MANCHESTER — Citing a “spirit and energy you can feel across our great city” and a desire to continue tackling Manchester’s challenges “head-on,” Mayor Joyce Craig said early Thursday she is running for reelection to the Queen City’s corner office.

Come Monday, she’ll likely know the identity of her first challenger.

Craig announced her bid for a second term as mayor of the Queen City Thursday morning in a news release.

“I’m proud that we’re making a real difference in helping our residents lead better lives, with stronger schools, a healthier and safer community, good jobs and a growing economy, all while protecting our city’s bottom line and respecting the tax cap,” said Craig in a statement. “Manchester is on the move, and there’s a spirit and energy you can feel across our great city as people are stepping forward and working together — including businesses, non-profits, and residents — to address the challenges we face. I’m running for mayor in 2019 because this spirit of non-partisan, common sense problem-solving is delivering results that make our city stronger.”

At the moment, Craig is running unopposed, but that could change as early as Monday.

Friends and allies of Republican former state Rep. Victoria Sullivan say they are confident she will announce a run for mayor during a “special announcement” she has planned for Monday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. in front of the Mill Girl statue on Bedford Street in Manchester’s Millyard. Leaflets advertising the event have been distributed around the city.

Sullivan told the Union Leader in January she was engaged in conversations with veteran GOP strategist Michael Biundo, a partner at the political consulting firm RightVoter, about challenging lifelong Democrat Craig in the nonpartisan municipal election.

“I was approached by a few people encouraging me to run,” said Sullivan at the time, who served two terms in the House. “It really picked up after (Superintendent) Dr. (Bolgen) Vargas announced he was leaving. People know me as a strong advocate for our students and are urging me to run. I’m humbled by it, to be honest.”

Sullivan said education has always been a “top priority” of hers and she believes the city is in “desperate need of new leadership.”

If Sullivan announces a run, professional fundraiser Emma Tautkus will head up fundraising efforts for her campaign. Tautkus has previously raised funds for Republican congressional candidates Steve Negron and Eddie Edwards, and served as finance director for former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta.

Derek Dufresne, partner and founder at RightVoter, said Thursday he was not prepared to confirm Sullivan will announce a run for mayor on Monday, saying only that he “expects a lot of her supporters” to attend.

In a news release announcing her reelection bid, Craig touts several highlights of her tenure as mayor since taking the oath of office just over 15 months ago including:

Growing Manchester’s economy through partnerships to bring new jobs and opportunities, such as BAE coming to the Queen City with 800 new, high-paying jobs;

Prioritizing public education, including working with the NH College and University Council to secure more than $10.5 million to the Manchester school district over the next 7 years through the GEAR UP grant;

Making city neighborhoods safer, with recently-released statistics showing a 19 percent decrease in opioid overdoses in 2018 and a 22 percent drop in opioid deaths, and violent crime down 9 percent over 2017, according to Manchester police. There were five homicides in 2018 compared to two the previous year.

“By working together, we’ve really been able to make some great progress on a number of issues,” said Craig. “I look forward to continuing that progress and the momentum we’ve got going in the city.”

In 2017 Craig — born and raised in Manchester — became the first woman elected mayor of the Queen City. She began her public service in 2007 when she ran for and won a seat on the Board of School Committee. In 2009, Craig won a seat as Ward 1 alderman. Joyce and her husband, Michael Craig, an attorney, have three children, William, Sarah and Kathryn.

Official results from the November 2017 election released by City Clerk Matt Normand show Craig defeated former mayor Ted Gatsas by 1,498 votes, 53 percent to 47 percent — or 12,068 to 10,570 — to become the first Democrat elected mayor of the state’s largest city in 14 years.

Voters will decide the Queen City’s next mayor this fall.

State Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley issued a statement Thursday congratulating Craig on her decision to seek a second term.

“Over the past fifteen months, Manchester has been well-served under the effective, innovative, and fiscally responsible leadership of Mayor Joyce Craig,” said Buckley. “Thanks to Mayor Craig, opioid overdoses and crime are down, new businesses are moving to Manchester, and our schools are finally receiving the attention and care they deserve. Her investment in the Queen City and proven ability to deliver results greatly recommend her for a second term in office.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted, “My friend @JoyceCraigNH has been a tremendous leader for Manchester. I am excited to see all she will accomplish for the Queen City during her second term.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted a message of support for Craig.

“I’m glad to hear that @JoyceCraigNH is running for re-election as mayor of Manchester,” tweeted Warren. “I know she’ll continue to fight for New Hampshire families.”

A campaign kickoff reception for Craig is scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the SNHU Sandbox Collaborative, 1230 Elm St. in Manchester.

The event is free and open to the public. Guests planning on attending are asked to RSVP online at bit.ly/MayorCraigKickOffEvent.