Sununu won’t run again. Republicans lining up for his job.

By: - July 20, 2023 5:00 am

Gov. Chris Sununu announced Wednesday on Twitter that he will not seek a fifth term. (Screenshot)

Gov. Chris Sununu announced Wednesday via Twitter that he will not seek a historic fifth term.

“Public service should never be a career, and the time is right for another Republican to lead our great state,” he wrote from his personal Twitter account. “This was no easy decision as I truly love serving as governor.”

He cited as his accomplishments the state’s low unemployment rate, tax cuts, and investments to expand housing. His list also includes bolstering the state’s mental health system and increasing state funding to families who want to home-school their children or enroll them in private school. 

Sununu’s announcement comes six weeks after he said he wouldn’t seek the presidency, citing concerns a crowded Republican field would advantage former President Donald Trump.

Sununu did not indicate his future plans beyond filling out the remaining 18 months of his term. His office did not return a message seeking comment. 

Three Republicans, former Senate President Chuck Morse, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut indicated Wednesday they will run or announce their plans soon.

Two Democrats have already announced their candidacies, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig. 

Among the Republicans, Morse was the only one to confirm he will run. 

He touted his legislative experience, saying he worked with Sununu on a “conservative, pro-jobs, pro-growth, family first economic agenda” that brought New Hampshire success. “It’s not an accident and it’s not luck either,” Morse said. “It’s because we elect conservatives who get results.”

Ayotte said in a statement, “I look forward to announcing some big news in the coming days.” She said she is concerned New Hampshire is “one election away from turning into Massachusetts.” 

Ayotte said “our next governor must be a tough and tested conservative.”

The release did not reference her tenure as the state’s first female attorney general, from 2004 to 2009. If she runs, she will face questions about cases she handled, two in particular. 

Ayotte was part of a team that won a death penalty case in 2006 against Michael Addison, who is Black, for the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs, who was white.

During her tenure, Ayotte also made headlines over an abortion law that required minors to tell a parent or a judge before getting an abortion. Over the objection of then-Democratic Gov. John Lynch, Ayotte appealed a lower court’s invalidation of the law to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Edelblut, who has been talked about as a likely candidate, said in an interview Wednesday that he too will make an announcement in the next couple of days.

“I think we have a tremendous number of opportunities in front of us as a state,” he said. “You know, there are macroeconomics, there are demographic changes that are happening, both in New Hampshire as well as nationally and internationally.”

When asked to be more specific about those changes, Edelblut noted the state is aging, saying that it will present “various policy” decisions.

“That’s not a threat to our state,” he said. “That’s an opportunity for our state.”

If he runs, Edelblut can expect challenges from Democrats for his work as education commissioner. Edelblut, who ran his own campaign for governor as a conservative candidate in 2016, has embraced alternative education pathways for students during his tenure, including increased funding to grow the state’s charter schools, the creation of privately run learning pods to address learning loss in public schools, and passage of “education freedom accounts” to allow families to use public education dollars toward nonpublic and homeschool expenses. Those efforts have endeared him to school-choice supporters but brought criticism from Democrats and public education advocates, too.

In a brief statement following Sununu’s announcement, Warmington identified some of her priorities.

“New Hampshire is a great state with some big challenges that Governor Sununu failed to solve,” she said. “I’m excited to be running for governor to tackle the extreme cost of housing, stand up for women’s reproductive freedom, and make this state a place where people can afford to live and thrive.”

As the Executive Council’s lone Democrat, Warmington has fought successful efforts of Republican councilors to eliminate funding for a sex education program two nonprofits have offered in areas of the state with the highest teen pregnancy rates. 

Warmington has also fought the Republicans over their elimination of state funding for family planning health care Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and two other centers had provided to more than 17,000 low- and lower-income people. Republicans objected to the fact that the centers provided abortions, though the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that it used private money, not tax dollars, for that care.

Craig is serving her third term as Manchester’s mayor. She’s the first woman to hold that post.

In a statement, she said that during her time in office the city has created “thousands” of jobs, decreased crime by 38 percent, and is developing 2,000 housing units. 

“Granite Staters have the opportunity to choose a new direction for New Hampshire,” the statement said. “As I’ve had conversations with people across our state I’ve heard over and over that we need a governor that will support our cities and towns, lower costs, strengthen public education, build affordable housing, and protect our reproductive rights. I’m running for governor to do just that.”

Reporter Ethan DeWitt contributed to this story. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]