🔴 Kelly Ayotte makes her run for governor official

🔴 She takes on state Sen. Chuck Morse in the Republican primary

🔴 Gov. Chris Sununu is not running for a fifth term

Kelly Ayotte has made it official and thrown her hat into the New Hampshire Republican gubernatiorial primary.

After dropping a large hint and months of fundraising, the 55-year-old former U.S. Senator and state Attorney General made it official Monday morning with a statement released to WMUR TV.

“I want to thank Governor Sununu and Valerie for their dedicated service to New Hampshire over the past seven years,” Ayotte said in the statement. “Governor Sununu is an excellent leader who has worked hard to defend our Live Free or Die values and improve New Hampshire’s quality of life.”

In a tweet announcing her candidacy, Ayotte repeated her concern about New Hampshire "becoming Massachusetts," something she first mentioned when Gov. Chris Sununu said he would not seek re-election to a fifth term.

"I am running for Governor because I fear that we are one election away from turning into Massachusetts. Together, we will ensure that we keep New Hampshire safe, prosperous and free," Ayotte said.

Former governor and Sen. Judd Gregg and New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne have endorsed her campaign, according to WMUR.

The biggest question facing Ayotte is whether the state GOP, which would have made her a prohibitive favorite 10 years ago, has been sufficiently transformed by the Trump years to make her nomination less of a sure thing, according to SNHU Civic Scholar and founder of NH Political Capital Dean Spiliotes.

"She has very high name recognition and should be able to raise a lot of money, but the NH Republican primary electorate is a bit more of a question mark for her than it was for her first U.S. Senate run in 2010," Spiliotes said.

Karen Kelsey (R) and her daughter Abby meet former Sen. Kelly Ayotte at May 5 NHMCA event
Karen Kelsey (R) and her daughter Abby meet former Sen. Kelly Ayotte at May 5 NHMCA event (Scot Villeneuve, Big Hit Media)

Democrats Key in on Abortion

Democrats were ready with negative reaction to her candidacy.

New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman called her an "anti-abortion extremist" who was a "loyal acolyte to U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell."

"She filibustered common sense gun reform in the wake of Sandy Hook. She led an unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees," Buckley said in a statement. "She opposed same sex marriage at a time when New Hampshire led the the way toward the right side of history. When she lost her last election so many years ago after a single term in the senate, she abandoned the Granite State in favor of multiple high paying corporate boards, only to return once she filled her now flush bank account."

Kayla Montgomery, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, focused on her her stand on abortion.

“Kelly Ayotte may try to paint herself as pro-woman, but her record tells a very different story. In her last campaign, Ayotte promised to overturn Roe v. Wade; now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decimated federal protections for abortion rights, her extreme anti-abortion agenda is even more dangerous," Montgomery said.

Montgomery said that Ayotte as a U.S. Senator voted to defund Planned Parenthood, and in 2011, voted to eliminate the entire Title X Family Planning Program.

Ayotte joins state Sen. Chuck Morse on the Republican side. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Council member Cinde Warmington are the only announced Democrats.

In a statement, Craig took a shot at Ayotte and Morse, calling them "extreme MAGA Republicans." She specifically said Ayotte lost her 2016 re-election campaign because she was more concerned with corporate donors.

"Ayotte has spent the last six years profiting off her votes to defund Planned Parenthood and strip reproductive rights by taking high-paying corporate lobbying jobs. Granite Staters deserve a governor who will fight for them, not serve the MAGA extremists and reward corporate special interests," Craig said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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