Molly Kelly to face Sununu

Chris Sununu the incumbent governor of New Hampshire.

NASHUA – Democrat Molly Kelly is now on a collision course with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu after she handily defeated Steve Marchand in the Tuesday primary election.

“Chris Sununu should not underestimate me. I’ve been underestimated before. As a single mom raising three children, working my way through college to open doors of possibilities for myself and my children,” Kelly said.

“I will fight for you every single day so we can build a New Hampshire than works for everyone, not just a few,” she added.

The Associated Press called the race early for Kelly, a former long-time state senator from Harrisville, when she was leading with 65 percent of the vote, compared to about Marchand’s 34 percent. Now, she takes on Sununu, the scion of one of New Hampshire’s most prominent Republican families.

Sununu claimed victory for his own success in Tuesday’s primary, despite no actual opposition to his candidacy.

Molly Kelly

“I am humbled by the support, and look forward to promoting our pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda over the next 56 days,” Sununu said in a statement distributed by his campaign.

Kelly emerged as the Democratic party favorite, garnering early endorsement from top state Democrats, such as U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan. Marchand, who mounted a failed run for governor in 2016, took on the mantle of a fiery progressive. Marchand’s aggressively progressive stances on issues such as abortion and taxes failed to knock the Kelly campaign off its stride.

Kelly now faces the daunting task unseating an incumbent governor who is finishing his first term. In New Hampshire, nearly every governor in the past 90 years has won a second term. The most recent exception being Republican Craig Benson’s single term from 2003-05.

Kelly was initially elected to the state Senate in 2006, and served five terms while representing the Monadnock region. The second in a family of 11 children, Kelly was a single mother when she worked her way through Keene State College waiting tables, managing the family dorms, and delivering newspapers.

Kelly hopes to legalize recreational marijuana, establish a $15 per hour minimum wage, establish paid family and medical leave for all employees, and stop vouchers for private schools.

“When I’m governor, we will take care of our children and families instead of wealthy corporations,” she said. “That’s the only way we’re going to create opportunities and build a New Hampshire that works for everyone, not just a few.”

On the Libertarian ticket, unofficial results late Tuesday showed a tight race between Jilletta Jarvis and Aaron Day, with Jarvis maintaining a slight lead at press time.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or or @Telegraph_DF.