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GOP New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu will run for reelection instead of challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan in 2022, he announced Tuesday. Top Republicans pushed the governor to run for Senate, viewing him as the party’s best chance to flip the swing-state seat.
“My responsibility is not to the gridlock and politics of Washington. It’s to the citizens of New Hampshire,” Sununu, 47, said as he announced a run for a fourth term.
The GOP governor acknowledged the pressure he faced to run for Senate, but said he felt he could have a bigger effect on the Granite State as governor. Sununu did not deny future national political ambitions. Asked if he would ever run for president, he said, “I haven’t ruled out going to Washington, it’s just not as senator right now.”
New Hampshire is considered one of the top Republican targets in 2022 as the GOP tries to regain control of a Senate split 50-50 by party. Democrats hold a majority through Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote.
The election results next year will shape the policies that Congress passes during the final two years of President Joe Biden’s first term. Historically rough midterm results for the incumbent president’s party — and Biden’s poor approval rating — bode well for the GOP as it tries to flip control of Congress.
Republicans appear to have a clearer path toward winning a House majority than to retaking the Senate. The GOP holds 20 Senate seats up for reelection next year, while Democrats represent 14.
Republicans will target states including New Hampshire, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada. Democrats will try to flip seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina, among others.
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Hassan, 63, faces a tough path to reelection even with Sununu out of the race. The first-term senator and former governor beat former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte by only about 1,000 votes in 2016.
Biden carried the state by about 7 percentage points last year in a national environment more favorable to Democrats than it likely will be in 2022.
In a statement following Sununu’s decision, Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs said “we know that no matter who emerges as the Republican nominee this is going to be a hard-fought race.”
“The Senator has shown that she can work across the aisle to get results for Granite Staters — and that is why she has a record of winning tough races,” he said. “Our campaign is ready for the challenge ahead.”
Sununu on Tuesday declined to endorse any potential Republican candidates for the seat. If he wins a fourth term as governor, it would continue a long run for his family in the state’s politics: his father, John, was New Hampshire’s governor, and his brother, also named John, represented the state in the Senate.
Sununu said he did not tell Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott — the Florida Republican who leads the Senate GOP’s campaign arm — about his decision before he announced it.
“I guess you’ll have to let them know,” he told reporters.
The 2022 midterms will be the first nationwide congressional elections since a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters overran the Capitol on Jan. 6 while lawmakers formally tallied Biden’s electoral victory. Scott was among the eight GOP senators who voted to object to counting at least one state’s certified election results after rioters were removed from the legislature.