Republican Gov. John Sununu projected to win re-election in New Hampshire

  • New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will win re-election, NBC News projected.
  • Sununu defeated Democrat Molly Kelly, who emerged as a serious threat to the incumbent in the campaign's final days.
  • Kelly, a former state senator, ran on a liberal platform, while Sununu has called himself a supporter of President Donald Trump.
Chris Sununu, Republican Governor of New Hampshire.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Chris Sununu, Republican Governor of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will win re-election, NBC News projected, fending off Democrat Molly Kelly, who emerged as a serious threat to the incumbent in the campaign's final days.

Sununu had narrowly defeated Colin Van Ostern in the 2016 contest that sent him to the governor's mansion. But the incumbent, whose father John Sununu also served as governor, was strongly favored to win this year.

While polls of the race routinely put Sununu ahead of Kelly by double digits, the gap between the two narrowed as the election neared. On the eve of the vote, a University of New Hampshire poll found that an 11-point gap favoring Sununu in October had evaporated in just one month.

Kelly, a former state senator, ran on a liberal platform promising to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, slap new regulations on business to protect workers, and reinstate net neutrality. Sununu, on the other hand, has called himself a supporter of President Donald Trump — although he has criticized Trump as governor of a state that narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Democrats are eager to seize back as much power as possible after that election, when Republicans took control of the White House, both houses of Congress and the majority of governors.

Many of the gubernatorial elections were viewed as proxies for voters' feelings about Trump, whose polarizing brand of politics appeared to galvanize turnout on both sides of the aisle compared with previous election cycles.

New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states where governors face re-election every two years. Vermont's governor, Republican Phil Scott, was also elected in 2016 and is defending his seat against Democrat Christine Hallquist.