N.H. Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes has won the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination over Executive Council Andru Volinsky.
The two Concord residents were separated by a thin margin throughout Tuesday night. With 96 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, the Associated Press called the race in Feltes' favor, winning a little more than 52 percent of the vote.
Feltes, 41, declared victory in Concord late Tuesday night, while Volinsky, 64, said he planned to stay in the race until all the votes are counted.
“I respect the vote and I respect that in political campaigns, you win and you lose in public,” Volinsky told WMUR. “I am more than prepared to deal with that, but to cheat people out of their vote being counted is wrong.”
The winner will face Gov. Chris Sununu in the Nov. 3 general election. Sununu, a Newfields resident in his second term in office, won handily against Karen Testerman of Franklin and Nobody, a Keene resident who legally changed his name, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Despite Feltes’ lead in the race statewide, voters in most local towns favored his competitor at the polls Tuesday.
Election results from area clerks show Volinsky won in at least 27 of the 31 Monadnock Region communities in The Sentinel’s coverage area. The only local towns reporting results as of early Wednesday that went for Feltes were Hinsdale, Langdon and Walpole. Results from the town of Hancock were not available.
Overall, the region gave Volinsky a margin of more than 2,000 votes.
Rindge resident Jim McEachern, who typically votes Republican, said Feltes “struck me as being, or at least talking about, working across the aisle.”
The 73-year-old added that he liked Feltes’ overall message.
Feltes, a third-time senator, was employed by N.H. Legal Assistance until 2014, where he represented families of low to moderate income, veterans and seniors. For four years, he also directed the organization’s Housing Justice Project, which provides support to people without shelter or at immediate risk of becoming homeless.
He has continued to do some legal work since becoming a senator, as well as teaching part-time at New England College in Henniker.
If elected in November, Feltes plans to focus on improving education, addressing systemic racism and reducing the state’s environmental impact.
He told The Sentinel during his primary campaign that clean energy projects should be prioritized, as they benefit the environment and economy.
To do this, Feltes would encourage the implementation of clean power projects at the local level, push developers to think about clean energy when constructing or renovating buildings and pursue clean transportation options.
He’s also proposed establishing an office of racial equity within the governor’s office, similar to what Vermont has already done.
Feltes said the office would be staffed by a person of color and aim to identify policies and practices in state government that have a “disproportionate impact on communities of color.” The office would then work to eradicate or adjust those policies.
He has also said he’s committed to nominating a person of color to the N.H. Supreme Court, who would be the first to serve on that body.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, Feltes said the state should have offered more guidance to schools as they prepared to reopen and has criticized reopening guidelines that left many key decisions up to local districts.
Feltes’ school-reopening plan details everything from cleaning and mealtime protocols to social-distancing measures and assessments of school buildings to ensure they have proper ventilation.
A spokesperson for Feltes’ campaign did not respond for comment Wednesday morning.
At the polls Tuesday, many voiced their support for Feltes’ opponent.
Jacqui Cornwell, a Hancock resident and teacher at James Faulkner Elementary School in Stoddard, said Volinsky’s advocacy for state education funding was a “major deciding factor” in her support.
Disparities in this funding, which relies heavily on property taxes, was one of Volinsky’s focal points throughout his campaign. He told The Sentinel previously that income, sales and other taxes must be considered to increase financial resources for schools.
Volinsky — an executive councilor representing the second district, which spans from the border with Maine to the Vermont line and includes much of the Monadnock Region — was the lead lawyer in the Claremont school funding case decided by the N.H. Supreme Court in the 1990s. That decision established the state’s constitutional obligation to fund an adequate education.
Volinksy, who ran as a progressive and was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, also advocated for legalizing and taxing marijuana, and using those revenues to help fund schools.
“I really appreciated that he realizes that funding with property taxes is inequitable and doesn’t make a fair educational experience for students in New Hampshire,” Cornwell said.
Others said Volinsky’s plans to address climate change earned their vote.
Scott Nitchie of Swanzey said he particularly liked Volinsky’s anti-fracking policy, which would derail new projects that use natural gas obtained through that process.
In Rindge, Franklin Pierce University senior Griffin Fredette said the environment is one of the main issues he cares about, and he agrees with Volinsky’s environmental policies as a whole.Volinsky also called for establishing a “citizen-informed plan” to make the state carbon-neutral by 2030 and promoting the creation of new green-energy jobs.
Sentinel staff reporters Mia Summerson, Jack Rooney and Caleb Symons contributed to this report.