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Chris Sununu Wins Second Term As New Hampshire Governor

Tom Roy | The NH Union Leader
Governor Chris Sununu celebrates his victory in at his Manchester campaign headquarters Tuesday

Governor Chris Sununu won second term in Concord on Tuesday. He beat Democrat Molly Kelly by racking up votes in GOP towns and holding steady or better in the state’s two largest cities.

But Sununu will now have to work with a state legislature and executive council under Democratic control.

While Democrats ran strong up and down the ticket, Chris Sununu ran stronger where he needed to. His margin of victory swelled beyond what it was in 2016. But when he took the stage at his victory party, the Governor was quick to spread the credit.

[SEE the Governor's race results by precinct]

This is not about us," Sununu said. "This is your victory, you were out there knocking on the doors, you were out there putting up the signs, pushing the message. It’s all about getting results done.”

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR
Molly Kelly conceded in a speech to supporters at the Puritan Backroom in Manchester

For Sununu, a key result was carrying Manchester, where Democrats try to build margins. He also ran close to even with Kelly in Nashua, another bellwether city. Concord, Keene, Portsmouth and Dover - all rich in Democratic votes - were where Kelly ran strongest.

And while the planks of Kelly’s platform – a pledge to veto an income or sales tax and an emphasis on abortion rights – have been core messages for Democrats running for Governor for years, Kelly told supporters it was something new in our politics that prompted her run.

“You know I did get into this race because I was concerned about that the policies of the Trump administration had made their way to New Hampshire, and our campaign gave voice to hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters who agree.”

While anti-Trump messaging boosted Democratic turnout statewide, at least some of those voters likely voted for Sununu. For GOP loyalists like Nancy Kindler who lives in Epping, that outcome was a very mixed blessing.

“It’s very tricky, it’s very confusing. I’m glad Chris won. It’s tough that we had so many people that didn’t make it, but it’s all upstairs in the sky.”

Also up in the air is how and on what issues will Sununu work with Democrats. During his first term, they found common cause around full-day kindergarten.

But Democrats also helped kill Sununu-backed policies like right-to-work and school vouchers.

With Democrats running the legislative branch, Sununu will have to pick his spots, something Sununu seemed to acknowledge.

“The next two years are going to be a little bit different but that’s OK," Sununu told his supporters. "That’s New Hampshire right. Anybody who has ideas is invited to the table. Anybody who thinks that they can move the ball forward, get results for the people of New Hampshire, come on into the office we are open arms to everybody.”

That's easy to say on election night, but harder to do when lawmakers return to Concord.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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