Karoline Leavitt, a 25-year-old former Trump White House staffer who embraced the former president’s baseless claims of a stolen election, won the Republican primary Tuesday for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, according to the Associated Press.
In her victory speech Tuesday night, Leavitt attacked both Democrats and the Washington “establishment,” recalling how she had started her campaign with no name recognition, no money and little chance of defeating Republican Matt Mowers, who ran against Pappas in 2020 but lost by five percentage points.
“The media, the Washington establishment and the Democrats certainly counted us out,” Leavitt said. “They said I was too young, we could never raise the money to compete, and that we could never beat a former Republican nominee.”
Mowers, 33, who worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign before joining his administration, also campaigned on his youth, vowing to bring “a new generation of conservative leadership to Washington.” Nevertheless, Leavitt attacked him as someone who had been the GOP establishment’s “handpicked puppet.”
With 95 percent of the votes counted, Leavitt had about 35 percent of the vote to Mowers’s 25 percent. Gail Huff Brown, a broadcast journalist, came in third with about 18 percent of the vote. About half a dozen other candidates in the crowded race trailed them.
The bitter primary campaign between Leavitt and Mowers divided GOP leadership. Mowers was endorsed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a “tough and tested conservative,” as well as by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition. Leavitt, the former communications director for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), was backed by the House GOP conference chairwoman and by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who joined her for a campaign rally last week.
“I was proud to support Karoline early on in her race — no one knows more than I do that you should NEVER underestimate a young, hard-working conservative woman,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Both Leavitt and Mowers proudly advertised their experience in the Trump administration — she as a White House assistant press secretary and he as a senior White House adviser in the State Department — but differed when it came to parroting Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Leavitt wholeheartedly embraced it, saying she believed it was Trump who had won, while Mowers expressed “concerns” about the 2020 election but acknowledged that President Biden “got the most votes.”
Trump did not endorse either candidate in the primary race but was quick to tout Leavitt’s win Wednesday.
“Amazing job by Karoline Leavitt in her great New Hampshire victory,” Trump said in a post to his social media platform. “Against all odds, she did it — and will have an even greater victory on November 8th. Wonderful energy and wisdom!!!”
Leavitt has cast herself as a “homegrown” New Hampshire native from a “small business family” in Rockingham County. She attended Saint Anselm College in the state before landing a job in the Trump White House press shop. There, in her words, she “fought against the biased mainstream media, and proudly helped message President Trump’s America First agenda.” Throughout her campaign, Leavitt similarly embraced the rhetoric of hard-right Republicans and called Trump “the greatest president in the history of my life.”
“Everywhere you look, conservatives, myself included, are being censored and silenced,” she declared in one campaign ad. “And our freedoms to speak freely, think independently, bear arms, go to church and operate our own businesses are being infringed by radical Democrats.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, however, Leavitt appeared to have removed mention of having worked for both Trump and Stefanik from her Twitter bio. Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If Leavitt defeats Pappas, she would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, where members must be at least 25 years old. Her age was a target for her opponents and critics — including Defending Main Street, a super PAC that supports moderate Republicans, which launched an ad that featured a clip of Leavitt recording herself saying, “Listen up, hoe bags,” and cracking up.
“She’s just a woke Gen Z-er,” a narrator in the ad says, “[who] wants to bring her generation’s new vision to Congress. You know, mooching off her parents, running up huge credit card debt. Woke, immature and irresponsible.”
Defending Main Street spent more than $1.2 million to attack Leavitt, while the McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC spent more than $1.3 million boosting Mowers, according to the New York Times.
“Team Karoline may have been outspent, but we were NOT outworked,” Leavitt said Wednesday. “We won this election by pounding the pavement, knocking on thousands of doors, meeting voters face to face and focusing on the issues that matter to our state.”
Colby Itkowitz and David Weigel contributed to this report.
Understanding the 2022 Midterm Elections
November’s midterm elections are likely to shift the political landscape and impact what President Biden can accomplish during the remainder of his first term. Here’s what to know.
When are the midterm elections? The general election is Nov. 8, but the primary season is nearing completion, with voters selecting candidates in the New York and Florida primaries Tuesday. Here’s a complete calendar of all the primaries in 2022.
Why are the midterms important? The midterm elections determine control of Congress: The party that has the House or Senate majority gets to organize the chamber and decide what legislation Congress considers. Thirty six governors and thousands of state legislators are also on the ballot. Here’s a complete guide to the midterms.
Which seats are up for election? Every seat in the House and a third of the seats in the 100-member Senate are up for election. Dozens of House members have already announced they will be retiring from Congress instead of seeking reelection.
What is redistricting? Redistricting is the process of drawing congressional and state legislative maps to ensure everyone’s vote counts equally. As of April 25, 46 of the 50 states had settled on the boundaries for 395 of 435 U.S. House districts.
Which primaries are the most competitive? Here are the most interesting Democratic primaries and Republican primaries to watch as Republicans and Democrats try to nominate their most electable candidates.