Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, entered the race for governor of New Hampshire on Monday, following Governor Chris Sununu’s announcement last week that he would no longer run for office in 2024.
“I am running for governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts, from becoming something we are not,” Ms. Ayotte wrote in her campaign announcement. Maura Healey, a Democrat, flipped the Massachusetts governor’s office last year after Charlie Baker declined to run again. Both Mr. Baker and Mr. Sununu are popular moderate Republicans in their states.
Ms. Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general, was ousted from her Senate seat in 2016 by Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who had previously served as the state’s popular governor.
Ms. Ayotte’s candidacy for governor comes at a time when the state is receiving renewed attention from Republican presidential hopefuls, many of whom have repeatedly traveled to the state for courtroom voters who will be among the first to go to the polls in the GOP primaries.
Ms. Ayotte is expected to garner broad support among Republicans in the state, in a race that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved to a tossup, as a solid-Republican, after Mr. Sununu said he would not run again. Chuck Morse, the former New Hampshire state senate speaker who lost the GOP Senate primary in the race to face Ms. Hassan last year, entered the race almost immediately following Mr. Sununu’s announcement.
Two Democrats in the state — Cinde Warmington, a member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, and Joyce Craig, mayor of Manchester — announced their candidacies ahead of Sununu’s statement.
Ms. Ayotte faced a tough re-election campaign in 2016 even as Republicans gained power nationwide. You only served one term in the Senate.
Although New Hampshire has had several recent statewide Republican officials, the state has leaned blue in the presidential election, backing Democrats in the last five.
Alongside her announcement, Ms. Ayotte launched a long list of confirmations by dozens of Republicans across the state, who rallied around his candidacy.
But national Democrats were quick to criticize the former senator and have indicated they intend to make abortion protection central to the race.
“Kelly Ayotte has spent her career working to stack the deck against New Hampshire’s working families and attacking their most basic freedoms — even leading the charge for a nationwide abortion ban — which is why New Hampshire voters dropped her seven years ago after just one term in the Senate,” wrote Izzi Levy, deputy communications director for the Democratic Governors Association.
In her statement on Monday, Ms. Ayotte said she will seek to address crime by « defending our law enforcement officers » and will aim to « protect and strengthen New Hampshire’s economic advantage. »
She also signaled that she would lean into the cultural issues motivating the Republican base, writing that she « would stand with parents, not bureaucrats, when it comes to deciding what’s best for our children. »