Nov. 11, 2021 — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) held a long awaited news conference this week to announce his political plans for 2022. The governor had been the Republicans’ top recruitment prospect to challenge vulnerable Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, but the three-term state chief executive has chosen to eschew a tough Senate challenge and will instead run for a fourth gubernatorial term.
Though Sununu, like his father before him, has been elected three times as governor, he is still only in his fifth year of service. New Hampshire and Vermont are the only states that have two-year gubernatorial terms. In fact, for a 146-year period, no one had served more than one term as the state’s top office holder. The only governor in New Hampshire history to serve four terms is Democrat John Lynch, who was in office from 2005-2013.
Gov. Sununu’s decision certainly changes the New Hampshire political landscape and will cause potential candidates to begin assessing their chances both in a Senate race against Hassan and as a gubernatorial contender opposite Sununu. Attention now may turn to two-term US Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester).
The Republicans, with trifecta control of the New Hampshire political system in that they hold the governor’s office and have majorities in both houses of the legislature, are looking to change the marginal 1st Congressional District, the seat that has defeated more incumbents than any CD in the country since 2004, into a Republican domain. Doing so would concede the politically marginal 2nd District to incumbent Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord).
Pappas, aware that a significant change in his district could make him an underdog for re-election, was likely headed into an open governor’s race if Sununu decided to run for Senate. Now that he would have to take on a popular incumbent, his next political move may be less clear.
Turning back to the Senate picture, incumbent Hassan still remains as the most vulnerable Democrat seeking re-election in 2022; so where do Republicans go now? Looking at the crowded 1st District race, two contenders stand out as potential statewide candidates.
Gail Huff Brown, a long time New England television news reporter, is the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and she has already announced her congressional candidacy. Former Sen. Brown, himself, would also be a possibility since he has already run for the Senate once in New Hampshire. Matt Mowers is the 2020 1st District nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. He, too, is an announced congressional candidate but it appears possible that at least one of the aforementioned could instead enter the Senate race.