New Hampshire is set to elect either its first openly gay member of Congress or its first black representative.
Democrat Carol Shea-Porter's decision to step down after four non-consecutive terms in the 1st Congressional District resulted in no fewer than 17 candidates vying for the district's first open seat in 16 years. While it used to be reliably Republican, the district has flipped in each of the last four cycles, becoming a swing district in a swing state.
In the 1st District, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas won Tuesday's 11-way primary race for the Democratic nomination, beating a former Obama administration official who had raised more money than the other 10 candidates combined. Maura Sullivan, a Marine veteran and former Pentagon official, faced criticism for being both new to the state and voting in general, having just moved to New Hampshire last year and acknowledging she failed to vote in several recent elections.
"I always know Granite Staters will get it right," Pappas told a cheering crowd Tuesday night.
Pappas, who is gay, is a former state lawmaker who is serving his third term on the governor's Executive Council, runs a family restaurant in Manchester and has the backing of key Democrats including the state's two U.S. senators. He told supporters Tuesday evening his campaign will be about decency, unity and progress, and described meeting an LGBTQ student in Manchester who said she was unsure of her place in the community.
"She needs a role model and a champion, too, and I hope this historic victory tonight has some small impact in making her understand this fact: You, too, are welcome here, and regardless of who you are or who you love, the sky's the limit," he said.
Levi Sanders, Bernie Sanders' son, was one of the Democrats vying for the seat. Sanders lives in Claremont, well outside the district, and didn't mount much of campaign. He raised less than $12,000, a tiny fraction compared to Pappas and Sullivan. His father did not endorse him.
Eddie Edwards, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, defeated six opponents on the Republican side. A Navy veteran who also served as enforcement chief for the state liquor commission, Edwards is the second African-American to be nominated to a U.S. House seat in New Hampshire.
Edwards had sought to make the race about character, and said he'd refuse to support his main rival, state Sen. Andy Sanborn, as the nominee after Sanborn was accused of sexual harassment at the Statehouse.
"People demand change in Washington," Edwards said. "They yearn for honesty, integrity, and leadership. They want to vote for someone who has served our country and understands the honor that comes with that responsibility."
With 16 names on the ballots for the First District Congressional race, voters had a lot of homework to do, but they said it was all worth it.
"You have to get out and vote because if you don't, then you have no right to complain," said Manchester resident Michael Maher.
In Tuesday's other big race, Molly Kelly defeated former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and will now face Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November.
Kelly, a former five-term state senator from Harrisville, got into the race nearly a year after her opponent, but quickly gained the support of key Democrats, including the state's two U.S. senators. She emphasized her experience as a single mother who raised three children while putting herself through college.
While Marchand touted his progressive plans, Kelly said she has the track record to prove it on issues such as support for public education, women's rights and gun safety.
"The people of New Hampshire know that I will fight for them every single day because I understand their struggles," Kelly said in a statement. "The overwhelming turnout sends a message to Chris Sununu that they want a governor who will put the people first, not corporate special interests."
She accused Sununu of pandering to the Trump administration with his support of a school voucher bill that ultimately failed.
Sununu sailed through the primary unopposed. He's seeking a second term.
"Chris Sununu should not underestimate me," Kelly said.
Over in the 2nd Congressional District, Stewart Levenson, a whistleblower doctor who flagged abuses at the state's veterans hospital conceded victory early Wednesday to Republican rival Steven Negron, a state lawmaker, in a hard-fought primary to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.
"I want to congratulate Steve and thank the voters who supported my campaign," Levenson said in a statement. "This campaign proved that outsiders need to answer the call to public service."
Kuster faced no opposition in the primary.