By KATHY McCORMACK
MANCHESTER, NH (AP) — Karoline Leavitt recalls being in the dining hall at her New Hampshire college in 2018, filling out an application for a White House intern job while her friends stalked to a football game.
“I remember thinking, ‘If I took this opportunity, it’s worth missing any football game in the world,'” she told The Associated Press in an interview.
She got the job. This eventually led to a position in President Donald Trump’s White House press office and then another as communications director for Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y.
Inspired by Stefanik, the youngest woman elected to Congress when she won in 2014 at age 30, Leavitt is now running for a House seat. At 25, she could make history on Election Day, Nov. 8: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., won at age 29 in 2018.
Leavitt, an unapologetic pro-Trump Republican, would also be the youngest person in the next session of Congress if she beat Democratic Representative Chris Pappas to two terms in one of the most competitive races this year. Leavitt is seven months younger than fellow Gen Z candidate Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a favored Florida Democrat in his race.
The New Hampshire contest will test the appeal of a far-right candidate in a Democratic-leaning state in a midterm election that has historically served as a referendum on the current president.
The 1st Congressional District has a history of switching between parties. He tipped five times in seven elections before Pappas, now 42, won the open seat in 2018. The district includes Manchester, the state’s most populous city, Portsmouth on the coast and more rural communities North.
Leavitt won his 10-man Republican primary in September in part by going to the right of other candidates, including Matt Mowers, the party’s 2020 nominee. Mowers also worked in the Trump administration and said he thought he there were voting irregularities in the 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
“I still continue to be the only candidate in this race who says I believe the 2020 election was undoubtedly stolen from President Trump,” Leavitt said during a debate a week before the primary.
Numerous federal and local election officials from both parties, a long list of courts, former campaign staffers and even Trump’s attorney general have said there is no evidence of this. Trump recently endorsed Leavitt, calling her “fantastic.”
“Matt Mowers had strong Trump credentials,” said Dante Scala, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “And yet, she managed to top it… and that also meant telling a lie about an unqualified stolen election.
Pappas called Leavitt extreme and said his claims about the 2020 election “are not based on truth or reality” and are “dangerous.” Leavitt argues that Pappas and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, “are the real extremists,” citing their support for a federal election bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. , which would have created a nationwide automatic voter registration system, allowed all voters to vote by mail, and weakened voter identification laws, among other things.
Leavitt campaigned for stronger parental rights in schools and increased home energy production. She has the endorsement of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, a moderate who backed Trump’s re-election bid.
“Washington is broken, and it won’t be fixed if we keep sending the same people over there,” said Sununu, who lives in the 1st District. “Karoline Leavitt is the new voice and principled vote New Hampshire needs in Congress.”
Pappas and Leavitt have little in common beyond their background in small family businesses — hers at a restaurant known for its ice cream, hers working at an ice cream stand and at a truck and car dealership. opportunity.
The two argued over inflation, the future of Social Security, and abortion.
Leavitt argues that the Cut Inflation Act, which Pappas voted for, will actually increase inflation at a time when families are struggling.
Pappas notes that the new law has capped out-of-pocket spending for seniors with Medicare and provides energy rebates for businesses and families. He said this is fully paid for, will reduce energy and health costs, and reduce the deficit by $1.9 trillion over 20 years.
On Social Security, Pappas accused Leavitt of wanting to privatize it “and play it on the stock market.” Leavitt said she will work to protect the benefits of anyone who has paid into the system and is open to “alternative solutions that will provide a better future for your children and grandchildren.” She said Pappas wanted to raise taxes on high earners to continue supporting Social Security.
On abortion, Pappas said he would support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would protect the right to access abortion care nationwide after Roe v. Wade.
Leavitt pledged on her campaign website to be a “fearless pro-life advocate” if elected to Congress. She said she supports state legislatures making decisions about abortion regulation and that she would oppose a federal ban on abortion.
Unlike Leavitt, who has never held elected office, Pappas notes his bipartisan record in Congress and his “People Over Party” coalition of supporters that includes Republicans, former Republicans and independents.
“His professional background is as Donald Trump’s White House spin doctor,” Pappas said. “She never worked with the Democrats on anything.”
Kathleen Sullivan, former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, wrote in a New Hampshire Union Leader column that “it’s hard to see Leavitt working with Democrats the way Pappas worked with Republicans.” She cited Leavitt’s references to Democrats as “radical, power-hungry socialists” and previous comments that climate change is “a manufactured crisis” created by Democrats.
Leavitt says her experience working in the White House prepared her well for Congress, with the West Wing “perhaps one of the most fast-paced, high-pressure work environments around.”
She says her youth would be an advantage in Congress.
“There are people on both sides of the aisle who have been out there literally twice as long as I’ve been alive,” said Leavitt, who has campaigned on college campuses, including her alma mater, Saint Anselm College in Manchester. “It is a problem for our republic. This is a problem for your young voters who really want to have their voices heard.
Stefanik, now the third House Republican, endorsed Leavitt early on, calling her “a rising star in the Republican Party who will carry the torch of conservative values for generations to come.” Leavitt credits Stefanik with encouraging her to mount a campaign.
“Nobody told her she was going to win, but she believed in herself,” Leavitt said. “It was very inspiring for me. And I was like, ‘Why can’t I do this from my own district?’ »
Read more about the issues and factors at play midterm at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections