Defender of New Hampshire primary gets Dem challenger after serving Trump's voter-fraud panel

Defender of New Hampshire primary gets Dem challenger after serving Trump's voter-fraud panel
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New Hampshire Democrats will mount a challenge to their state's longtime secretary of state later this year — even though the incumbent is also a Democrat.
Former state executive councillor Colin Van Ostern (D) will announce Wednesday he will campaign to replace Bill Gardner, the secretary of state for the last 42 years.
Gardner, also a Democrat, is best known as the most ardent defender of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.
He has won election in the state legislature — New Hampshire is the only state where the legislature elects the secretary of state — even when Republicans have held control.
But Gardner's participation in President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE's now-defunct voter fraud panel earlier this year angered some New Hampshire Democrats.
Gardner has also backed Republican-sponsored legislation to restrict voting by students from out of state who attend college in New Hampshire, where they register to vote.
President Trump claimed that New Hampshire's four electoral votes went to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE in 2016 after people were bussed across the border from Massachusetts to vote. He offered no evidence to back up his claim, and the voter fraud panel has since shut down without any conclusions of misbehavior.
Van Ostern said he will try to build a majority of the 400 members of the state House of Representatives and the 24 members of the state Senate when the legislature meets in early December to elect the next secretary of state. Van Ostern, who narrowly lost a bid for governor in 2016, said he will campaign for candidates across the state in hopes of reclaiming both the House and the Senate, currently under Republican control, for Democrats.
He pledged to "stop the political tricks and the new laws designed to making registration more complicated for eligible voters, including college students, renters, the elderly, military service members, or citizens who have recently moved."
"I know some pundits will say that this can't be done — that it's impossible to take on the nation's longest-serving secretary of state, a member of my own political party who has been in office since three years before I was born," Van Ostern said in a statement announcing his candidacy. "But I believe competition is good for our democracy, especially in this role."
Gardner told WMUR-TV he will run for a 22nd term in office, but that he won't actively campaign or recruit candidates who will back him.
"I've never taken a contribution. I've never given a contribution. I've never made an endorsement or asked for an endorsement," Gardner told WMUR. 
Gardner has rarely been challenged for his position. But this time, top state Democrats said they would back Van Ostern — including state Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and state House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.