It wasn’t even close.
In the Democratic gubernatorial primary that political pundits last week said was too close to call, Maggie Hassan, the former majority leader in the state Senate, defeated business professor Jackie Cilley, 55 to 37 percent, in unofficial results.
Cilley, a Barrington resident, conceded at about 10 p.m.
“We know what our job is going forward,” Cilley said. “We need a Democratic slate in the fall.”
In a message to supporters, sent about half an hour after Cilley conceded, Hassan urged people to “get a good night’s sleep” and be ready to start working hard again today.
“We are celebrating a big win, but tonight is just the beginning of our efforts,” Hassan said. “Working together over the next 56 days, we can and we will put our state on the right path.”
In Salem, as in most other Southern New Hampshire towns, Hassan won handily. In Salem, she got 653 votes to Cilley’s 261. That was the story throughout much of southern Rockingham County.
Londonderry Democratic voters went for Hassan in a big way, giving her 760 votes to Cilley’s 209. Windham, too, gave Hassan the edge with 344 votes to Cilley’s 102.
In Hampstead, where just 377 Democrats cast ballots yesterday, Hassan received 251 votes to Cilley’s 81. There was a healthy 22 percent turnout in that town.
While voters may have had a tough time figuring out what separated GOP gubernatorial candidates Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith — other than name recognition — that wasn’t the case with the Democrats.
Hassan took the pledge against a broad-based sales or income tax, but Cilley mocked those who signed on to the familiar New Hampshire campaign staple.
She described them as “pledge zombies” in a TV ad that has been widely broadcast.
Hassan accused Cilley of secretly supporting an income tax, but Cilley maintained her refusal to sign the pledge was based on its ability to stop the conversation.
Businessman Bill Kennedy of Danbury ran a very distant third, as expected.
The two front-runners also split over expanded gaming. Hassan supports a single, high-end casino near the state border — a description Rockingham Park fits well. But while Cilley said she would remain open minded, she was skeptical of gaming’s revenue reliability.
Cilley touted her background and ability to reinvigorate the state’s economy. Hassan pointed to her record and role in the state Senate.
Both candidates said they would restore the 10-cent cigarette tax cut and replace tax auditors the Legislature eliminated.
They also agreed funding needed to be restored oi the University System and both oppose privatizing the state’s prison system.
Labor split between the two.
The National Education Association, the leading teachers’ union, and key trade unions backed Hassan. But Cilley had the backing of firefighters and the State Employees Association.
Salem resident Jane Lang said although both Hassan and Cilley were strong candidates, she favored Cilley.
“I feel she has a very open mind,” Lang said.
Now, it will be a Hassan-Lamontagne matchup in November. They will battle to see who replaces longtime Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who opted not to seek re-election.
State Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Hassan would lead the state forward with an “innovation plan” to help businesses and middle-class families grow. He said Lamontagne “will side with the extreme, divisive Tea Party agenda of this Legislature.”
Wayne MacDonald, the Republican State Committee Chairman, said Lamontagne is just what New Hampshire needs.
“Ovide Lamontagne will build upon and expand what our Legislature has already enacted, keep our state’s spending low and our budgets balanced,” MacDonald said. “With him as our nominee, I am confident we will regain control of the corner office in Concord.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Follow Jo-Anne MacKenzie on Twitter @ETNHEditor.