Gov. Maggie Hassan said Monday she is running for the U.S. Senate, setting up a long-anticipated contest against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
Speculation about Hassan’s plans has run rampant in political circles for months. But her announcement came as a bit of a surprise, arriving Monday morning in the form of YouTube video. In the two-minute video, which had the look and sound of a campaign commercial, Hassan talks with college students, business owners and senior citizens and touts her record as a two-term governor.
"Washington has given into special interests and lobbyists who rig the system for themselves and against the middle class," Hassan says in the video. "I believe we can do better for New Hampshire families."
In a sit-down interview with NHPR Monday afternoon, Hassan listed her main priorities if elected: curbing college debt, securing more funding for substance abuse treatment and boosting the economy.
She also described what she called bipartisan success passing Medicaid expansion and reaching a budget compromise with Republicans last month. Hassan says national gridlock would benefit from her experience working across party lines.
Hassan also criticized Ayotte, the Republican incumbant, as disconnected from the interests of New Hampshire residents.
“She voted to cut Pell Grants at a time when college affordability is critical to our young people and to our families; she has voted to turn Medicare into vouchers and voted as part of that to erode social security benefits; she has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, something that is so critical to women and their families,” Hassan said.
After Hassan's announcement, Republicans were quick to respond. In a written statement, Ayotte welcomed Hassan to the race, saying she looked forward to a “very spirited campaign.” Ayotte declined to comment further for this story.
State GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn took a harsher tone. She said Hassan’s veto earlier this year of the Republican state budget was “irresponsible” and left critical programs in limbo.
During the interview Hassan offered few specifics when it came to foreign policy.
“What we have to be sure of is that America is seen as even stronger than it is by our enemies and our allies and we have to work with our partners around the globe to keep America safe,” she said.
Although Hassan is running for the Senate, she said she still has her eyes on the State House and is focused on getting Medicaid expansion reauthorized next year.
With Hassan now set to vacate the corner office next year, candidates seeking the governor's seat are likely to start coming forward. Several potential Democratic candidates delayed announcing their plans until Hassan's announcement. So far, only Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu has officially announced his intent to run for governor in 2016.