CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire will have its first openly gay member of Congress, after Greek-American Democrat Chris Pappas narrowly defeated Republican Eddie Edwards on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump loomed large in the 1st Congressional race, with Donald Trump Jr. calling on voters to support Edwards days ahead of the election and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani campaigning with him Monday.
Pappas, for his part, worked to present himself as a bipartisan voice for New Hampshire and said he would serve as a check on Trump and the Republicans in Washington. He also said he would work to fight against Trump policies that discriminate against the LGBT community, including making transgender service members feel unwelcome.
“I am humbled beyond words that the voters of the 1st Congressional District placed their trust in me today,” Pappas told supporters. “Voters in New Hampshire and all across the country are delivering a strong message. When America is faced with a challenge, we don’t’ give up. We don’t give into fear or anger. We persevere.”
In the state’s other House race, Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster was re-elected with an easy victory over Republican state lawmaker Steve Negron.
Kuster won a fourth term in the 2nd District, which covers the northern and western parts of the state. She was first elected in 2012. Among her top issues are fighting sexual violence and supporting veterans and seniors. She also worked across the aisle with Republicans on issues like the opioid crisis and agriculture.
“Tonight the people of New Hampshire 2nd Congressional District sent a message loud and clear that they want a Granite State and a country where no one is left behind and where we stand for the values of decency, integrity and opportunity for every single person,” Kuster told her supporters.
“When I went to Congress, I promised a new approach and that’s what we’ve done— bringing people together, Republicans, Democrats, Independents to solve complex problems,” she said.
In the 2nd District, Kuster benefited from greater name recognition and her profile as an incumbent. Negron trailed in the polls for much of the campaign and was far outspent by Kuster.
Kuster said she plans to fight Republican proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare and would continue to advocate for women including sexual assault victims.
For his part, Negron who opposed expanding Medicaid in the state, argued that Medicare should be run by states and that the opioid crisis should be fought locally. Negron, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and a supporter of President Donald Trump, was a backer of building a wall to stem illegal immigration.
“It is disappointing to be honest with you. We thought we had done what we need to do to be competitive,” Negron told The Associated Press. “No regrets … I’m not going away. New Hampshire needs someone who will be a guiding light for the Republican Party going forward and hopefully I can be that guy.”
Justin O’Donnell, the Libertarian candidate, came in third.
Pappas, a former state lawmaker who helps run a family restaurant and serves on the Executive Council, said he would work to protect Social Security and Medicare, strengthen the federal background check system for guns and pass more policies that attract young workers to the state, including paid family leave and building a commuter rail service from Manchester to Boston.
“It is time to focus on making progress for Granite staters once again,” Pappas said. “Whether you are a Republican, an independent or Democrat, wherever you live, whatever your income, race or religion or whomever you love, I will get up each and every day and work for you.”
Edwards, a former state liquor commission official and police chief, campaigned for gun rights, limited government and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Unlike Pappas, Edwards never really embraced the face that could have made history as the state’s first African-American congressman, saying neither race, nor gender nor sexual orientation should define the race.
“Chris won tonight but we didn’t lose,” Edwards told supporters. “This is really about sending a message about what conservatism is all about. I’m very proud that we can deliver a message when we talk about human decency, unity, bringing our country together.”