New Hampshire Governor Hassan To Run For Senate Against Kelly Ayotte
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has announced that she will challenge Senator Kelly Ayotte, setting up what is likely to be one of the most closely fought Senate re-election bids of the upcoming cycle:
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan will challenge GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte next year, Hassan announced Monday — a decision that boosts Democrats’ chances of winning the swing-state Senate seat and taking back control of the chamber.
“You can count on me to take my bipartisan approach, my common sense and my commitment to problem-solving and results to the Senate,” Hassan said in a video announcing her candidacy.
Hassan’s announcement is a boon for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which recruited the second-term governor to take on Ayotte. Democrats need to pick up four or five Senate seats — depending on which party wins the presidential election — to win back the Senate next year.
Polls have showed the popular Hassan running close with Ayotte in early matchups; Ayotte had a 3-point lead in an NBC News/Marist poll in early September. But Ayotte starts with a $5 million head start: The Republican will have raised $1.6 million in the third quarter, according to a campaign source. That’s a slight uptick from the $1.4 million Ayotte raised in the second quarter.
The Hassan-Ayotte fight amplifies national attention on a race already at the center of presidential politics. Hassan recently endorsed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, though her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, leads most Granite State polls. The Senate race could determine whether Democrats are able to wrest back control of the chamber, which will give presidential candidates of both parties even more impetus to spend time in the early primary state.
Ayotte welcomed Hassan to the race with a statement that avoided criticism of her new Democratic rival. “We have lots to talk about,” Ayotte said, “including confronting the challenges facing our state and how we can best deliver results for New Hampshire families.”
But Republican groups signaled quickly that they would be critical of Hassan’s tenure as governor, labeling her the “gridlock governor” for her role in a protracted budget fight this past summer.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee hit Hassan for vetoing a budget passed by the GOP-controlled state Legislature — the two sides came to an agreement last month on a budget and averted a shutdown of the state government. Hassan “has failed to move New Hampshire forward — and now she wants to take her résumé of partisan gridlock to Washington as Harry Reid’s hand-picked Senate candidate,” said NRSC communications director Andrea Bozek.
Hassan, for her part, touted her gubernatorial record in the announcement video. “We held the line against an income or sales tax,” she said. “We balanced the budget and created a business-friendly environment that has New Hampshire’s unemployment rate at the lowest levels since 2008.”
Hassan’s decision not to seek a third term means Democrats will be seeking a candidate for next year. Early speculation has centered on Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. Chris Sununu, Van Ostern’s GOP colleague on the Executive Council, is already in the gubernatorial race.
With the most recent poll taken into consideration, Ayotte current has a 4.5 point lead in the RealClearPolitics average over Hassan, which is smaller than her lead over any of her other potential Democratic opponents. This is largely a reflection of the fact that New Hampshire has become a very purple state in recent years, with Hassan having been reelected in 2014 with a five point margin over her challenger, and President Obama having won the state by roughly the same margin in 2012. Given the fact that it is among the states that Republicans must win if they are going to get to 270 Electoral Votes, we can expect that this state will be fought over at both the Presidential and Senate levels. However, the fact that Hassan is arguably the toughest challenger Ayotte could face next year just brings home the fact that Republican control over the Senate is very much up in the air in 2016, especially since it seems likely that Democrats will pick up seats in Illinois and Wisconsin.