas entered New Hampshire politics shortly after his 2002 graduation from Harvard, winning a seat in the state House of Representatives that year. He left the state Legislature after four years, winning the first of two terms as Hillsborough County treasurer in 2006. He was defeated for reelection to the treasurer’s office in 2010, but came back in 2012 to win the first of three terms on the Executive Council. The New Hampshire Executive Council operates as a board of directors for state government, with five elected councilors confirming gubernatorial appointments, approving most state contracts and developing the state’s long-range transportation plans.

Pappas’ tenue on the Executive Council has included service alongside former Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), now a U.S. senator, and current Gov. Chris Sununu (R). Since Sununu took office earlier this year, Pappas has emerged as a progressive leader on the panel, including recent battle with Sununu over funding for Planned Parenthood.

Pappas’ family is well known in Manchester as the owners of the Puritan Backroom restaurant, a fixture in the city. Pappas works at the restaurant – known for its chicken tenders and ice cream – which is a staple of the political scene in New Hampshire.

Shea-Porter’s surprise retirement comes after she retook the seat in 2016 from former Rep. Frank Guinta (R) for her fourth nonconsecutive term. Shea-Porter won the seat in 2006 and 2008, being defeated by Guinta in 2010. Shea-Porter came back to defeat Guinta in 2012, but lost to Guinta in 2014, before defeating Guinta in 2016.

Since Shea-Porter’s announcement, state Rep. Mark McKenzie, businessman Deaglan McEachern, Rochester City Attorney Terence O’Rourke, former Somersworth Mayor Lincoln Soldati and former U.S. Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary Maura Sullivan have all entered the Democratic field for the seat. On the Republican side, state Sen. Andy Sanborn and former South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards have announced their candidacies.