State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes has won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, promising to prove the pundits wrong and defeat Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November.
The race had been too early to call until Wednesday morning, despite Feltes claiming victory Tuesday night.
Feltes defeated Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, a fellow attorney best known for representing struggling communities in a landmark education funding lawsuit in the 1990s.
But Feltes cast himself as the true champion of working families. He also emphasized his record in the Senate, but many of his bills were vetoed by Sununu, who called both Democrats out of touch and unprepared to lead New Hampshire.
Earlier in the day, with almost 91% of the precincts reporting, Feltes led Volinsky by just under 4,000 votes out of more than 130,000 votes counted.
While Volinsky hadn't conceded, Feltes claimed victory before 11 p.m. Tuesday, vowing to prove the pundits wrong and defeat Sununu.
"Working people and working families deserve a shot,'' he said. "It's not about is, it's about standing up for them.''
Both candidates emphasized their blue-collar upbringings and early experience as lawyers. Feltes worked as a legal aid attorney before being elected to the state Senate in 2014, while Volinsky was the lead counsel in a landmark education funding lawsuit in the 1990s before being elected to the Executive Council in 2016.
That lawsuit led to rulings that firmly established the state's obligation to provide and pay for an adequate education, but the lack of progress since then drove Volinsky into the governor's race.
Unlike Feltes, he did not take the traditional pledge to veto a sales or income tax, and believes all options should be on the table. On the Executive Council, Volinsky has been a vocal opponent of many of Sununu's appointments, including the governor's failed nomination of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as state Supreme Court chief justice.
Feltes, meanwhile, believes closing corporate loopholes would provide enough revenue to boost funding for schools, and highlights the current state budget, which significantly increased education funding. In his three terms in the Senate, he sponsored legislation on paid family medical leave, clean energy, worker protection and other Democratic priorities. But many of his bills got vetoed by Sununu, who has called both Democrats out of touch and unprepared to lead New Hampshire.
In the GOP primary, Sununu faced longtime conservative activist Karen Testerman, of Franklin, and Nobody, a Keene man who officially changed his name from Rich Paul. Though his opponents criticized him, Sununu has enjoyed widespread support for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as he seeks a third, two-year term.
In a statement, he said he was humbled and grateful for his win Tuesday night.
"We put a great team together for our state and provided the leadership necessary to guide New Hampshire through these unprecedented times,'' he said. ``Many of our biggest challenges still lay ahead, and in 2021 New Hampshire will need the management experience to promote businesses, keep our state safe, and invigorate economic opportunity for families. Others just talk -- I believe in results. We will keep getting the job done.''
The son of a former governor, Sununu was the youngest governor in the country when he took office in 2017 at age 42. While fellow Republicans held a majority in the Legislature during his first term, Democrats won majorities in 2018, prompting him to set a record for vetoed legislation.
Sununu has been a supporter of President Donald Trump, though he did not attend the president's recent rally in Londonderry beyond greeting him as he arrived. Trump lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Democrats hold all four seats in the state's Congressional delegation.