Democrat Hal Rafter defeated Republican James Guzofski 56%-44% in the special election to represent a Rockingham 1 district seat in the state House. The previous incumbent, Benjamin T. Bartlett IV (R), resigned on April 26 due to health concerns.
Rockingham 1 is a three-seat district. In 2022 — the first election year under new district lines — Republicans won all three seats. In 2020, former President Donald Trump (R) carried the current Rockingham 1 district 49.1% to 48.7%.
Rafter’s win means Republicans will now have a one-seat majority in the state House. On Aug. 13, 2023, the partisan composition of the New Hampshire House was 199 Republicans, 196 Democrats, two independents, and three vacancies. David Fracht (D) filled the first vacancy after being elected to Grafton 16 on Aug. 22, bringing the partisan composition to 199-197 with two vacancies.
Two additional House vacancies occurred when William Hatch (D) and Troy Merner (R) resigned on Sept. 18 and 19, respectively. The partisan composition on Sept. 19 was 198-196. Once Rafter is sworn in, Republicans will have a 198-197 majority. Only one of the remaining three vacancies, Hillsborough 3, was scheduled for special election as of this writing on Sept. 20. A Democratic victory in this district would bring the House’s partisan composition to an even 198-198, while a Republican victory would result in a 199-197 split (with two independents and two vacancies).
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 more than 35 years, and had served on the Nottingham School Board for eight years and the Nottingham Board of Selectmen for three years.
Guzofski is a Northwood selectman and a chaplain for the Northwood Fire Department. He has been in the ministry for 34 years, and has served as pastor of Destiny Christian Church for the last 14 years.