Sullivan Bows Out of Secretary of State Race, Will Not Endorse Gardner or Van Ostern

Nov 16, 2018

Former Manchester lawmaker Peter Sullivan appeared disappointed but undeterred after losing Thursday's House Democratic Caucus nomination for Secretary of State, despite receiving just 3 percent of the vote.

"There are three weeks to go,” he told reporters after the results were announced, showing House Democrats overwhelmingly backing former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern to replace longtime incumbent Bill Gardner.

“There are a lot of people who literally heard from me for the first time today,” Sullivan added. “I'm not giving up."

But less than 24 hours later, Sullivan decided he was indeed giving up — on both his campaign and the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which he said “displayed a cult-like devotion to money and fundraising, and a warped obsession with absolute partisan fealty.”

“Yesterday’s results made it clear that there is a near-total lack of interest in substantive electoral reform within the Democratic Caucus,” Sullivan said in a statement emailed to reporters. “It makes no sense to beat a horse.”

Sullivan announced plans to run for Secretary of State shortly after Van Ostern jumped into the race, but he said he’d been mulling the idea of challenging Gardner long before that. He positioned himself as an alternative to a longtime incumbent who, he argued, failed to keep up with the times -- and a candidate who introduced big-ticket fundraising into a race that should be above such campaigning.

The Secretary of State race was not Sullivan’s first foray into politics. He served as a Manchester alderman and a five-term member of the House of Representatives, where he sponsored a series of bills aimed at campaign finance and lobbying reform, among other electoral policies he went on to promote in his Secretary of State campaign.

The Legislature will now choose between the two remaining candidates for Secretary of State on Dec. 5, and Sullivan said he has no plans to endorse either Van Ostern or Gardner.

“My concerns about Bill remain: his support for legislation that complicates the ability to register and vote, the antagonistic attitude directed towards local officials, the technologically backwards campaign finance and lobbyist reporting systems,” Sullivan wrote in an email to NHPR. “Colin’s blindness to the corrosive impact of money on our democratic process, his willingness to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a race with fewer voters than a Tuftonboro selectman’s race, make it impossible for me to support his candidacy.”

“Honestly,” he added, “I don’t think either of them are terribly concerned about my endorsement.”