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N.H. Representative Carol Shea-Porter unexpectedly announces she’ll retire

Carol Shea-Porter talked with supporters during the Manchester "New Hampshire Together" Canvass Launch event in Manchester, N.H.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff, file 2016
Carol Shea-Porter talked with supporters during the Manchester "New Hampshire Together" Canvass Launch event in Manchester, N.H.

US Representative Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire announced Friday she will not seek re-election in 2018, saying that “the time has come in my life to pause and decide on a different path.”

Over the course of the past decade, Shea-Porter, 64, has served four times in the House of Representatives, winning, then losing, then reclaiming her seat. Her decision is a political bombshell with national implications. At a time when Democrats are looking to win back a majority in the House, Shea-Porter is one of the few Democrats holding office in a district that Republican Donald Trump won last year.

New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, which includes Manchester and the state’s Seacoast and Lakes Region, is the most hotly contested in all of New England.

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The announcement caught New Hampshire Democrats off guard, as Shea-Porter had offered no indication that she was planning to leave.

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The list of potential Democrats who could run to replace her is long, but with no heads up, none had even taken baby steps toward launching a campaign.

“Jaws just dropped,” said New Hampshire Democratic National Committee member Kathy Sullivan. “No one had a clue this was coming.”

This decision means that there will be at least two open seats for Congress in New England next year. US Representative Niki Tsongas, of Lowell, announced her retirement this summer.

Already there are two serious Republican candidates running for Shea-Porter’s seat, state Senator Andy Sanborn and former South Hampton police chief Eddie Edwards. With Shea-Porter out of the picture, that list of GOP contenders might grow. Among the Democrats being mentioned to run for the seat are US Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s daughter Stefany Shaheen, a former Portsmouth city councilor; Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester; and state Senator Donna Soucy.

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Some have also mentioned former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand, who is currently running for governor.

Shea-Porter came out of nowhere when she first ran for Congress and won in 2006, a Democratic wave year. Back then she had little money and was not backed by the party establishment, but won the Democratic primary anyway and then knocked off a two-term Republican incumbent. With her win, she became the first New Hampshire woman to be elected to Congress. Today both of the state’s US senators and US representatives are Democratic women.

“The news she isn’t running again is both surprising and distressing because I think she would win the seat, and now who knows,” said New Hampshire state Representative Jackie Cilley, who once served as Shea-Porter’s district director.

Jeanie Forrester, the state Republican chairwoman, described the announcement as “welcome news.”

“New Hampshire has a fantastic opportunity to replace her with a Republican representative who will work for the people of New Hampshire’s First Congressional District,” she said.

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Shea-Porter won reelection in 2008, but then lost in 2010, won again in 2012, lost in 2014, and won again in 2016. Since the 2010 election she faced Republican Frank Guinta four times. After she beat him in 2016, Guinta told Republicans he would not run again. Now, apparently Shea-Porter will not, either.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp