By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's preferred candidate for a U.S. House of Representatives seat won the Republican primary in New Hampshire Tuesday, but faces an uphill battle in the general election in the state where Democrats have a slight edge.
New Hampshire voters cast their ballots on Tuesday in U.S. Senate and House of Representatives primaries that are testing Trump's influence in the northeastern state that the president narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In New Hampshire's first congressional district, a 31-year-old Trump-endorsed candidate, Matt Mowers, beat a crowded Republican field for the party's nomination to take on freshman Democratic Representative Chris Pappas in November, the New York Times said.
The district has been traded back and forth between the parties several times in recent years, but Democrats have the advantage now, non-partisan election analysts say.
Mowers is a Republican party strategist who worked on the Trump campaign and then in the State Department. He won 61.3% of the vote compared to 26.5% for his closest opponent, Matt Mayberry, the Times said, with about 38% of precincts reporting.
Another Trump-backed candidate, Corky Messner, was leading in preliminary returns in the Senate Republican race in New Hampshire, which has been a political battleground in recent years.
Rhode Island also voted on Tuesday in some of the last U.S. congressional party primaries this year. The contests will produce nominees for Nov. 3 elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress. Democrats hope to keep control of the House and end the Senate's 53-47 Republican majority.
New Hampshire's two-term Senator Jeanne Shaheen, 73, easily won her Democratic primary Tuesday and appears to be in a good position for re-election in November, well outpacing both Messner and his Republican opponent Don Bolduc in a Granite State Poll released last week by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Messner and Bolduc are both conservatives with military experience. A New Hampshire native, Bolduc has portrayed Messner as a wealthy out-of-stater; Messner was raised in Pennsylvania and built a law firm in Colorado before moving to New Hampshire. He largely self-funded his campaign.
Messner has also been attacked over the finances of a charitable foundation he runs. Two former Colorado Supreme Court justices have alleged the Messner Foundation was deceptive in its conduct of raffles raising money for scholarships. Messner's lawyer says the allegations are without merit.
Trump's campaign says only two of 118 candidates the president has endorsed this year have lost in congressional primaries and special elections. However, Trump's endorsement alone would not make a candidate a shoo-in in New Hampshire, said Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center, which polls public opinion.
"There are a lot of Republicans here within the state who are anti-Trumpers, particularly in a primary, where you have more ideological voters," Smith said.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Christopher Cushing)