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NH Politics

New Hampshire’s 2024 race for governor: 5 developments

The education commissioner isn’t running for the GOP nomination, and Democrats are debating the significance of their latest poll numbers, as the 2024 presidential race casts a long shadow

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, shown here during a state Board of Education meeting on Aug. 10, 2023, in Concord, N.H., has decided not to run for governor in 2024.Steven Porter

Voters still have a year to decide which Republican and which Democrat will face off in New Hampshire’s 2024 gubernatorial contest, but the campaign season is well underway, as four declared candidates compete in parallel primaries.

Former US senator Kelly Ayotte and former state Senate president Chuck Morse are vying for the Republican nomination, while outgoing Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington are jockeying for the Democratic nomination. And there’s plenty of time for more candidates to step forward.

Here’s a rundown of five noteworthy developments and takeaways from the past week:

1. Edelblut sitting this one out

Education commissioner Frank Edelblut, who ran for governor as a Republican in 2016 and toyed with the idea of doing so again in 2024, confirmed on Sunday that he won’t jump into this race.


“Having prayed and counseled with many over this decision, I have decided that I will not be running in this cycle,” he wrote in an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Rather, I will continue to serve out my term as the commissioner of education.”

Edelblut’s term runs until March 2025, so perhaps he would consider running for governor again in 2026. His announcement came after a University of New Hampshire poll released last week showed him ranking as the least popular of four potential GOP candidates.

Another potential candidate, Robert Burns, who ran for Congress in 2022, said he’s more likely to join the 2024 gubernatorial contest now that Edelblut’s plans are known. He said he’ll wait a couple of months before making his final decision on whether to challenge the two “very establishment candidates” in the race.

“I think Chuck and Kelly will have a lot of trouble appealing to Trump supporters,” Burns said.

2. Ayotte leads in name recognition

The UNH poll confirmed that Ayotte is the overall front-runner, at least in terms of name recognition.


Only 13 percent of respondents said they didn’t know enough about Ayotte to form an opinion of her. That figure was 39 percent for Morse, 54 percent for Edelblut, 68 percent for Burns, 37 percent for Craig, and 65 percent for Warmington. The margin of sampling error was 2.9 percent.

Although Ayotte is better-known than Morse, their net favorability ratings were comparable: -14 points for her, -13 points for him.

An earlier poll from Emerson College showed Ayotte with a big lead over Morse and outperforming both Warmington and Craig in hypothetical matchups.

3. Democrats debate what latest polling means

Which of the Democratic candidates should be happier about the latest poll numbers? It depends who you ask.

Warmington campaign manager Philip Stein said the UNH poll “offers yet another proof point” that his boss is “the strongest candidate to win a general election and put a Democrat back in the corner office for the first time in years.”

Craig campaign spokesperson Craig Brown, meanwhile, said his boss is “polling stronger in matchups with Republicans” and “has tripled her lead in the Democratic primary.”

It’s clear that Craig is the better-known Democratic candidate, though her net favorability rating is -9 points, according to UNH polling. That’s low by historical comparison and when viewed alongside Warmington’s net favorability of +4 points.

Warmington endorser Terie Norelli of Portsmouth, a former Democratic speaker of the New Hampshire House, said her preferred candidate appears to have a clearer path to victory.

“I think that it will be easier for her to build the additional name recognition that she needs as opposed to having to dig out of a hole of unfavorability,” she said.


That said, Norelli will have no qualms voting for Craig in the general election if she wins the primary: “Either candidate would be far superior to any of the candidates the Republicans have to choose from,” she said.

4. Democrats lob criticism in Labor Day speeches

News reporters were barred from attending the New Hampshire AFL-CIO’s Labor Day breakfast in Manchester, but recordings from the closed-door event showed that Warmington and Craig used their speeches for pointed criticism of two different Republican targets.

Warmington said she held Republican Governor Chris Sununu’s feet to the fire in a recent dispute over contract bargaining with state employees.

“To be clear, an attack on unions is an attack on working families,” she said, “and when the governor uses his union-busting techniques, like selective wage enhancements, to bust unions, we have to call him out for that — and that’s what we do, and that’s how we hold government accountable.”

Craig used her speech to criticize Ayotte, who has served on numerous corporate boards since she lost her bid for reelection to the US Senate in 2016.

“I’ve always supported working families and brought thousands of family sustaining jobs to our community — all while Kelly Ayotte has made millions of dollars sitting on corporate boards that have shipped thousands of jobs overseas. … Ayotte puts her personal profit over people and that’s wrong,” Craig said in her speech, according to a recording provided to the Globe by her campaign. “It doesn’t reflect our values here in New Hampshire, and it’s disqualifying for anyone hoping to lead our state.”


Ayotte, meanwhile, has launched a video ad featuring her anti-Massachusetts opening message.

5. Republicans defend Trump’s ballot eligibility

Ayotte and Morse both called for New Hampshire officials to allow former president Donald Trump’s name to appear on the GOP’s 2024 presidential primary ballot, despite a legal challenge seeking to have Trump disqualified under the 14th Amendment.

“We must leave it up to the voters to decide our elections at the ballot box,” Ayotte said.

Morse said Trump “absolutely belongs” on the first-in-the-nation primary ballot, and he launched a petition demanding that Trump and all candidates have ballot access in New Hampshire.

Morse said on Good Morning NH with Jack Heath that he would support Trump as the GOP nominee even if he’s convicted of a felony before the 2024 general election.

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager said the state party will “actively intervene” to defend Trump’s ballot access in the state.

“We intend to protect the right of Republican voters to decide our nominee,” Ager said.

Even some of the legal scholars who argue Trump is constitutionally ineligible for public office based on his involvement in the events the culminated in violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have said the newly filed lawsuit in New Hampshire may be ill-suited to the task.


Laurence H. Tribe, an emeritus law professor at Harvard, said the case appears to be “a rather skeletal effort to tee up the issue.”

“My sense,” he said, “is that the heftier suits against other state Secretaries of State that will likely be filed soon have a better chance of success.”

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Steven Porter can be reached at Follow him @reporterporter.