Oct 5, 2015 9:34 AM

Blockbuster decision: Gov. Maggie Hassan to run for Senate rather than re-election

NH1 News Political Unit

CONCORD – Gov. Maggie Hassan announced Monday that she’ll run for U.S. Senate in 2016 rather than for a third term in the Corner Office

The announcement by the two term Democratic governor, in a video on her campaign website, ends months of speculation and sets up a blockbuster Senate showdown between her and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

The decision comes after the conclusion of a three month budget standoff between Hassan and and Republicans who control both the state House and Senate.

In her video, Hassan said she's running for Senate because "Washington has given in powerful special interests and lobbyists who rig the system for themselves and against the middle class."

Hassan elaborated upon that answer in an interview Monday afternoon with NH1 News.

"It’s become clear to me that we’re not getting the response from Washington that would really meet our progress and help us reach our potential. So when I thinking about what is happening in Washington right now it is controlled by special interests. They are rigging the system for themselves and against the middle class, and New Hampshire needs better and it deserves better and that’s why I’m running for the United States Senate," she said.

Hassan criticizes Ayotte

"The Granite State needs a senator who knows that New Hampshire comes first and leads like it," Hassan said in her video.

Later in the day, talking with NH1 News, Hassan went a little bit further in her criticism.

“When you look Sen. Ayotte’s record unfortunately she is standing with special interests," Hassan said. "Sen. Ayotte’s stand against planned parenthood, she voted to defund planned parenthood. That’s deeply, deeply, concerning."

Hassan also touted her bipartisan credentials, saying in her video that "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 had been heavily courted by national Democrats to take on Ayotte, a popular first-term senator. The expected match up will be one of the most heavily watched and most expensive Senate showdowns in the country next year.

"When Kelly Ayotte first ran in 2010, that was about an $8 million campaign. Last year in teh Sen. Shaheen and Sen. Brown race, I think that was about $14 million. So I don't see any signs of that trend abating," Ayotte campaign finance chairman Steve Duprey told NH1 News.

In a statement, Ayotte said "I welcome Governor Hassan to this race and look forward to a very spirited campaign. We have lots to talk about, including confronting the challenges facing our state and how we can best deliver results for New Hampshire families."

Ayotte also touted her bipartisan credentials, writing "I'm running for reelection so I can continue working across the aisle to solve problems and deliver results for you."

Battle for Governor

With Hassan running for the Senate rather than re-election, the big question is which Democrats will campaign to succeed her. Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a likely candidate, put out a statement Monday morning saying "I will make a definitive announcement on whether I plan to be a candidate for Governor in the coming days."

NH1 News has confirmed Van Ostern made two major hires that clearly point to a candidacy for governor.

He's tapped Debbie Butler of Concord as his political committee treasurer and Anna Moffett as his full-time finance director.

Butler is a longtime, Democratic Party rainmaker.

She served as co-chair when Democrat John Lynch came out of political obscurity to upset then-Gov. Craig Benson in 2004.

Moffett had a similar role for Congresswoman Annie Kuster during her first successful win for the Second District seat in 2012.

Last fall, Moffett helped a Democratic congresswoman raise $3 million in Connecticut.

State Sen. Andrew Hosmer told NH1 News on Monday that I"m "certainly thinking about it, continue to thinking about it, continue to listen to people throughout the state who’ve asked about it. But really haven’t made any decision. I don’t have any time frame. But happy to continue the conversations."

Portsmouth city councilwoman Stefany Shaheen, the daughter of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, has also expressed interest in running.

Her father, New Hampshire DNC committee member Billy Shaheen, told NH1 News that "I do think she’s interested. And she’d be a terrific governor. The question is whether or not this is the time for her."

"Knowing me, I’m the last guy to tell a woman in my family what to do or what they’re going to do. I think she’ll do what her heart tells her to do.”

And State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro told NH1 News “I’m going to talk to my wife about it. See what she says."

"I do think we have a wide open race. Lot of people are talking about running for governor. I’ve done it before and it’s a tough tough business. But listen, her decision to run for the Senate opens it up for a lot of people. The names of Stefany Shaheen, Andrew Hosmer, Colin Van Ostern, (Mark) Connely, it will be like a cast of thousands, so buy your lottery ticker early."

Asked if he'll be part of that list, D'Allesandro told NH1 News "it may or may not, who knows."

The only declared candidate currently for governor is Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, who launched his campaign on Labor Day.

Watch/Read: Chris Sununu sits down with NH1 News

Take a look at Hassan's announcement below:


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