After winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by a landslide Tuesday, area resident Molly M. Kelly will face N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu in November.
Kelly, of Harrisville, proved a popular choice in the Monadnock Region, beating her Democratic opponent Steve Marchand in every community in Cheshire County, almost all of them by wide margins. In Keene, she received 2,089 votes to Marchand’s 721.
Statewide, Kelly held about 65 percent of the vote with roughly 93 percent of the votes counted, according to The Associated Press. The news outlet called the Democratic primary for Kelly around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
As of press time this morning, the AP had not yet called the race for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, but Jilletta Jarvis of Sandown was leading Aaron Day, with 54 percent of the reported vote to his 46 percent.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters at her alma mater, Keene State College, Tuesday night, Kelly said Sununu should not underestimate her. Kelly, 68 — a financial adviser and consultant who served as state senator for a decade, until last year — had the support of many politicians, including N.H. Sen. Jay V. Kahn of Keene, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and U.S. Rep. Ann M. Kuster, all Democrats. She also received endorsements from Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, which aims to help elect female candidates who support abortion rights.
“Tonight, we can celebrate,” Kelly said. “Tomorrow, we take on Chris Sununu. It’s time that New Hampshire once again had a governor who put the people first.”
In a victory speech that repeated many of her campaign promises, Kelly vowed to protect public education and promote paid family and medical leave. She told her supporters she will fight for clean energy, and will work to make college affordable and preserve women’s reproductive rights.
In a statement Tuesday night, Sununu said he is looking forward to promoting his “pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda” in the general election.
“We are getting the job done for New Hampshire — without raising taxes or fees — and Granite Staters are taking notice,” the first-term governor from Newfields said.
Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the N.H. Republican Party, said in a statement that Kelly is a “sacrificial candidate” who will lose to Sununu.
“Molly was a far-left liberal senator, and she’s a far-left liberal candidate,” he wrote. “She was wrong for New Hampshire in the state senate, and she’s wrong for the New Hampshire Corner Office. New Hampshire is on the right track under Chris Sununu, and we cannot risk going back to the economic stagnation, tax hikes, and limited opportunity we experienced under Democrat administrations.”
Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth, said in a phone interview Tuesday night that he pledged his full support to Kelly in November’s general election.
“I have no regrets; we worked incredibly hard, and I think that I have a compelling message and a work ethic that’s tough to beat,” he said. “Obviously, Molly has significant advantages in a primary context that proved insurmountable this time around.”
This was Marchand’s second campaign for governor. He ran in 2016, but fell short of Colin Van Ostern for the Democratic nomination. Marchand said he has not given any thought to whether he’ll run again for governor.
“I’ve just spent a year and a half working my butt off, and so I’m not thinking a whole lot about the future,” he said.
At Keene State, Kelly’s supporters filled a room at the Alumni Center. They waved green “Molly Kelly Governor” signs and cheered after WMUR announced she had won the nomination. As Marchand’s concession speech aired, people in the room resumed their excited chatter, awaiting Kelly’s arrival. But then, a man raised his voice.
“He’s making a concession speech,” he told the crowd, pointing to Marchand’s face on the screen. “We’ve got to hear him.”
The general election is Nov. 6.