On the trail: Get ready for a wide-open 2024 gubernatorial race in New Hampshire 

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Valley News

Published: 04-11-2023 11:23 AM

He was joking, but a comment this week by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is sparking more speculation that the popular Republican governor won’t seek what would be a historic fifth two-year gubernatorial term in 2024.

“I’m not saying I’m not running again, but you know... I’ve gotta get a real job,” Sununu said at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics as he addressed the New England Council, a regional business association representing both public and private organizations.

Sununu, who’s currently considering a run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has said he hopes to make a decision on his political future this summer after the end of the current New Hampshire legislative session and the signing of the state’s next biennial budget.

While they’re waiting for a Sununu announcement, a trio of high-profile Republican politicians in the Granite State with gubernatorial designs are currently making moves behind the scenes.

Former longtime state Senate president Chuck Morse has been speaking to groups and preparing for a potential gubernatorial campaign.

Veteran Republican consultant Dave Carney told the Valley News that “Chuck’s busy talking to people, lining up support, putting financial components together” in the eventuality that Sununu doesn’t seek re-election.

Carney, who was a top adviser to Morse’s unsuccessful 2022 U.S. Senate campaign, would likely hold a similar role if Morse runs for governor in 2024.

State education commissioner Frank Edelblut is also seriously mulling a gubernatorial run.

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“I absolutely would consider that,” Edleblut told radio host Jack Heath recently when asked if he’d make another run for governor if Sununu doesn’t seek re-election. “I love serving the state. I love serving the citizens of this state. I do think I have a lot to contribute to the state.”

Edelbut was narrowly edged by Sununu in a crowded field of contenders for the 2016 GOP gubernatorial nomination when Sununu first won the governorship.

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is another well-known Republican who’s eyeing a gubernatorial bid next year.

Ayotte, a former state attorney general who won election to the Senate in 2010 and lost her 2016 re-election by a razor-thin margin to then-Gov. Maggie Hassan, has also been talking with people about running for governor.

One other name on the Republican side is Robert Burns, a former Hillsborough Country treasurer who unsuccessfully ran for the 2018 GOP congressional nomination in the Second District Congressional District before winning the 2022 Republican nomination and then losing last November to Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster by nearly 12 points.

“I’m taking a look at it,” Burns told the Valley News when asked if he’s considering a gubernatorial run. He added that he’s also weighing another bid for Congress.

In the brewing race for the Democratic nomination, two names stand out.

One of them is Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.

After Craig announced in March that she won’t seek re-election later this year, sources close to the Democratic mayor, who’s currently serving her third two-year term steering the Granite State’s largest city, told the Valley News that Craig is seriously looking at a run for governor in 2024.

The other potential contender is Cinde Warmington, who’s currently serving her second two-year term on New Hampshire’s five-member Executive Council representing District 2, which includes Concord.

Former Trump NH co-chair jumps ship

A top supporter of former President Trump in New Hampshire is jumping ship and joining rival Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign.

Longtime state Rep. Fred Doucette, who served as New Hampshire co-chair of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, is joining the Ramaswamy campaign as a senior strategist and co-chair in the Granite State, which holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP’s presidential nominating calendar.

“Vivek is the person who will deliver the America First agenda, without the drama,” Doucette said Thursday.

Ramaswamy, a first-time candidate and multi-millionaire health care and tech sector entrepreneur, best-selling author, conservative political commentator, and culture wars crusader, has heavily campaigned in New Hampshire – as well as the first in the nation caucus state of Iowa – since declaring his candidacy on the Fox News Channel in late February. Ramaswamy returns to the Granite State on April 13 for what his campaign touts is a bus tour through all 10 New Hampshire counties.

“Fred gets things done. He has a proven track record of leadership, delivering results and winning,” Ramaswamy said in a statement. “We’re taking America First to the next level, and I am confident Fred will be a key asset in our mission in the crucible of New Hampshire politics. We’re ready to roll and revive the American experiment, starting with the Granite State.”

Doucette, the current deputy majority leader in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives, was on hand as Ramaswamy held a town hall-style event in Manchester in late February.

He has met with Ramaswamy a number of times since, noting, “I’ve been talking with Vivek for several weeks now, and he’s an inspirational candidate who can energize Republicans and unite the country.”

“I think we have a path forward in Vivek… We’ve got a guy that has a message that resonates, an America First message,” Doucette told this reporter. He added that Ramaswamy “gives people someone to vote for, not someone to vote against.”

Doucette is not the only New Hampshire Trump campaign veteran joining Ramaswamy’s team.

Josh Whitehouse, a Republican strategist who as a state representative during the 2016 cycle was the first elected official in New Hampshire to endorse Trump and built coalitions for the Trump campaign, will serve as Ramaswamy’s New Hampshire state director.

DeSantis, Scott New Hampshire-bound

Two well-known Republicans who are likely to launch 2024 presidential campaigns are also headed to New Hampshire in the coming days.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate and a rising star in the GOP, will spend Thursday in New Hampshire. Scott will meet with voters at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester before holding gatherings with Republican leaders and local pastors. The senator’s stop in New Hampshire will come a day after he returns for the second time this year to Iowa, the state whose caucuses kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.

Scott is currently on what he calls his “Faith in America” listening tour, which he says will help him decide whether to launch a presidential campaign.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis makes his first trip to New Hampshire this cycle on Friday when he headlines the New Hampshire GOP’s Amos Tuck Dinner.

The gathering, which will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Manchester, is the state Republican Party’s largest annual fundraising gala.

While DeSantis remains on the 2024 sidelines, the popular two-term conservative governor is expected to launch a presidential campaign in the coming months.

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