Republicans Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith battled it out from the start. But Lamontagne handily defeated Smith for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Lamontagne led in unofficial results, 68 to 30 percent. Smith conceded before 10 p.m. yesterday.
A third candidate, Robert Tarr, only received 2 percent of the vote.
Lamontagne, a Manchester attorney, swept much of Southern New Hampshire. One exception was Smith’s former hometown of Londonderry, where he received 1,087 votes to Smith’s 1,170.
With 75 percent of the votes tallied, Lamontagne received 58,945 votes to 26,096 for Smith. Tarr garnered 1,326.
Lamontagne will now face off against Democrat Maggie Hassan of Exeter in the election Nov. 6. The winner will replace Gov. John Lynch, who is stepping down after four terms.
Lamontagne and Smith, a former state representative and political activist from Litchfield, shared similar views on many issues.
They opposed a broad-based tax, support for limited expanded gambling and the need to jump-start the state’s economy.
The two also pledged to reduce business taxes and through cuts in spending. Both also opposed abortion and backed repeal of the state’s gay marriage law.
They both touted their experience and leadership abilities as the key factors that set them apart from each other. They also said a concrete plan is needed to put the state’s economy back on the right track.
“New Hampshire needs leadership for a change in the governor’s office,” Lamontagne said. “We need to have a governor who is pro-business orientation. ... Gov. Lynch has not been a leader.”
Lamontagne, 54, said his 26 years as a business lawyer and political experience a former New Hampshire state Board of Education chairman set him apart from Smith.
This is the second time Lamontagne is seeking the state’s highest office. He lost to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 1996, and also lost bids for Congress in 1992 and the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Lamontagne favors a new tax structure, rejecting a sales or income tax, and reducing the business profits tax from 8.5 to 8 percent.
Both Lamontagne and Smith favored limited expanded gambling. Smith supported two casinos in the state and a competitive bidding process. Lamontagne said the state should only have a casino at Rockingham Park in Salem and opposed issuing licenses through competitive bidding.
Smith, 35, served on the staffs of former Gov. Craig Benson and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H.
He also was assistant director of the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the executive director of Cornerstone Action.
Before the election, Smith pledged to reduce business regulation and reform the business profits and business enterprise taxes.
Many voters interviewed at polls across Southern New Hampshire said the gubernatorial race was the main reason they came to vote yesterday.
“I think we need to get a Republican governor in office,” said Gerard Fauvel, 63, of Salem. “I think it’s time for a change.”
Tony Foglia, 72, of Salem supported Lamontagne for governor. Foglia said the next governor needs to help bring expanded gambling to Rockingham Park.
“It’s going to bring some employment to the area and help the economy,” he said.
Salem resident Bob Gaudette, 77, said he voted for Lamontagne because of his promise to not raise taxes.