Former state legislator Joe Kenney won the Republican primary Tuesday night for the Executive Council District 1 race.
Although vote tallies were still trickling in from the sprawling district's 108 towns and four cities, fellow candidate Christopher Boothby conceded the race to Kenney with a congratulatory phone call just before 9 p.m.
"It's been a short election cycle but a lot of work," Kenney said from his home. "We worked right up until the end."
Kenney, Boothby and Mark Aldrich were running for the GOP nomination for a March special election. Eighteen-term councilor Raymond Burton died in November after a battle with cancer.
"It's a very hard district to campaign in the middle of the winter," Kenney said. "A lot of nights we were just flat-out tired from working so hard."
Kenney, 53, faces Democratic candidate and longtime Grafton County Commissioner Michael Cryans of Hanover.
The final election will be held on March 11.
Kenney served in the New Hampshire House for four terms from 1994 to 2002, and in the state Senate for three terms from 2002 to 2008. A colonel with 30 years in the Marine Corps, Kenney is an Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran. He unsuccessfully challenged then-Gov. John Lynch in the 2008 election.
Boothby congratulated Kenney and said he planned to follow through with his pledge to endorse the winner of the Republican primary.
"I wish him the best of luck in the general election," Boothby said. "In a short campaign, you get to know your fellow candidates real quickly."
Boothby, 47, of Meredith is a former Belknap County commissioner who served as an intern for Burton while in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire.
Kenney said he also received a call from Aldrich, who offered his congratulations.
Aldrich, 64, of Lebanon was the only one of the three who hadn't held elected state office, although he is a veteran within Granite State political circles. He was state director for both U.S. Sens. Gordon Humphrey and Bob Smith for a combined 20 years.