By Samantha Flom
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) will seek the governorship of New Hampshire in 2024, the candidate announced on July 24, ending speculation about her political future.
“The battle to protect our Live Free or Die way of life must continue,” Ms. Ayotte said in a statement. “I’m running for Governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts—from becoming something we are not.”
The Republican, 55, served one term in the U.S. Senate from 2011 to 2017 before losing her bid for reelection to current Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in 2016. Prior to her time in Washington, Ms. Ayotte served from 2004 to 2009 as New Hampshire’s attorney general.
“I was born and raised here,” she said. “I raised my kids here, and you know what? I am going to die here because this state and its people are different. What we have here is worth fighting for.”
Ms. Ayotte’s announcement follows Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s revelation last week that he will not seek reelection in 2024. He was elected to his fourth term last year.
In her statement, she praised Mr. Sununu as “an excellent leader who has worked hard to defend our Live Free or Die values and improve New Hampshire’s quality of life.”
Adding to those comments during an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” Ms. Ayotte said, “Gov. Sununu did a great job, but there’s going to be a vacuum there.”
Touting New Hampshire’s lack of income and sales taxes, she again pointed to Massachusetts, which has both, as an example of what she did not want her state to become.
“I’m running for governor to make sure New Hampshire remains safe, prosperous, and free.”
To achieve those goals, Ms. Ayotte said that as governor, she would prioritize public safety, in part by stemming the flow of fentanyl into her state and enacting bail reform.
“We need to end the revolving door because we have a weak bail law that Democrats pushed that has allowed violent criminals to get back on our streets and continue to harm New Hampshire citizens.”
Preserving New Hampshire’s economic advantage, she added, would be another key objective for her administration.
State of the Race
Ms. Ayotte is the second Republican to enter the race after former New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse declared his candidacy on July 19.
“Like most everyone else in New Hampshire, I’m thankful for everything that Governor Sununu has done to make New Hampshire the state it is today,” Mr. Morse said in a statement. “I’m proud to have worked with him to put together a conservative, pro-jobs, pro-growth, family-first economic agenda that has made New Hampshire the envy of New England and the nation.”
The Granite State, he noted, has both the lowest poverty rate (7.4 percent, according to the Department of Agriculture) and the highest taxpayer return on investment in the nation.
“Now that Mr. Sununu’s decided not to run for reelection, I’m announcing that I am running for Governor to build on those successes,” he said.
Two Democrats have also thrown their hats into the ring: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington.
In a July 23 op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Ms. Craig emphasized education, public safety, and access to affordable housing and abortion as her primary objectives.
“I have a proven track record of taking on difficult challenges and finding common-sense solutions,” she wrote. “I’m running for governor because too many families are being left behind, and we’re facing extreme threats on access to abortion, attacks on the LGBTQ community, and even threats to our democracy. That’s what’s at stake in this election.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Warmington’s campaign website characterizes her as “the last line of defense against Republican overreach and extremism” as the only Democrat on the state’s Executive Council.
Also a health care attorney, she started her legal practice at Shaheen and Gordon P.A., the law firm of Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s husband, Bill Shaheen.
In an announcement video posted to her Twitter account on June 1, Ms. Warmington emphasized her pro-abortion stance, calling for the codification of Roe v. Wade and state funding for abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t know if Chris Sununu is running for governor or president, and frankly, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m running for governor to make New Hampshire a place where everyone is free to thrive.”
Days after that video was posted, Mr. Sununu announced that he would not enter the GOP presidential primary field despite rumors to that effect.
In a June 5 Washington Post op-ed, the governor said the already crowded Republican field needed to thin itself out, not get bigger.
“No one can stop candidates from entering this race, but candidates with no path to victory must have the discipline to get out,” he wrote. “Anyone polling in the low single digits by this winter needs to have the courage to hang it up and head home.”
Former President Donald Trump has been the clear frontrunner in the Republican primary contest since announcing his candidacy for president in November.
Mr. Sununu, an outspoken critic of the 45th president, said in his op-ed that he felt he could best serve the Republican Party by opposing Mr. Trump “as a non-candidate to help move the conversation toward the future I believe the Republican Party should embrace.”
Ms. Ayotte was endorsed by Mr. Trump during her 2016 reelection bid. While she initially supported him in his first bid for the White House, she rescinded that support upon learning of controversial statements he’d made about women years prior.
When asked on “Fox and Friends” on July 24 which Republican candidate she thought would win in the key New Hampshire primary, she hedged her response.
“It’s been great to have the Republican candidates here. Joe Biden’s been a disaster, and I look forward to supporting our Republican nominee.”