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NH Politics

Outgoing mayor of Manchester, N.H., launches exploratory committee for 2024 governor’s race

Joyce Craig is the first Democrat to make this move, but there are others thinking about running as Governor Chris Sununu mulls a possible presidential bid

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig announced in March 2023 that she won't seek reelection.Cheryl Senter for The Boston Globe

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The outgoing mayor of the largest city in northern New England publicly confirmed Monday morning what many had suspected: she’s seriously considering a bid for governor.

Joyce Craig, a Democrat, announced the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee that includes 73 leaders from across all 10 counties in New Hampshire. It includes current and former elected officials, business and labor leaders, and other community leaders.

“It’s important to have those connections in local communities and then have their support as we head out into those communities and have conversations with residents,” Craig told the Globe.

Craig said she has worked closely with other mayors and elected officials to address common challenges, and she’s looking forward to spending time during this exploratory phase to hear from Granite Staters about how state leaders in Concord should meet local needs.

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“I know that we can do better,” she said.

Craig is the first Democrat to announce an exploratory committee ahead of the 2024 gubernatorial contest, but she’s not the only prominent member of her party who could launch a campaign. Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington is another potential Democratic candidate.

Former state senator Dr. Tom Sherman, who ran for governor in 2022 and who some had said could run again, told the Globe on Monday that he won’t run for governor in 2024. He said he’s not endorsing anyone at this time but will fully support the candidate who wins the Democratic nomination.

Warmington told the Globe on Monday that she’s focused right now on “getting things done for the people of New Hampshire.” With the 2024 election more than 18 months away, it’s still very early, she said.

“There will be plenty of time for politics later,” she added.

There’s also at least one potential contender to watch on the Republican side. Chuck Morse, former president of the state Senate, has confirmed that he’s laying the groundwork for a possible gubernatorial bid. Other potential GOP candidates include education commissioner Frank Edelblut and former US senator Kelly Ayotte.

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All the hubbub around the governor’s race is happening under the shadow of Governor Chris Sununu’s presidential aspirations. Sununu, the popular Republican incumbent, has confirmed he’s exploring a potential 2024 bid for the White House. If he does, then the race to succeed him could be a wide-open contest.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig in her City Hall office on March 20, 2023.Cheryl Senter for The Boston Globe

When asked how Sununu’s final decision might impact hers, Craig told the Globe that she’s focused on the exploratory committee for now and on having conversations with people across the state. She said announcing the committee now gives her plenty of time to meet with people, without a specific timeline for a formal campaign launch.

Craig’s committee includes five state senators, seven state representatives, and seven mayors, plus various labor union, business, and community leaders.

At the top of the list are former four-term Governor John Lynch and his wife, Dr. Susan Lynch, a pediatrician, of Hopkinton. They touted Craig’s accomplishments in Manchester, including her work to build up the city’s biotech industry.

“Joyce’s leadership in Manchester and across the state make her the most well-prepared candidate to serve as our next Governor, and her record as a winner in tough elections proves she can put together a winning campaign,” John Lynch said in a statement. “Joyce has the vision, skills, and dedication to be an outstanding Governor for the people of New Hampshire.”

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Craig touted Manchester’s progress on attracting jobs and new housing, improving education by shrinking class sizes and introducing new curriculum, and reducing the city’s violent crime rate.

Craig, a mother of three, was born and raised in Manchester. She served on the city’s school board, then as an alderman, then in 2017 she was the first woman elected to serve as the city’s mayor. She won reelection in 2019 and 2021, then she announced in March that she won’t seek reelection to a fourth term.

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager released a statement Monday knocking Craig’s “lack of leadership” and saying it’s “laughable that she wants to bring her disastrous policies to the corner office.” Ager said Republicans will work to win the governor’s race in 2024 and expand their majorities in the state’s House and Senate.

This story was updated to include comments from former state senator Dr. Tom Sherman, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, and New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager.


Steven Porter can be reached at steven.porter@globe.com. Follow him @reporterporter.