By Jim Ellis
Sept. 12, 2018 — The election cycle’s final primary week began yesterday in the Granite State. Tomorrow, Rhode Islanders go to the polls, and on Thursday New Yorkers return to choose state nominees after their federal candidates were selected on June 26.
In the NH governor’s race, former state Sen. Molly Kelly easily defeated ex-Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand to win the Democratic primary. With a turnout of over 100,000 voters, Kelly recorded a 66 percent victory. She will now challenge first-term Gov. Chris Sununu, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.
Two years ago, Sununu, the son of former governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu and brother of ex-senator and congressman John E. Sununu, defeated Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D), 49-47 percent. With strong approval ratings, Gov. Sununu begins the general election as a decided favorite to defeat Kelly.
The race, billed as the most competitive battle of the day, proved to be less than a nail-biter. Eleven Democrats were battling for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) as the party nominee for an eastern New Hampshire congressional district that has regularly swung back and forth between the parties since 2006.
Last night, Executive Councilor and restaurant owner Chris Pappas rather easily won the Democratic primary, capturing 42 percent of the vote with the remaining 58 percent spread among the remaining 10. As expected, his closest opponent was Maura Sullivan, a strong fundraiser who was a former US Veterans Affairs Department official in the Obama Administration. She scored 30 percent, but no other candidate even reached the 10 percent plateau.
Levi Sanders, son of Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, faired poorly, without even an endorsement from his father. He finished seventh with two percent, or just over 1,000 votes.
A bit of an upset occurred on the Republican side, as Eddie Edwards, the former South Hampton police chief, defeated state Sen. Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford), 48-41 percent, with four other candidates dividing the remaining 12 percent. Sexual harassment innuendos against Sen. Sanborn clouded the race and obviously helped Edwards, an African American, who raised well over $600,000 before the pre-primary financial disclosure deadline.
Considering that Pappas hails from the more populous part of the district, Manchester and central New Hampshire, while Edwards is from the smaller Seacoast, and Democratic turnout will prove approximately 13,000 voters higher than the Republican participation rate when all of the primary votes are finally recorded, the Democrats have a slight advantage here this year.
Pappas begins the general election as the favorite to succeed Rep. Shea-Porter, but this always unpredictable 1st District race should be one to watch.
Second District Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Concord), who only scored a 50-45 percent re-election victory in 2016 against an under-funded opponent, was unopposed in yesterday’s Democratic primary.
Her new general rival is state Rep. Steve Negron (R-Nashua), who posted a 27-25-23-15 percent victory over physician Stewart Levenson, former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, ex-Hillsborough County Treasurer Bob Burns, and three single-digit minor candidates. At one point during the counting, the vote spread between Negron and Dr. Levenson winnowed to just one vote.
Rep. Kuster must be viewed as a clear favorite in a district that has proven itself as the more Democratic entity of the two CDs. But in this state, which has seen so many political twists and turns during the past decade, no candidate of either party can be completely rated as safe.
Today, Rhode Island voters go to the polls in the nation’s only Wednesday primary. The contest worth watching is the Democratic gubernatorial primary where a weakened Gov. Gina Raimondo faces former Secretary of State Matt Brown. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, the 2014 Republican nominee who lost to Raimondo by just five percentage points, is favored to again become the GOP standard bearer. The general election is predicted to become competitive despite the state’s overwhelming Democratic voter registration base.