Potential candidates are constantly getting "mentioned" for higher office, but who's doing all that work? Why, the Great Mentioner, of course. In this new ongoing series, Daily Kos channels the Great Mentioner and catalogs all the notable candidates who might run in 2016's most important races.
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is one of the party's most sought-after Senate recruits.
New Hampshire always hosts plenty of exciting elections, but 2016 may be one for the books. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte will be a top Democratic target as Team Blue seeks to retake the Senate, and the DSCC knows exactly whom it wants as its standard-bearer. Gov. Maggie Hassan has proven to be a tough campaigner and polls well against Ayotte in hypothetical matchups, and national Democrats are working hard to enlist her.
However, Hassan is also up for another two-year term next year, and she may prefer to stay in Concord. Hassan isn't expected to decide on a Senate bid until at least the early summer, and whatever move she makes will have serious reprecussions. If Hassan goes after Ayotte, plenty of ambitious Democrats will be looking to replace her as governor. If Hassan stays put, the DSCC will shift gears and try to recruit some of those very same candidates.
Rep. Annie Kuster is the Democrats' most obvious non-Hassan candidate for either statewide post. Kuster already represents half of the Granite State, and she's been an effective fundraiser who has needed to run her share of tough campaigns. Kuster's past support for Wall Street deregulation, though, could give her a tough time in a Democratic primary.
There are plenty of alternatives to Hassan and Kuster, but few are as well-known. One big exception is former Gov. John Lynch, but he turned down the DSCC in both 2008 and 2010 and still doesn't appear interested. Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter looks more likely to run for her old seat, but she could also make a statewide bid. Shea-Porter isn't a great fundraiser but her liberal track record could give her an edge in a primary.
Back in November, local columnist John DiStaso listed some lesser-known Democratic names who might be interested in a Senate or gubernatorial bid. Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas both sit on the Executive Council, a very powerful post that's unique to the state but doesn't offer much exposure. State Sens. Donna Soucy and Dan Feltes, as well as former state Sen. Jackie Cilley (who ran for governor in 2012), are also possibities, as are two politicians close to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: her daughter, Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen, and her campaign manager, Mike Vlacich.
Ayotte is expected to have little trouble in the primary, but there are several local Republicans who could run for governor regardless of what Hassan does. Executive Councilor Chris Sununu comes from a very prominent political family, and he's considered running for higher office in the past. His father, former Gov. John H. Sununu, recently suggested that Chris could run for governor in 2016, though the younger Sununu hasn't said much about his plans. Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau recently refused to rule out a gubernatorial bid, too.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas runs the state's largest city and he's been touted as a potential gubernatorial candidate for a while. Gatsas has never taken the plunge, but 2016 could be his year. State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley has also been interested in a statewide campaign in the past, though he'd be risking his powerful post. Also worth watching are 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Stephen and 2014 House candidate Dan Innis, though they haven't given indication that they're interested.
New Hampshire is a very unpredictable state, and it's impossible to know which party will come out ahead in 2016. Ayotte's likely to face a competitive race regardless of who steps up to run against her, while Hassan would be favored for another term as governor. And if they go head-to-head, we'd have something close to a true tossup on our hands for Senate and probably an evenly matched gubernatorial battle as well. So we'll be watching every twist and turn at Daily Kos Elections.
For all of our posts in the Daily Kos Great Mentioner series, click here.