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Ayotte joins race for governor of New Hampshire after Sununu exits

Former senator narrowly lost seat in battleground state in 2016

Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte listens to Supreme Court nominee Neil M. Gorsuch testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21, 2017.
Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte listens to Supreme Court nominee Neil M. Gorsuch testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte will run for governor of New Hampshire, her first run for office since losing reelection in 2016 by 0.1 percentage points.

Ayotte announced her campaign on Monday, joining an already crowded race that is likely to be one of the most competitive gubernatorial campaigns in the nation next year. 

“I’m running for Governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts – from becoming something we are not,” Ayotte said in a news release. “We will keep New Hampshire safe by standing up for our law enforcement officers, ending the revolving door of criminals returning to our streets, and by putting fentanyl dealers and violent criminals in jail.”

Candidates from both parties have not wasted time getting into the race, which is open after GOP Gov. Chris Sununu announced July 19 that he would not run for a fifth term. Former state Senate President Chuck Morse, who lost a Republican Senate primary in 2022, is running. On the Democratic side, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Council Member Cinde Warmington are both running. 

New Hampshire is a competitive state politically, but Democrats have won every presidential election there since 2004. While the state’s federal delegation is made up of all Democrats, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race next year as a Battleground. 

Considered to be from the more moderate wing of the Republican Party, Ayotte described herself while in the Senate as a “mainstream conservative.” As a member of the Armed Services Committee, she allied herself with former Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and battled the Obama administration on a range of military issues. She also focused on opioid and heroin abuse, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2016. While in office, she sometimes split from other members of her party on environmental and social issues. 

After leaving office, Ayotte helped guide Supreme Court nominee Neil M. Gorsuch through his Senate confirmation hearings in 2017. She has since served on several corporate and nonprofit boards. 

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