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By Announcing Campaign Bid Early, Is Ayotte Trying To Force Hassan's Hand?


Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte kicks off her bid for reelection Tuesday night in Manchester.

Ayotte is seeking her second term in the U.S. Senate, but the election isn’t until November of next year.

John DiStaso is WMUR’s political reporter. He joined NHPR’s Morning Edition to explain why she may be getting her campaign off to an unusually early start.

We’re still 17 months away from the election. What do you make of the timing of announcing now?

It is early. If you go back in time, other people who have announced for the Senate have done so during the summer and early fall of the year before; Jeanne Shaheen in 2008, Shaheen back in 2001. So this is a couple months earlier. I think it could be to try to get Gov. Maggie Hassan to try to show her hand. I don’t know if that’s the case, but that’s my speculation.

What do you expect to hear from her tonight?

That she is a leader in the Senate, she is going to say. She’s been found to be one of the most bipartisan Senators, but that’s of course a matter of opinion depending on the issue, but I expect her to say there are a couple of reports that have come out in in the past few weeks that have shown she’s been involved in some legislation in a bipartisan basis. I also think she’s going to rally the troops, pulling the Republican Party together here in New Hampshire, which is not a given for her.

The controversy surrounding Frank Guinta lingers. Ayotte came out strongly saying he should resign, but he ignored those calls. How much could that hurt her?

It’s hard to say how much it could hurt her. Obviously there’s a segment of the more conservative side who feels that Kelly Ayotte overstepped her bounds and should have let it play out and spoke out too soon. But the establishment faction of the party has kind of rallied behind her, including Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, who didn’t actually call for resignation, but stopped just short of that. I think it could play both ways, but in terms of hurting Kelly Ayotte, it just adds to the fervor from the conservative side against her. But how serious that’s going to be remains to be seen. Who will come out in the November 2016 election and who will stay home is the question.

Gov. Hassan is presumed to be her Democratic opponent, but what do we know about her intentions?

We don’t know anything about her intentions and what I understand is she truly doesn’t know yet. She’s been presumed to be the person who’s going to run on the Democratic side, but lately I think it’s become more of a question, given the fact that she has vetoed the budget, has signed a continuing resolution that could possibly go into the fall. The governor has said in the past that she’s not going to make any announcement or decision until the budget is resolved, so this pushes that way back. There are people on the Democratic side who are not absolutely sure the governor is going to run. I am still going to run under the assumption that she does, but that’s really based on conventional wisdom. I think it’s really a question as to whether she’s going to run.

Michael serves as NHPR's Program Director. Michael came to NHPR in 2012, working as the station's newscast producer/reporter. In 2015, he took on the role of Morning Edition producer. Michael worked for eight years at The Telegraph of Nashua, covering education and working as the metro editor.

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