Former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte entered the New Hampshire gubernatorial race on Monday, following Governor Chris Sununu’s announcement last week that he would not run for office again in 2024.
“I am running for governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts, from becoming something we are not,” Ms. Ayotte wrote in her campaign ad. Maura Healey, a Democrat, flipped the Massachusetts governor’s office last year after Charlie Baker declined to run again. Both Baker and Sununu are popular moderate Republicans in their states.
Ms. Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general, was ousted from her Senate seat in 2016 by Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who had previously served as the state’s popular governor.
Ms. Ayotte’s candidacy for governor comes at a time when the state is receiving renewed attention from Republican presidential hopefuls, many of whom have repeatedly traveled to the state to woo voters who will be among the first to go to the polls in the Republican primary.
Ms. Ayotte is expected to win broad support among Republicans in the state, in a race that Cook’s nonpartisan political report switched to a tossup, a solid Republican, after Mr. Sununu said he would not run again. Chuck Morse, a former New Hampshire state Senate president who lost the Republican Senate primary to Hassan last year, entered the race almost immediately after Sununu’s announcement.
Two Democrats from the state, Cinde Warmington, a member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, and Joyce Craig, the mayor of Manchester, announced their candidacies ahead of Mr. Sununu’s statement.
Ms. Ayotte faced a tough re-election campaign in 2016, even as Republicans gained power at the national level. She served only one term in the Senate.
Although New Hampshire has had several recent state officials who are Republicans, the state has leaned blue during presidential elections, supporting Democrats in the last five.
Along with her announcement, Ms. Ayotte launched a long list of sponsorships from dozens of Republicans from across the state who supported his candidacy.
But national Democrats were quick to criticize the former senator, indicating they plan to make anti-abortion protections front and center.
“Kelly Ayotte has spent her career working to turn the tables on New Hampshire’s working families and attacking their most fundamental freedoms, including leading the charge for a national abortion ban, which is why New Hampshire voters withdrew it seven years ago after just one term in the Senate,” wrote Izzi Levy, deputy director of communications for the Democratic Governors Association.
In her Monday statement, Ms. Ayotte said she would seek to address crime by “defending our law enforcement officers” and that she would seek to “protect and strengthen New Hampshire’s economic advantage.”
He also noted that he would lean on the cultural issues that motivate the Republican base, writing that he would “stand with parents, not bureaucrats, when it comes to deciding what is best for our children.”