Metro Weekly

Chris Pappas, gay New Hampshire congressman, gets engaged to boyfriend

Congressman's relationship with fiance Vann Bentley, a former lobbyist, became a campaign issue in the 2020 election.

chris pappas, engaged, congress, boyfriend
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) recently announced he’s engaged to be married to his boyfriend, Vann Bentley.

“We said yes!” the 41-year-old congressman tweeted. “Vann and I are thrilled to share the news of our engagement and look forward to a lifetime of happiness and togetherness.”

Pappas, who was first elected to Congress in 2018, is one of nine out LGBTQ members of Congress and the first out member of the New Hampshire delegation.

His relationship with Bentley, a former lobbyist for Amazon, was raised during his 2020 re-election campaign, when his Republican opponent, Matt Mowers, a former State Department official under the Trump administration, raised the issue in a televised debate. 

Prior to the debate, health care advocates had accused Mowers, who heads his own consulting firm and previously worked for Mercury, a federal registered lobbying firm, of illegibly writing that he worked as a consultant for two pharmaceutical companies in a financial disclosure form.

To deflect those attacks, Mowers attacked Pappas during the debate, claiming that the congressman’s relationship with Bentley unduly influenced his decisions on important votes. He also contended that Pappas violated House ethics rules by not disclosing the relationship.

Pappas denied the allegation that his relationship influenced his voting record, calling Mowers’ allegation “really disgusting.” He later clarified that he was dating Bentley, leading Republicans to accuse him of lying during the debate.

The New Hampshire Republican Party even trotted out openly gay State Rep. Joe Alexander (R-Goffstown) in a conference call the day after the debate, to argue that Pappas was trying to accuse Mowers of “homophobia” in order to avoid answering questions about whether he violated ethics rules.

Related: LGBTQ Victory Fund condemns “homophobic dog whistle attack on Congressman Chris Pappas

To this day, it remains unclear when exactly in 2019 Bentley stopped working as a lobbyist for Amazon and when he and Pappas officially began dating. In November 2019, Bentley left Amazon to join the Computer and Communications Industry Association. According to the government watchdog site, he was listed as “policy counsel” while working for both companies.

Following the debate, the Pappas campaign subsequently claimed it received oral “guidance” on the matter from the House Ethics Committee, which allegedly found that ethics rules do not require members of Congress to disclose whom they are dating, according to Manchester-based ABC affiliate WMUR

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which had endorsed Pappas when he first sought office, accused Mowers of employing a “homophobic dog whistle,” claiming that he only brought up the relationship just weeks before the 2020 election in order to remind voters that Pappas is gay. Pappas ended up winning the election with 51.3% of the vote in the conservative-leaning district.

On Twitter, Pappas’ followers largely celebrated his engagement, tweeting well-wishes and offering their own stories about getting engaged or married. A few Twitter users — who appear to be trolls — condemned the relationship by saying “God doesn’t approve” of same-sex marriage or referring to homosexuality as a “disorder.”

But while Pappas may have some good news on the home front, his political career may be short-lived if New Hampshire’s Republican-led legislature has its way. Republican lawmakers on the State House of Representatives’ redistricting committee recently approved a proposed congressional map that would turn Pappas’ 1st Congressional District from a swing district into a Republican-leaning one. The proposed district would be difficult for any Democrat to win, but especially in the upcoming election year, when Republicans are expected to re-take control of Congress and flip a number of Democratic-held seats. 

For now, though, WMUR reports that Pappas seems “unfazed” by the prospect that he could face a tough re-election, even though the six announced Republican challengers — including Mowers — are already celebrating his political defeat, 11 months before the election. 

“While that work on redistricting continues at the State House, we’re full speed ahead,” Pappas said while touring 13 towns in his current district. “I think the work we’ve been doing isn’t just for Democrats in my district. It’s for Democrats, Republicans and independents — and even people who don’t participate in elections.”

See also:

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Mr. Gay World 2021 gives up title, accuses competition of “unlawful” conduct

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