Hal Rafter (D) and James Guzofski (R) are running in the Sept. 19 special election for New Hampshire House District Rockingham 1

Hal Rafter (D) and James Guzofski (R) are running in the special general election for New Hampshire House of Representatives District Rockingham 1 on Sept. 19, 2023. The previous incumbent, Benjamin T. Bartlett IV (R), resigned on April 26, 2023, due to health concerns.

Rafter is a partner for Waterline, an organization that provides river flow information for boaters and anglers. He previously worked for New Hampshire Housing for over 35 years, and had served on the Nottingham School Board for eight years and the Nottingham Board of Selectmen for three years. Rafter said, “This election is important because the outcome could result in a NH House that is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. … If you are concerned about Republican attacks on education, women’s rights, voting rights, and their lack of attention to climate change, this election can make a difference.”

Guzofski is a Northwood selectman and a chaplain for the Northwood Fire Department. He has been in the ministry for 34 years. Guzofski said, “I have been elected twice to the office of selectman in Northwood dedicated to keep your taxes low. As selectman I have implemented plans for better communication between town officials and you. … For years I have served our Nottingham and Northwood community, fighting for your needs in town.”

As of Aug. 23, the partisan composition of the New Hampshire House was 199 Republicans, 196 Democrats, two independents, and three vacancies. David Fracht (D) won the special election in Grafton 16 on Aug. 22 but hadn’t been sworn in yet as of this writing. Democratic victories in Rockingham 1 and the other two vacant districts, Grafton 16 and Hillsborough 3, would bring the House’s partisan composition to an even 199-199.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump (R) carried Rockingham 1 49.1% to 48.7%. In 2022, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) won the district 50% to 48%, while Democrats lost one of the district’s three state House seats by 10 votes. Heading into the election, New Hampshire has been a Republican trifecta since 2020. If Democrats win all three special elections, the state House will be split and New Hampshire’s trifecta status will be divided.

As of Aug. 23, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and the New Hampshire Executive Council have called five special elections to fill vacancies in the New Hampshire House. New Hampshire held 34 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2022; nearly three per year on average. The largest number of special elections took place in 2017 when 10 special elections were held.

Additional reading: