CONCORD, New Hampshire (AP) – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday that he will run for a fourth term instead of running for the Senate, hitting Republicans who hoped he could defeat incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan and help them reclaim their House in next year’s midterm elections.
Sununu, who won re-election by more than 30 percentage points last year, said he could have more and more direct influence as governor than as a senator. Noting the slow pace of politics in Washington, he said he would not want to spend the next six years “sitting around, meeting at a meeting, waiting for a vote to possibly take place.”
“I am not responsible to the impasse and politics of Washington, but to the citizens of New Hampshire. And I’d rather push forward 120 mph winning victories in New Hampshire than slow down and end up on Capitol Hill discussing party politics, but to no avail, ”he said at a press conference in Concord.
“I like to move. I like doing things. I don’t know if they can handle me down there, ”he said. “I think I would be like a lion in a cage, waiting to do something and make real change.”
Democrats currently have a slim 50-50 majority in the US Senate, as Vice President Kamala Harris played a decisive role in the vote. Sununu’s decision to run for a fourth two-year term in New Hampshire is having a ripple effect on the larger Senate national landscape, which began to settle a year before election day in 2022. The current map only offers a few legal options for a GOP pickup truck. – and even more states where Democrats are likely to be offended.
Sununu faced intense pressure to run for the Senate. At a meeting of leading Republicans last weekend in Las Vegas, he was repeatedly called upon to chair some of his party’s most powerful leaders.
“Everyone here has to come up to Chris and say, ‘Governor is great, but you need to run for the Senate.’ Because that man could single-handedly remove Chuck Schumer as Senate Majority Leader, ”Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the audience at the annual meeting of the leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Without Sununu, the best opportunities for Republicans may be in Georgia and Arizona, where first-term Democratic senators are undergoing their first re-election trials in states that President Joe Biden won by a narrow margin last year. But the retirement of Republicans in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Missouri will give Democrats a chance to thwart those states.
Although Democrats hold all four seats in New Hampshire’s Congress, Republicans control the state legislature, and Hassan’s victory in 2016 was marginal. In the state where Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Republican Donald Trump, she defeated incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte with a razor-thin 1,000 votes. Sununu, who stubbornly supported Trump in 2016, backed the president’s 2020 re-election proposal, even calling himself Trump’s boyfriend through and through. But Biden confidently won New Hampshire last year by more than 7 percentage points.
Ayotte, who has privately expressed an interest in running for governor if Sununu does not seek re-election, did not provide any indication in a statement on Tuesday that she plans to run for the Senate again.
“Governor Sununu has done a tremendous job in his post and I am so grateful that he will continue to serve our state and continue to fight for all the granite staters,” Ayotte said. “As for Joe and I, we will continue to focus on our family, professional careers and Republican elections here at home.”
At least two other Republicans have already entered the race to challenge Hasan: a retired army brig. General Donald Bolduc, who tried unsuccessfully to nominate another New Hampshire US Senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, in 2020, and Tejasinya Sivaling, who ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 2018.
“Maggie Hassan is the least popular and most vulnerable incumbent president in the US Senate, and for good reason,” said Chris Hartline of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is responsible for electing Republicans to the Senate. “We have a lot of great candidates in New Hampshire and we look forward to seeing one of them beat Hassan next November.”
Hassan’s campaign chief, Aaron Jacobs, said the senator is ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
“We know that no matter who becomes the Republican nominee, it will be a tough race,” he said. “The Senator has shown that she can work across the aisle to get results for the Granite Staters – which is why she holds the record for winning difficult races.”
Hasan, who served two terms as governor and three terms in the state Senate, is the second woman in US history to serve as both governor and senator at the same time. Shaheen, who beat Sununu’s brother, John E. Sununu, in the 2008 Senate race, was first.
Sununu, whose father was governor from 1983 to 1989 and later served as head of the White House under President George W. Bush, was the country’s youngest executive when he took office in 2017 at the age of 42. Now 47 years old, he has faced criticism. from Democrats for signing the state budget, which included a ban on late abortion, and from other Republicans for the COVID-19 restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Although he was an active supporter of the COVID-19 vaccine, he also opposed the Biden administration’s demands for vaccination of businesses.
Sununu said he wants to continue to focus on the pandemic, as well as to continue work on overhauling the state’s mental health system. He said the Senate may have been “an interesting adventure,” but he agrees with his decision.
“If you look at what their job is and what the governor’s job is… and what I can create here for our citizens is not even close,” he said.
Associated Press contributors Jill Colvin and Steve Peeples from New York contributed to this report.