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Former Sen. John E. Sununu won't run for office in 2014

Senior Political Reporter

April 12. 2013 4:48PM
Sen. John E. Sununu debates former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in Manchester on Oct. 30, 2008. (David Lane/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- Former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu has made a long-awaited decision about his political future.

He will not run for the Senate, or for any political office, next year.

"I'm not running for anything," the 48-year-old former one-term senator and three-term U.S. House member told in an exclusive interview Friday.

"Campaigns are about timing, and I've got two daughters in high school and I want to spend time with them," he said.

"I enjoyed my time in Congress very, very much and I enjoy working in the private sector," Sununu said. He did not rule out a run for office in the future, however.

His decision will now break a logjam for Republicans to decide if they will jump in and vie for the right to take on incumbent Democrat and former three-term Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

The ripple effect of the Sununu decision will also begin to clarify who will run for other offices next year.

Shaheen defeated Sununu in 2008 after he beat her in 2002, and many Republicans in New Hampshire and Washington believed he would be the strongest challenger to Shaheen in 2014.

Several Republicans, including former U.S. Rep. and current state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, have made it clear publicly or privately they would wait for Sununu's decision before they made their own. Former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta has indicated interest in a run for the Senate or for the U.S. House seat he lost last year to Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.

Others who have been mentioned as potential Republican candidates for the Senate seat are businessman and 2010 Senate candidate Bill Binnie, attorney Ovide Lamontagne, a 2010 Senate candidate and the 2012 GOP gubernatorial nominee, and conservative businessman Fred Tausch.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown stirred the pot in a major way last week when he said in Nashua he was not ruling out establishing residency in New Hampshire and running for the seat held by Shaheen. Brown owns a vacation home in Rye.

"I haven't spoken to Scott," Sununu said, "but I got the impression he made an off-the-cuff comment.

"There are a number of sharp, experienced Republicans who have lived in New Hampshire for decades who would be tough for Scott to take on in a primary," Sununu said.

"A few of those Republicans have indicated they would wait until I made a formal decision. That is certainly appreciated, and I wanted to let people know early so they can proceed with their plans," said Sununu.

Bradley and Guinta were non-committal in separate interviews Friday. Both praised Sununu and said they were assessing their options.

Bradley said he is focusing on many pressing issues before the State Senate and "that phase will come to an end, hopefully on June 30, and at that point I will assess my options."

Guinta said, "John's the guy I would have loved to see on the ticket.

He said he agreed with Sununu that Shaheen is vulnerable, but said Sununu's disclosure "doesn't change any time table for me.

"I'm watching how things play out and I'll make a decision in due time," Guinta said.

Separately, Guinta spokeman Mike Dennehy said, "Of late, Frank has received overwhelming encouragement from top Republican donors in New Hampshire to run for the Senate."

Sununu said that when the GOP field solidifies he may endorse a candidate, although, he said, he has no one in mind now.

His younger brother, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, has said he is considering running for either governor or the 1st District U.S. House seat next year.

While the GOP has waited for Sununu, Shaheen's campaign has been active, especially on the fund-raising front.

As first reported earlier this week, Shaheen raised $1.23 million in the first quarter of the year, which ended on March 31, before the Scott Brown comments. Her campaign says that since his comments, it has raised at least an additional $200,000.

But Sununu said raising money for the eventual Republican nominee "won't be that big of an obstacle. This will certainly be a targeted seat that a Republican can and should win."

Since leaving the Senate following his defeat in 2008, Sununu has become involved in several private sector endeavors.

He is on the board of the medical products firm Boston Scientific and Time Warner Cable, as well as Juliet Marine Systems, Inc., in Portsmouth.

He is chairman of the board of the Waterville Valley Resort and serves on the advisory board of the Bloomberg media firm.

He also writes a regular newspaper column.

Sununu predicted 2014 will be "a strong year for Republicans in New Hampshire."

He declined to comment on Shaheen's performance, but said the GOP will benefit from "a lame duck President who has done nothing but increased the deficit and whose policies failed to make any dent in unemployment."

Sununu acknowledged that he gave serious consideration to a rubber match against Shaheen, and, "Friends and supporters" both in New Hampshire and Washington, "certainly encouraged me to consider it."

But he said it truly was a family-oriented decision, arrived at with his wife, Kate, and three children. He has a 19-year-old son in college and two daughters, 17 and 13, in high school.

He also had praise for Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, saying she "is doing a great job and has very quickly earned the respect of her colleagues, many of whom have told me they find her enjoyable to work with."

Following the Sununu disclosure, state Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said, "Get ready for the NHGOP 'D-team' of failed former Congressmen Jeb Bradley and Frank Guinta. New Hampshire Republicans know that Guinta and Bradley's records are electoral black holes. That is why they spent the last week openly salivating over the prospects of a carpetbagger run by rejected Massachusetts politician Scott Brown."

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