Both Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith came into the race with strong conservative credentials. But Smith couldn’t overcome the name recognition and money of the front-runner.
At the night’s campaign headquarters in Concord, Bettie Lamontagne introduced her husband to a crowd of raucous supporters.
"Please welcome the love of my life, my best friend, and the person we all believe should be the next governor of the great state of New Hampshire, Ovide Lamontagne..."
After losing three previous elections--including a close second place finish to now Senator Kelly Ayotte in 2010--Lamontagne told his backers to enjoy this victory.
"Savor the moment. Please savor the moment," said Lamontagne, before pausing for dramatic effect.
"Now it’s over. Use it as a springboard to get us into the general election which starts right now! Tonight!"
Lamontagne promised voters that if elected, he would hold the line on taxes, back right-to-work legislation, and stop what he called a government sponsored take-over of the health care system.
Flanked by his two daughters, the lawyer from Manchester characterized this November’s general election as the most important in his lifetime.
"Our nation teeters on the brink of financial collapse, as a result of a runaway Federal government with out of control spending and unsustainable debt. The result: New Hampshire has lost tens of thousands of jobs, and our own economy has been shaken to its core. I refuse to stand by and allow New Hampshire to be part of the national decline. Economic recovery and job creation start right here at home, and require strong, principled tested and experienced leadership in the governor’s office, and I am ready to provide that leadership as your next governor, and to restore the New Hampshire advantage."
Lamontagne and Kevin Smith, a conservative activist from Litchfield, both ran on platforms centered on economic issues. They sparred on business tax cuts and how to best bring casinos to New Hampshire. But both were civil throughout the campaign.
In his concession speech, 35-year old Smith offered support to his former rival.
"It is vitally important that we as Republicans are unified in this effort, as we cannot afford another two years of Democratic control up there. And to that end, I look very forward to working with Ovide to see that he does become our next Governor."
Despite the loss, Smith is seen as a rising star in the GOP camp. He called on lawmakers to work together to solve problems facing the state.
"While our physical campaign ends tonight, the campaign of ideas and solutions to make New Hampshire into the most economically competitive state in the country, is one that cannot and should not leave our political discourse any time soon."
Dante Scala, a political scientist at UNH, says the election was good for both Republicans.
"The two candidates had a win-win situation tonight," says Scala. "Lamontagne had a sparring partner that allowed him to look a little more centrist than he might have, while the sparring partner, Kevin Smith, was able to get some name recognition."
Lamontagne will now have to face a more established sparring partner in the general election, as he seeks to give Republicans control of the corner office for the first time in eight years.