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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection to a fifth term in 2024, an unexpected move for the popular Republican that gives Democrats real hope of reclaiming the battleground state's top elected office during a presidential election year.
Sununu, who took office the same year Donald Trump entered the White House, said in an interview that the nation’s toxic political climate had no impact on his decision. But he decried Trump's impact on the GOP and vowed to use his political capital to help Trump's Republican rivals in the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary over the coming weeks and months.
“They call it ‘public service,’ not ‘public career,’” said Sununu, who has also decided against runs for president and the U.S. Senate in recent months. Turning to the 2024 presidential primary, he said, "I’m gonna be an aggressive proponent of everybody else (besides Trump) and a proponent of the Republican Party. Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party. He might be our nominee, but he doesn’t represent the future. He’s yesterday’s news.”
While Sununu, 48, intends to play an outsized role in state and national politics through the 2024 election, his decision gives Democrats reason to be optimistic about winning the governorship for the first time Sununu took office in 2017.
“Before Sununu, the Democrats had a lock on the governor office for a dozen years. Sununu changed all that,” said University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala. “He would have been the significant favorite had he decided to run for a fifth term. For the first time since 2016, we will be more likely to see a competitive race for governor. Democrats will have their best shot in a while.”
Already, several high-profile Republicans have signaled interest in succeeding Sununu.
Chuck Morse, former Republican president of the New Hampshire Senate and a former U.S. Senate candidate, announced his campaign for governor shortly after Sununu announced his decision in an email to supporters. Morse said in a statement that he’s proud to have worked with Sununu “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.”
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte may also be joining the field of candidates. She said “the battle to ensure that New Hampshire keeps our Live Free or Die spirit must continue” and teased the announcement of “some big news in the coming days.”
At least two Democrats have already launched bids for governor, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.
Democrats have struggled to identify a top-tier candidate for governor since former Gov. Maggie Hassan left office to join the U.S. Senate. But they have a definite advantage in 2024 — on paper at least.
New Hampshire is still considered a swing state, but no Republican presidential contender has carried the state since George Bush in 2000. Trump, who is seeking the GOP nomination for a third time and leads early primary polls in the state, lost New Hampshire by 7 points in the 2020 general election.
A popular governor who made the rounds on national talk shows this year, Sununu announced in June that he would not seek the presidency in 2024. He argued that Republican candidates with “no path to victory must have the courage to get out” of their party’s increasingly crowded primary to prevent Trump from being reelected.
He told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Trump has “no chance of winning” the presidency in 2024. “He's going to drag everybody else down with him as he has year after year after year,” he said.
Sununu said he plans to campaign with several Trump rivals in the weeks ahead, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Texas U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.
National Democrats cheered the news.
Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Meghan Meehan-Draper predicted “a nasty, extreme and expensive Republican primary for governor” featuring several supporters of what has become known as the `Make America Great Again' movement."
“Not only have Granite State voters consistently rejected that type of division and chaos, but after four terms of Sununu’s failures on worsening problems — like the housing crisis, attacks on public education and harmful abortion restrictions — they know it’s time for a change,” she said.
Sununu previously irked Washington Republicans by deciding against a U.S. Senate bid in 2021. They had hoped he could defeat Hassan, the Democratic incumbent, and help them retake the chamber in the 2022 midterms.
Instead, Sununu won reelection by more than 15 points last year, and said he could have a bigger and more direct impact as governor than as a senator. In a nod to the slow speed of politics in Washington, he said he didn’t want to spend the next six years “sitting around having meeting after meeting, waiting for votes to maybe happen.”
Sununu, whose father was governor from 1983 to 1989 and later served as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, was the youngest top executive in the country when he took office in 2017 at age 42. During his tenure, the easy-going politician known for folky manners was praised for his pro-business policies, efforts to combat inflation and his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republican Governors Association Chair and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a statement praising Sununu after his announcement, saying he “never backed down from a challenge.”
“He made it a priority to deliver balanced budgets, lower taxes, improve education, and address substance use disorders for New Hampshire citizens,” she said. “And, thanks to Governor Sununu’s leadership, New Hampshire now ranks number one in the nation for personal freedom."
Peoples reported from Hudson, N.H.
Posted on 19 Jul 2023 19:03 link