CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern on Tuesday to become New Hampshire’s next governor and the nation’s youngest at 42.
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Sununu, whose father, John H. Sununu, served as governor in the 1980s, will replace Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who ran for U.S. Senate after two terms in Concord. He will be the state’s first Republican governor since Craig Benson, who was elected in 2002 and served a single two-year term.
Both Sununu and Van Ostern are younger than the current youngest governor — South Carolina’s Gov. Nikki Haley — and both were hoping to make the leap from the governor’s Executive Council to the governor’s office. The five-member council approves state contracts and nominations, though Sununu and Van Ostern spent much of the campaign criticizing each other’s day jobs.
Sununu, now in his third term on the council, previously worked as an environmental engineer and as a business consultant. In 2010, a group of investors led by his family purchased the Waterville Valley ski area, and Sununu has worked there as general manager and CEO.
He frequently described himself as a “stakeholder” in the key issues facing the state and said he’d focus on maintaining the state’s tradition of local control in education, health care and other issues.
“We can keep going down the path of big government programs, of making them permanent and losing control, or we can elect a governor who believes that when New Hampshire people do it the New Hampshire way, we do it better than anyone else,” he said in a recent debate.
Van Ostern argued that the resort suffered under Sununu’s management, while Sununu said Van Ostern’s short time at Southern New Hampshire University and Stonyfield Yogurt hardly make him a business leader.READ MORE: Head Of The Charles Regatta Returns Friday For First Time In Two Years
Joan Wills, 84, a lifelong Democrat from Concord, switched allegiances and voted for Sununu, saying she picked him because she felt he would keep taxes low, “not because he’s got the name.”
“I’ve never voted Republican and today I went all the way,” she said.
Van Ostern came to New Hampshire to work on U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign in 2002 and later worked for presidential candidates John Edwards and John Kerry, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and the New Hampshire Democratic Party. More recently, he worked as a brand manager at Stonyfield Yogurt and as the chief marketing officer at Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, a nonprofit college that partners with businesses to allow workers to earn degrees with little or no debt.
Van Ostern said he would focus on attracting young people and new businesses to the state. He also said that on issues ranging from funding for Planned Parenthood to expanding Medicaid, he has sought to connect people to the policies behind his positions.
“For me, this is about focusing on what’s best for people and getting past the old, outdated political interests,” he said. “We need to move our state forward and do it in a bipartisan way, and I know that means always looking out for people.”
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Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.