After facing intense pressure to run for U.S. Senate, Sununu shocked the political establishment last year when he instead decided to seek another two-year term as governor. Saying he was ill suited to the slow speed of politics in Washington, he argued he could have a bigger and more direct impact as governor than as a senator.
"We are taking it head-on and we’re doing it with a smile, every single time,” an exuberant Sununu told supporters in Portsmouth. “That’s the key — working with everyone we can, making sure we’re taking those challenges head on and just getting stuff done. And that is the funnest part of the job.”
Sununu, who celebrated his win with bowling, axe throwing and arcade games, easily defeated five other Republicans in the Sept. 13 primary, while Sherman, a physician from Rye who has served two terms in the state Senate, was unopposed for his party’s nomination.
Sherman, 65, made abortion rights a central issue of his campaign, criticizing Sununu for signing a law banning the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy. He also accused Sununu of prioritizing his own ambitions over his constituents and caving to the demands of extremists in the Legislature.
“He’s not focused on New Hampshire. He’s focused on what the extremists want him to do in the Legislature, putting in place the first abortion ban in modern history, creating subsidies for private schools while the rest of the state is struggling,” Sherman said during a recent debate. “He’s taking a victory lap before we even have plans in place.”
Sherman said Tuesday he wishes Sununu well over the next two years.
“My favorite part of this campaign was meeting incredible people across the state who are fighting every day to make New Hampshire a better place," he said in a statement. “While these aren’t the results that we hoped for, I’m so incredibly grateful for the support of Granite Staters who believe we need to put people above politics.”
Sununu had insisted inflation was the top issue and argued his fiscally responsible leadership had allowed the state to flourish.
“The state’s rockin’ it, it really is,” he said during a debate last month. "At the end of the day, you know, this is the place everybody wants to be.”
Sununu, the son of a former governor, was born on Election Day in 1974 and was the youngest top executive in the country when he took office in 2017 at age 42. Now 48, he had a relatively smooth first term when Republicans held legislative majorities, made lavish use of his veto pen when Democrats were in control during his second, and easily won a third term after campaigning on his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.
But though Republicans won back control of the Legislature in 2020, the last two years were rockier for the governor thanks to the growing influence of the Free State Project, whose libertarian-leaning members clashed with Sununu in their quest to severely limit state government. That tension came to a head in August when Sununu inserted himself into a controversy at the Gunstock ski area, pushing back against anti-government activists who favor privatizing the county-owned facility and calling for the ouster of three fellow Republicans from the Legislature who oversee the resort.
The only other New Hampshire governor to serve four terms was Democrat John Lynch, who was first elected in 2004. Sununu's name is often floated as a possible 2024 presidential candidate, but he has said he would finish his term if re-elected governor. He mentioned the presidential race Tuesday, in noting that New Hampshire was expected to see record-breaking turnout for a midterm election.
“These are the days where we announce ourselves to the rest of America," he said. "This is why you have the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in New Hampshire. We’ve earned it.”
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