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Molly Kelly, Chris Pappas win Democratic primaries in New Hampshire

Chris Pappas arrived at a polling place in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday. Pappas topped an 11-member field in the race to succeed retiring Representative Carol Shea-Porter.Elizabeth Frantz/New York Times

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Democratic voters in New Hampshire on Tuesday selected Molly Kelly, a former state senator, as their nominee for governor, as female candidates for governorships continue to show their strength in primary elections this year.

Kelly’s victory brings to 15 the number of women who have won governor’s nominations, a record.

Backed by the local political establishment — she was endorsed by both of the state’s US senators — Kelly, 68, defeated Steve Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth who ran to her left, according to results compiled by the Associated Press. She held about 66 percent of the vote with 18 percent of the ballots counted.


Her road to the governor’s mansion, however, is uphill: In the general election, she will face the Republican incumbent, Chris Sununu, who is one of the most popular governors in the country.

In another contest in the state, voters went to the polls to select candidates for a crucial open seat in the First Congressional District, a perennial swing district. On the Democratic side, Executive Councilor Chris Pappas topped an 11-member field that also included Maura Sullivan, a veteran and former Obama Administration official, and Levi Sanders, the son of Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

Pappas is an openly gay former state lawmaker who is serving his third term on the governor’s Executive Council and runs a family restaurant in Manchester. He had the backing of the state’s US senators and said he is grounded in issues that voters care about.

The 1st District seat covers much of the eastern half of the state. It’s being left vacant by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, who is stepping down after four non-consecutive terms.