Frozen Field: Waiting for Gov. Hassan to Decide on a 2016 Senate Run

Everyone is waiting for the governor to make a decision
Illustration by peter noonan

The year 2015 may go down as the year when the most important thing the New Hampshire political class did was wait.

There is the waiting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to decide whether she will be a presidential candidate, which would frame both the Republican and Democratic fields of candidates.

There is the waiting to see which direction New Hampshire Republicans want to take their party in the upcoming presidential primary. But the biggest wait-and-see in New Hampshire politics is waiting for Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan to make a decision about running for the US Senate in 2016.

Until Hassan makes the decision to challenge Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte, politics in the state is frozen. Should she decide to run, and Democrats are working with that assumption, politics in the state would be red hot, possibly even the hottest in the entire country.

Hassan versus Ayotte would set up the most competitive race for the US Senate between two women in the country’s history. The contest would be nationally followed and money would pour into the state. The race would not only be defining in terms of the role women play in politics, but also in helping to define the state, which with only one exception in the last decade has gone more Democratic.

"A Hassan Senate run would have a domino effect on other races."

A Hassan Senate run would also have a domino effect on other races. Departing the governor’s chair will create a wide-open contest that will have others leaving their own elected positions.

Both Republican Congressman Frank Guinta and Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster could run for governor, which would be a remarkable face-off, leaving their own Congressional seats open for others to seek. Or Democratic Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord might face Republican Chris Sununu of Newfields for governor, setting up a match of rising stars and opening up their own powerful seats. Sitting State Senators might enter the fray. Dozens of races could be impacted.

All this dramatic change in the state’s political chessboard rests on Hassan’s decision, which she is not expected to make until July after the state’s budget is settled — or maybe much later.

So, the next few months will be critical as her party will no doubt be chiming in one way while Republicans try to convince her otherwise.

It’s unclear what Hassan’s decision process might look like. She won’t have questions about whether or not she can raise the money, build the campaign team or have the name recognition to run. She has all that. What she doesn’t have is a crystal ball telling her whether she can defeat Ayotte, who some Republicans view to be their biggest talent in a generation.

The day Hassan publicly announces a decision on whether to run will be the biggest day in New Hampshire politics all year. 

Categories: Politics