CONCORD, New Hampshire — New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who considered but decided against runs for president and the U.S. Senate, announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection to a fifth term in 2024.
“This was no easy decision as I truly love serving as Governor,” he said in an email. “Public service should never be a career, and the time is right for another Republican to lead our great state.”
Sununu, who has been governor since 2017, did not say what his immediate plans were and did not endorse anyone to succeed him. He said he reached his decision after discussions with his wife, Valerie, and his children.
A popular governor who made the rounds on national talk shows this year, Sununu, 48, announced in June that he would not seek the presidency in 2024. He argued that Republican candidates with “no path to victory must have the courage to get out” of their party’s increasingly crowded primary to prevent former President Donald Trump from being reelected.
Sununu has said he will endorse the GOP’s ultimate nominee in 2024, but argued in an op-ed that Republicans must embrace a “course correction” away from Trump.
Shortly after his announcement, Chuck Morse, former Republican president of the New Hampshire Senate and a former U.S. Senate candidate, announced his campaign for governor.
He said in a statement that he’s proud to have worked with Sununu “to put together a conservative, pro-jobs, pro-growth, family first economic agenda that has made New Hampshire the envy of New England and the nation.”
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte may also be joining the field of candidates. In a statement responding to Sununu’s announcement, Ayotte said “the battle to ensure that New Hampshire keeps our Live Free or Die spirit must continue” and teased that she looked forward to “announcing some big news in the coming days.”
Two Democrats, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, have also announced their candidacies for the job.
“Granite Staters have the opportunity to choose a new direction for New Hampshire,” Craig said in a statement. “As I’ve had conversations with people across our state I’ve heard over and over that we need a governor that will support our cities and towns, lower costs, strengthen public education, build affordable housing, and protect our reproductive rights. I’m running for Governor to do just that.”
University of New Hampshire political science Professor Dante Scala said Sununu’s announcement gives Democrats a reason to be optimistic, adding that the state has recently leaned Democrat during presidential election years.
“Before Sununu, the Democrats had a lock on the governor office for a dozen years. Sununu changed all that,” he said. “He would have been the significant favorite had he decided to run for a fifth term. For the first time since 2016, we will be more likely to see a competitive race for governor. Democrats will have their best shot in a while.”
Sununu previously decided against a U.S. Senate bid in 2021, dealing a major blow to Republicans who had hoped he could defeat Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan and help them retake the chamber in the 2022 midterm elections.
Sununu, who won reelection in 2020 by more than 30 percentage points, said he could have a bigger and more direct impact as governor than as a senator. In a nod to the slow speed of politics in Washington, he said he didn’t want to spend the next six years “sitting around having meeting after meeting, waiting for votes to maybe happen.”
Sununu, whose father was governor from 1983 to 1989 and later served as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, was the youngest top executive in the country when he took office in 2017 at age 42. During his tenure, the easy-going politician known for folky manners was praised for his pro-business policies, efforts to combat inflation and his leadership during the pandemic.