The battle for New Hampshire’s 1st District Congressional seat is officially set: It will be Republican Eddie Edwards vs. Democrat Chris Pappas in November.
It was a hard fought - often negative - campaign on both sides of the aisle, and voters certainly had their work cut out for them.
After years of electing the same two candidates -- Republican Frank Guinta and Democrat Carol Shea Porter -- this cycle, voters in both parties were faced with crowded primary ballots.
Republicans faced five choices, and Democrats had to choose from a historic 11-candidate field.
For Democrat Anne Ketterer, a Manchester resident, that long list made for an agonizing decision. One of the candidates, Chris Pappas is her Executive Councilor, and she trusts him. But she's also friends with another candidate, Maura Sullivan.
"I also adore Naomi Andrews - she's wonderful!" Ketterer said Tuesday night, ticking through other Democrats running for the 1st District seat. "I personally know Deaglan McEachern. I love Deaglan! And I'm not the only one who struggled with today's decision. Now - what it came down to was the hometown boy."
And in the end, it was that hometown boy and Manchester native Pappas, who won big. Pappas took home more than 40 percent of the vote, a decisive victory in such a crowded field. Sullivan followed next, with 30 percent, and Rep. Mindi Messmer finished in third with 9 percent.
"You know, I always trust Granite State voters to get it right, and tonight they didn't disappoint," Pappas told supporters at the Puritan, the restaurant and conference center his family owns.
The crowd of supporters slurped Mudslides and munched on chicken tenders, many of them raising their phones to capture Pappas' speech.
"You know, New Hampshire's 1st District sent a crystal clear message tonight. They're ready for a candidate who shares their values and is prepared to get to work," Pappas said. "They're ready for a check and a balance on President Trump and the Republicans in Congress."
Supporters were quick to point out another message in Pappas' victory: In New Hampshire, all politics is local. Many mentioned Pappas’ local roots and his path up New Hampshire’s political ladder.
It was a message specifically for Sullivan, a candidate who considered running in multiple congressional districts before moving to New Hampshire last year. Sullivan struggled all summer to shake off the carpetbagger label.
"I think many of us were concerned if there was a different result, it was going to send the message that you can parachute into New Hampshire, and if you have enough money, buy a congressional seat," said Judy Reardon, a longtime Democratic strategist from Manchester and Pappas supporter. "And for the sake of New Hampshire politics and the presidential primary, it is really good to see that can't work here."
But in a district that’s been dubbed the "swingiest swing district," Pappas has a busy eight weeks ahead. He will face Republican Eddie Edwards, a former South Hampton police chief and former head of enforcement for the state Liquor Commission.
Edwards worked hard during his primary campaign to attract supporters of President Donald Trump, who won the 1st District in the 2016 general election. Edwards was endorsed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, now Trump’s personal lawyer.
At his victory speech at the Toyota dealership in Portsmouth Tuesday night, Edwards listed what he considers the president’s accomplishments.
"Minorities are working, women are working, wages are starting to increase," Edwards said. "You have more money in your pocket. It's time to get it done, it's time to make sure Washington D.C. doesn't interfere in the state of New Hampshire's business."
Edwards beat his main rival, state Senator Andy Sanborn, by just over 3,000 votes. The two have spent the last few weeks of the primary attacking one another. News came out over the summer that Sanborn had made a crass comment to a State House intern years earlier. Edwards called it part of a "pattern of predatory behavior" from Sanborn.
"You guys spoke loud and clear," Edwards told supporters. "That ethics, character, integrity matters. It matters most here in the Granite State."
And for Republican voters like Pat Thomas of Hampstead, Edwards' emphasis on character made the difference.
"That's the number one thing with me," Thomas said. "He's a veteran, he was a police chief...and he's not politics as usual."
No matter who wins in November, it will be historic. If Pappas is elected, he would be the first openly gay representative from New Hampshire. If Edwards wins, he would be the state’s first black congressman.