CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu is “definitely open” to a U.S. Senate run in 2022 against incumbent Maggie Hassan.
But Sununu, recently elected to his third term in a romp, told a radio show host last week that all his options for the next election cycle remain on the table — including seeking a fourth term as governor, returning to the private sector or “becoming a hermit.”
About a Senate run, he said, “I am open to it. We haven’t completely shut the door. Look, I’ve got kids to put through college. I try not to think about public service as a career. It’s really about how we should be tithing our time,” Sununu said on the Good Morning NH radio show with Jack Heath on Friday.
“I have to look at what is the job in the Senate? Does it fit my skill set of good management and all that?” Sununu said.
Leading national Republicans have been promoting Sununu, 46, as one of the GOP’s best chances for flipping a Democratic seat next year.
They maintain Sununu stands the best chance of defeating Democrat Maggie Hassan. The two live not far from each other in the tiny town of Newfields.
Sununu’s older brother, John E., served in the Senate for six years before Democrat Jeanne Shaheen beat him in 2008.
His father, John H., was a three-term governor and former White House chief of staff while Chris Sununu was in high school.
Six years ago, Hassan won one of the country’s closest races in that cycle, unseating Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte of Nashua.
While staying busy serving on several corporate boards, Ayotte hasn’t ruled out her own return to electoral politics next year.
Hassan targeted on schools
Last week, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee began a digital advertising campaign targeting Hassan and five other Senate Democratic candidates. The commercials pressured all of them to defy teacher union leaders and support the full reopening of all public schools.
Democratic activists here noted that less than 48 hours after the ads ran, Sununu announced plans to issue an executive order requiring all schools to offer at least two days a week of classroom instruction starting March 8.
Sununu said it’s the Biden administration that’s been playing politics, first embracing the Centers for Disease Control advisory that schools can reopen and then walking it back by saying the vaccination of all teachers must be a priority.
According to the Department of Education, the 10 schools still in all-remote operation include the Idlehurst Elementary School, Maple Wood Elementary School and Somersworth Middle School in Somersworth; the Cocheco Academy for the Arts in Dover; two Virtual Learning Academy Charter Schools in Exeter; the Mill Falls Charter School, Making Community Connections Charter School and Gate City Charter School in Manchester; and the MicroSociety Academy Charter School in Nashua.
Eight schools currently only have special education and at-risk students in the classroom.
They are Dover Middle and Senior High Schools, Somersworth High School, Chester Academy in Chester, the Rollinsford Grade School, two Academies for Science and Design Charter Schools in Nashua and the Next Charter School in Derry.
The state’s COVID-19 dashboard incorrectly identified a few other schools as being fully remote.
Sununu’s next step
“Maybe I become a hermit, who knows,” Sununu joked during the radio interview. “After the COVID issue, I don’t think anybody would blame me for crawling away, and maybe taking a week off.”
The tea-leaf readers have been working overtime trying to read Sununu who, even with his latest comments, emphasized that he’s not the least bit focused right now on a Senate race.
In an appearance earlier last week on WMUR-TV “Close Up” with Adam Sexton, Sununu sounded more dismissive of the idea.
“You want good leadership. I criticized Washington a lot — it does not mean I give up on it,” Sununu began.
“I think we have a lot of people in New Hampshire that could step up and run in New Hampshire. I am not thinking about that so much. It would be a tough call to be down in Washington, not my idea. I am a manager. I like to create. It’s just not what I am thinking about. We have so much to do here and I am having a lot of fun.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Sununu’s popularity in independent polls has risen steadily. His handling of the crisis helped him win a record number of votes in his 2-1 margin rout of Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord last November.