Sununu passes on Senate bid, will seek fourth term as New Hampshire governor

New Hampshire

FILE— In this July 18, 2021 file photograph, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu addresses racing fans at a NASCAR Cup Series auto race in Loudon, N.H. Sununu has been admitted to a hospital, Friday, Sept. 3, with flulike symptoms that have lasted for days and after having tested negative three times for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu says he will run for a fourth term, ending weeks of speculation about whether he would seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by former governor Maggie Hassan.

Sununu made the announcement Tuesday morning in Concord. He said “my responsibility is not to the gridlock and politics of Washington it’s to the citizens of New Hampshire.”

Political observers had speculated that Sununu would challenge Hassan, the incumbent Democrat, and set up one of the most closely-watched races in the country.

Sununu’s popularity — he won reelection last year by more than 30 percentage points and his family has long held powerful positions in New Hampshire and Washington — had fueled Republican hopes of returning Hassan’s seat to the GOP.

Democrats now hold a 50-50 majority in the Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as a tiebreaking vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had publicly urged Sununu to run.

At a news conference, Sununu acknowledged that many Republicans had urged him to enter the Senate race.

“I appreciate everything they’ve said and the confidence they have in me, but this is about New Hampshire, not about Washington,” he said.

But he said he thought Republicans can win back the Senate without him.

“It’s not just Chris Sununu who can win that race,” he said. “Just being a placeholder for a couple of years, there’s a role for that… but that doesn’t fit the skillset and the responsibility I have to New Hampshire.”

Hassan, who served two terms as governor and three terms in the state Senate, is the second woman in U.S. history to serve as both governor and senator. New Hampshire’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who defeated Sununu’s brother, John E. Sununu, in 2008 was the first.

Following Sununu’s announcement, Hassan’s campaign issued a statement that said she expects a “hard-fought race” no matter who New Hampshire Republicans nominate.

“The Senator has shown that she can work across the aisle to get results for Granite Staters — and that is why she has a record of winning tough races,” the statement aid. “Our campaign is ready for the challenge ahead.”

Sununu, a reluctant supporter of Donald Trump’s in 2016, backed Trump’s reelection bid in 2020, even calling himself a “Trump guy through and through.” But Democrat Joe Biden easily won New Hampshire last year, and Sununu rejected the former president’s false claims of mass voter fraud in the state.

At least two other Republicans have already entered the race to face Hassan; retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who unsuccessfully sought the nomination to challenge Shaheen in 2020, and Tejasinha Sivalingam.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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