Former state senate Molly Kelly cruised to victory over Steve Marchand Tuesday in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. It was a big win for her, and for the party establishment who threw their support to Kelly from the moment she became a candidate.
Kelly’s margin of victory– she beat Steve Marchand by about 2 to 1 and carried all but a few small towns – was large. And as Kelly addressed supporters in Keene, she said her win should serve as a notice to Chris Sununu.
“Let me send a message to Chris Sununu: Do not underestimate me. I’ve been underestimated before.”
Including, perhaps, by her primary rival Steve Marchand. The former Portsmouth mayor first ran for governor in two years ago, and basically never stopped running.
He rolled out detailed and progressive policies on issue after issue. Throughout he insisted voters were hungry for bold leadership, but as Marchand conceded the race at about 9 o’clock, he seemed shell-shocked by the scope of his loss.
“I’ll make a few remarks, so you can eat and drink. I may be drinking.”
Supporters of both candidate were quick to see the outcome of the primary as about more than simply voters preferring Molly Kelly.
Becky Hudson of Lyndeborough, who favored Marchand, was quick to see something malign in Kelley’s high-profile backers.
“I felt like Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan, Annie Kuster, Planned Parenthood, and everyone else who endorsed her just voted for me, so I feel like my vote doesn’t count. I am so disappointed. I am really upset about it.”
But to Kelly's supporters, her victory was well earned, and the fruit of her many years serving the party and sharing its core values. Former Democratic state chair Kathy Sullivan says Kelly, who is the 15th woman to win gubernatorial primary this year, touches a lot of bases.
Kelly had a very consistent record on a lot of issues that are important to Democrats and sometimes the grass roots candidate is the establishment candidate.
Kelly will need broad support from her party to knock off incumbent Chris Sununu. Democrats may have held the corner office in New Hampshire for most of the past two decades.
But only one governor in the last century - Craig Benson - has been turned out of office after just one two-year term.
Polling indicates most voters feel the state is headed in the right direction. But Kelly used a good deal of her victory speech to cast Sununu as out of touch with the needs to the people.
“It is time that New Hampshire once again put the people first and I will be that governor.”
Sununu signaled his campaign plans to highlight what he considers a record of accomplishment.
“We work together, we bring ideas together and that’s how we’ve gotten so much done over the last couple of years here.”