Sununu Passes on a U.S. Senate Run from NH – What’s Next?
Gov. Chris Sununu ended the speculation about his next political step with an announcement that he will run for a fourth term as governor.
Speculation was he was being courted by Sen. Mitch McConnell to make a run for U.S. Senate in a challenge to Sen. Maggie Hassan in 2022. Sununu even made a trip to McConnell's home state of Kentucky to meet with public health officials about how they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic although he denied any politics was involved in the trip.
"With progressives controlling Washington DC there's a lot of interest in the Senate race. That's appreciated and understood," Sununu said. "I've heard from countless voices from across the country. It's been very interesting the vast majority of them urging me to run for the U.S. Senate. I do appreciate everyone who's reached out."
New York Times political reporter Shane Goldmacher called Sununu the GOP's top recruit for the 2022 Senate race.
But Sununu sees his political future in Concord and not Washington fighting off unprecedented mandates, executive orders and regulations coming from the White House that bypass Congress.
He said that being governor is a 24/7 job with decisions always having to be made and that have an impact on the lives of individuals.
"Not so much in the Senate. It's a much slower pace and frankly often doing nothing is considered a win," Sununu said. "My responsibility is not to the gridlock of Washington but to the citizens of New Hampshire and I'd rather push myself 120 mph delivering wins for New Hampshire than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results."
The potential sacrifices that his family would have to make were a major consideration in his decision making process.
"The sacrifices of my family are perhaps the greatest consideration of all. They know my public service and they've been incredibly supportive in letting me know that whatever path of public service I chose they were incredibly supportive," Sununu said, adding that he wants his kids to have the same New Hampshire experiences he had.
Moving the Political Deck Chairs
SNHU Civic Scholar Dean Spiliotes is not surprised at Sununu's choice to pass on a Senate run considering the pressure he was likely getting from national Republicans.
"The reality is that it's a very difficult political environment out there right now. This would be one of the most high profile races in the country. There'd be all kinds of outside players in the state and sometimes when races get that big it's difficult for candidates to control their own messaging," Spiliotes told Seacoast Current.
Sununu's decision to seek another term likely takes some potential GOP gubernatorial candidates like former Congresswoman Kelly Ayotte and Education Commissioer Frank Edelblut off the board, according to Spiliotes. Edelbut ran against Sununu in 2016.
It also opens up the possibility for other people to get into the Senate race like Don Buldoc who challenged Jeanne Shaheen in 2020, Spiliotes said. And it could have ramifications for the First Congressional District race as well.
"Everyone but Chris Pappas is talking about Chris Pappas running for governor. He's announced he's running for re-election but we need to see what that first district looks like when they finish the process of redistricting," Spiliotes said.
Spiliotes doesn't think the decision ends the possibility of Sununu being on the national political stage as a presidential or vice presidential candidate.
"I think what he decided was the right decision for him at the moment. I'm not surprised by it. I kind of figured he might have run but I'm not surprised what that would have entailed for him as a candidate," Spiliotes said.
Reaction to Sununu's Decision
House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) in a statement praised Sununu's accomplishments and was pleased with his decision to try for a fourth term.
"During his administration, New Hampshire Republicans passed an historic budget that protected the NH Advantage, expanded school choice for families, gave money back to the communities, and preserved one of the lowest unemployment rates in the aftermath of a pandemic," Packard said. "When he earns back the corner office, I look forward to working with him to ensure New Hampshire continues to thrive.”
The NH Democratic Party had a different view of the decision and said in a tweet Sununu's poll numbers are falling because of his decision on abortion and handling of the pandemic.
"He has never been so unpopular and so vulnerable, and he is in trouble," the party tweeted.