Better late than never: Democrats pick Kelly for NH governor
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former state senator who jumped into the race for governor of New Hampshire more than a year after her Democratic opponent beat him in Tuesday’s primary and will face Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November.
Molly Kelly, a former five-term state senator from Harrisville, defeated former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand. Though she didn’t start campaigning until April, she quickly gained the support of key Democrats, including the state’s two U.S. senators.
Both Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are former state senators and governors, and Kelly would be the third woman elected governor if she beats Sununu.
During the campaign, Kelly often emphasized her upbringing as the second oldest of 11 siblings and her later years as a single mother who raised three children while putting herself through college.
“I was willing to do whatever it took to open doors for myself and to bring possibilities and opportunities to my children. And I want to do that for everyone in New Hampshire,” she said during a debate last week.
“A governor sits in a hot seat, a governor makes difficult and important decisions about the people she serves. She must know who she is, what her values are and what those values have been. I have been tested and I am ready to be governor,” she said.
While Marchand made a pitch for bold vision instead of compromise and cast himself as the true progressive in the race, Kelly argued that she had the track record to back up her ideas, citing work in the Senate on issues such as support for public education, women’s rights and gun safety.
She accused Sununu of pandering to the Trump administration with his support of a school voucher bill that ultimately failed. And she accused him of failing to do enough to address serious deficiencies at the state’s child protection agency, which has been under intense scrutiny since the deaths of two toddlers under its supervision.
She called for a system of care separate from the Division of Children, Youth and Families to focus on prevention and intervention measures that would help families avoid abuse and neglect.
Sununu, who was unopposed in his primary, said in a statement that he looks forward to promoting his pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.
“We are getting the job done for New Hampshire — without raising taxes or fees — and Granite Staters are taking notice,” he said.
But Kelly said strong Democratic turnout Tuesday should send a message that voters want a governor who will put the people first, not corporate special interests.
“The people of New Hampshire know that I will fight for them every single day because I understand their struggles,” she said. “Chris Sununu should not underestimate me.”