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New Hampshire keeps GOP governor, sends Democrats to House

November 7, 2018
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Democrat Chris Pappas celebrates winning New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District race at an election party in Manchester, N.H. Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire voters split their tickets and maintained the status quo for top races Tuesday, re-electing their Republican governor and keeping both U.S. House seats in Democratic hands.

Gov. Chris Sununu defeated former state Sen. Molly Kelly to win a second, two-year term. Democrat Chris Pappas defeated Republican Eddie Edwards to claim the open U.S. House seat in the 1st District and will become the state’s first openly gay member of Congress. And Democrat Annie Kuster defeated Republican Steve Negron to win a fourth term in the 2nd District.

It was the sixth time in 12 elections voters have picked one party for governor and the other for members of Congress, most recently in 2016, when Sununu won his first term as governor and three Democrats were sent to Washington. The opposite scenario played out in the other four split elections, with Democrats winning the governor’s race and Republicans sweeping the U.S. House and Senate seats.

This year’s contests featured familiar names in the form of incumbents, a familiar path and a pair of firsts.

Kelly, a former state senator, was seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both of whom became governor after stints in the state Senate. Declaring that “women will not be silenced,” Kelly emphasized her past as a struggling single mom and her commitment to education, paid family medical leave and women’s reproductive rights. But Sununu argued that more significant legislation has passed during his tenure than under any other governor in the past two decades. And New Hampshire voters rarely deny a first-term governor a second term.

“I hope we really showed folks how to win elections in this state,” Sununu told supporters at his victory party. “It’s about staying positive, believing in people, talking about ideas, embracing details, having good, viable debate and making sure at the end of the day, we’re really getting the results for the people of New Hampshire.”

In the 1st Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s retirement meant voters found two new names on the ballot after choosing between the same two candidates in the past four elections.

Edwards, a former police chief and state liquor enforcement commission official, would have become the state’s first black member of Congress, though he said highlighting the history-making elements of the campaign was divisive. Pappas, however, said he saw value in telling his story as a nontraditional candidate to ensure that communities that feel marginalized are brought into mainstream society.

“Whether you’re a Republican, independent or Democrat, wherever you live, whatever your income, race or religion, and whomever you love, I will get up each and every day and work for you,” said Pappas, who serves on the governor’s Executive Council and runs a family restaurant.

Louis Mailloux, 57, a teacher from Bedford, voted for a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including Sununu and Pappas, to both reward job performance and elect some fresh faces.

“I voted Chris Sununu because I think he has been doing a good job, and I want to give him another two years to see if that continues,” he said.

Kuster said she plans to fight Republican proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare and would continue to advocate for women including sexual assault victims. She won the support of Brenda Quinn, a psychotherapist from Hopkinton, who said protecting access to health care and gun control were among her top issues.

“I’m an independent, but I probably leaned harder toward the Democratic vote than I ever have in my life,” she said. “I’m just going that way because I need a sense of safety.”

Lines were long at some polling places, and Secretary of State William Gardner predicted turnout of more than 500,000 voters, which would be a record for a midterm election.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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