By John Celock
Ending speculation that has dominated Granite State politics all year, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) announced Monday that she will challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) next year rather than seek a third term as governor.
In a video posted online Monday, Hassan touted her record in Concord, saying that “common sense” governing was needed in Washington. She did not take on Ayotte directly in the video, instead saying that Washington needed to be fixed. Hassan was a top recruit for national Democrats and her candidacy instantly makes the New Hampshire Senate race one of the most competitive in the nation for 2016.
“Washington has given in to powerful special interests and lobbyists who have rigged the system for themselves and against the middle class,” Hassan said in the video.
Hassan, who is in the middle of her second two-year term, had delayed a launch for her expected Senate campaign saying that she wanted to wait until she reached an agreement with the Republican-controlled state Legislature on a budget and tax plan. Hassan has been locked in battle with legislative Republicans all year on tax and spending issues. Speculation had occurred that Hassan would decide against a challenge to Ayotte and instead seek a third term in the Statehouse.
Hassan’s decision opens up the governorship in the 2016 election, promising that the swing state will see one of the most competitive gubernatorial battles of 2016. Republican Executive Counselor Chris Sununu, the son of former Gov. John Sununu (R), has already entered the gubernatorial race. On the Democratic side, Executive Counselors Colin van Ostern and Chris Pappas, and former state House Speaker Terrie Norelli have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates.
In her announcement, Hassan touted what she said was a bipartisan record in state government, including freezing university tuition, lowering community college tuition and launching a statewide roads program, along with cutting research and development taxes. She said that she wanted to address many of the same issues in the Senate.
Hassan outlined a similar platform to other Democratic Senate candidates, including a focus on the innovation economy, reducing drug addiction, protecting Social Security and highlighting women’s health.
Ayotte, a former state attorney general, was first elected to the Senate in 2010. Known for her outspokenness on national security issues, Ayotte is known for her alliance with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). She has been mentioned in the past as a potential Republican vice presidential nominee, chatter which will likely die down given the competitive Senate race she now finds herself in.
Hassan, New Hampshire’s third woman governor, would be only the second woman in American history to serve as both a governor and U.S. senator if elected. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is the first woman to hold both offices.