New Hampshire Democrat Cinde Warmington, who is her party’s only member on the state’s unique Executive Council, on Thursday became the first notable candidate to announce a bid for governor next year. That post is currently held by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has won his last three contests with ease but has loudly hinted that he won’t run for reelection—possibly to run for the White House. But whether or not Sununu makes a long-shot bid for the presidency, his departure would give Democrats a strong chance to reclaim his office after eight years in the wilderness.
Warmington devoted much of her kickoff video to emphasizing her support for abortion rights, though she also told viewers she didn’t care what Sununu's political future holds. But with the governor likely to pursue other options, Warmington probably won't have the primary to herself: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig formed an exploratory committee a month ago, and WMUR writes she’s “expected to officially enter the race soon.” On the GOP side, meanwhile, former state Senate President Chuck Morse said last month he’d run if Sununu bails, and several other Republicans are also considering doing likewise.
Warmington, who also works as a health care attorney, was elected in 2020 to the powerful Executive Council, a powerful body that Sununu himself previously served on. The five-member Council, whose members are elected in district-level contests, is tasked with approving any state contracts over $10,000 as well as the governor’s appointments to the judiciary and state agencies, gubernatorial pardons, and a large portion of the budget. Warmington has been the Council's lone Democrat during her entire tenure, a record she alluded to in launching her gubernatorial campaign by calling herself the “last line of defense against Republican overreach and extremism.”
Warmington’s kickoff comes at a time when Granite State Democrats are hoping to capitalize on a surprisingly good 2022 cycle in this longtime swing state. While Republicans had counted on a red wave that would wash aside Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, all three incumbents convincingly turned back extremist foes.
And though Sununu’s 57-41 victory proved that ticket splitting remains alive and well in New Hampshire, Democrats made big gains in the state House despite a new Republican gerrymander. That momentum has continued this year, with Democrats turning in strong performances in a pair of House special elections, and they could even tie the chamber if they win another special this summer.