CONCORD -- Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, confirmed Thursday he was "seriously considering a run for governor" and he and his wife, Erin, would decide by the end of the summer whether to try to take out Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in 2020.
In an email message to supporters, Feltes said the battle over the state budget that Sununu vetoed has convinced him the two-term Republican is too big an obstacle to the state's success.
"This partisanship, this refusal to compromise for broader positive change, and this unrelenting support for corporate special interests is what is wrong with politics," Feltes said in the email provided to the Union Leader.
"Each and every day it is becoming clearer and clearer that the major roadblock to meaningful, inclusive progress for all workers, all families, and all small businesses in New Hampshire is one person: Governor Chris Sununu."
Feltes said while there are some good economic barometers, too many people are being left behind and "out-of-state corporate" interests have Sununu's attention more than working people do.
"We have crises on everything from child protection, to opioid addiction and mental health, to drinking water, to affordable housing, to education funding, to attracting and retaining the skilled workforce of tomorrow, to combating climate change by advancing the clean energy jobs of tomorrow right here in the Granite State," Feltes said.
"Along the way, everyday Granite Staters are getting left behind while corporate special interests are getting further and further ahead. Our campaign would be about standing up for everyday Granite Staters all across our state by building an economy that works for everyone."
This development comes one week after the NH Republican State Committee began airing a TV ad blaming Feltes, along with the House speaker and Senate president, for the budget mess.
"New Hampshire Democrats passed a budget that takes the Granite State backward. Their irresponsible budget proposal raises taxes, includes bloated spending, and contains a massive structural deficit of over $100 million," said GOP State Chairman Steve Stepanek in a statement.
"Dan Feltes, Donna Soucy, and Steve Shurtleff are fighting for a budget that destroys the New Hampshire Advantage."
This step closer to the campaign starting line for Feltes, a three-term Democrat, came at the close of regular business for the 2019 legislative session.
The Democratically-controlled Legislature adopted many features of the Granite State Opportunity Plan that Feltes and Soucy had championed during the 2018 election.
Lawmakers are expected to return at summer's end to try to work out a state budget deal with Sununu.
Meanwhile, Sununu has blocked some of the other policy changes Feltes has pursued with the veto pen, most prominently the proposal for a statewide program of paid family or medical leave.
The governor branded the bill, which included a payroll tax provision, an "income tax," but Feltes said that was inaccurate and pointed out the vetoed bill would have allowed employers to finance the benefit in alternative ways.
"This legislative session we tried to address many of these concerns, but Governor Sununu has repeatedly vetoed critical pieces of legislation, joyfully claiming that he’s going veto everything we send to him. Governor Sununu’s vetoes are holding New Hampshire back from making progress on issues critical to our families, our communities, and our economy," Feltes said.
He has won several awards at the State House, having been honored as the Legislator of the Year by the Home Builders and Remodelers Association, Ski New Hampshire, New Futures and Housing Action NH.
Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, also a Concord Democrat, has created an exploratory committee and like Feltes has raised more than $100,000 for a political action committee that would support a future run for governor.
Both 2018 Democratic nominee for governor and ex-State Sen. Molly Kelly of Harrisville and two-time candidate Steve Marchand of Portsmouth have not ruled out going for the office again next year.
Feltes came to the Senate in 2014 replacing retiring Senate President Sylvia Larsen and beating a candidate who Larsen and the rest of the city's political establishment had supported.
He easily won reelection in 2016 and 2018.
Feltes and his wife have two young daughters.
Prior to serving in the Legislature, Feltes was a legal aid attorney for nearly a decade.
A law school graduate from the University of Iowa, Feltes also earned a master's degree from Georgetown University.
First-term Rep. Safiya Wazir said Feltes has been a mentor.
"Dan understands the struggles young working families face in today's economy. He is strongly committed to addressing the rising cost of child care, housing, and health care, finally passing paid family leave and advancing public education, including early childhood education. He's gotten so much done on these issues and I know he'd take all of us to the next level if he were to serve in the governor's office," Wazir said.
Goffstown Selectwoman Kelly Boyer said she got to know Feltes while serving in the AmeriCorps program.
"I have deep respect for Dan's longtime, dedicated service as a community organizer and legal aid lawyer with New Hampshire Legal Assistance. He has brought those same values to the State Senate and I know he'll always fight for an opportunity for everyone to be successful, regardless of their background," Boyer said. "I am very glad Dan and Erin and are considering this."
Both Wazir and Boyer were listed on Volinsky's original list of his exploratory committee.
Debby Butler has worked as a campaign treasurer for many candidates, including 2016 nominee Colin Van Ostern, Molly Kelly and former Gov. John Lynch.
“I’m thrilled that Dan is considering continuing his deep commitment to public service with a run for governor," Butler said.
"Dan has championed so many issues critical to NH families, including funding for Planned Parenthood, paid family and medical leave, and filling the gap in Title X funding. He would be an excellent governor who would stand up for all Granite Staters.”