Editorial: Stage is set for a showdown in November

  • Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Molly Kelly celebrates her victory Tuesday in Keene. AP

Published: 9/13/2018 12:04:17 AM

Diversity was the big winner in Tuesday’s state primary, and the results prove that New Hampshire is not the insular, tradition-bound state some wrongly believe it to be.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the 1st Congressional District, where Democrat and current Executive Councilor Chris Pappas faces Republican Eddie Edwards, a former Hampton police chief and state liquor enforcement officer, in the race to replace Carol Shea-Porter. Pappas would become the state’s first openly gay member of Congress and Edwards its first African American representative.

The election also led to the unseating of Concord state Rep. Dick Patten by fellow Democrat Safiya Wazir. Wazir fled Taliban terrorists in her native Afghanistan, graduated from Concord High School, became an American citizen and now at age 27 seeks to represent residents of District 17 in the Legislature. If elected, she would be the first former refugee to hold public office in New Hampshire.

The results were also a testament to the popularity of former governors and current U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and 2nd Congressional District Rep. Annie Kuster. The trio strongly backed five-term state senator Molly Kelly in her race against former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand to challenge incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu. Kelly won in a landslide. To his credit, Marchand, who campaigned hard for more than a year, was quick to call for party unity and announce his strong support of his opponent. Kelly was undaunted at the prospect of challenging Sununu, who is considered to be one of the nation’s most popular governors. “Do not underestimate me,” Kelly told Sununu in a speech to supporters. “I’ve been underestimated before.”

Voters across the state will face clear choices in November. The distinctions promise to be especially stark in the congressional races. Edwards and state Rep. Steve Negron, the Air Force veteran and businessman Republicans chose to run against Kuster, are strong supporters of President Trump. The Democrats they will run against are critics of the president.

Trump’s popularity has continued to fall among Democrats and independents, and given the president’s tempestuous personality and his administration’s recurring scandals, the so-called Trump effect could impact many of the nation’s upcoming elections.

The election outcome also once again demonstrated how skeptical New Hampshire voters are of candidates perceived as carpetbaggers, and of the influence of outside money and party heavyweights on state elections. Democratic congressional candidate Maura Sullivan, who had national backing and a great resume but limited tenure in the state, was easily defeated by Pappas, a vote reminiscent of the state’s 2014 rejection of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

With two months to go, anything could happen. The electorate was engaged. Turnout was heavy. November will be interesting.

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