Charlie Bass passes on 2014 Senate run against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen
Charlie Bass; Friday, October 19, 2012. (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
Former congressman Charlie Bass won’t run for the U.S. Senate next year, he announced yesterday, making him the latest New Hampshire Republican to pass on challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
“After much thought and several discussions with my family, friends and colleagues, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014,” Bass said in a statement. “Though I am confident that a strong Republican nominee will defeat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen next year, my current personal and professional responsibilities preclude my candidacy.”
Bass’s decision, exactly one year before the election, leaves Jim Rubens, a former two-term state senator and 1998 gubernatorial candidate from Etna, and Karen Testerman, a longtime conservative activist and 2010 gubernatorial candidate from Franklin, as the two leading Republicans in the race.
“It’s not surprising that Republicans are having trouble finding candidates to run against Sen. Shaheen. Jeanne Shaheen embodies New Hampshire,” said Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in a statement. “As state senator, governor and now U.S. senator, she’s always worked across party lines to support New Hampshire’s working families and small businesses.”
Bass, a Peterborough Republican, served in the U.S. House for seven terms. He lost his 2nd District seat in 2006, won it back in 2010 and lost it again last year, to Democrat Annie Kuster.
He said two months ago that he was giving “serious consideration” to a comeback in the form of a Senate campaign after state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, who had been widely expected to challenge Shaheen, decided not to run because of illnesses in his family.
While Bass said yesterday he isn’t retiring from politics and intends to continue supporting GOP candidates, his decision means New Hampshire Republicans approach 2014 with two largely unknown candidates for the U.S. Senate.
In addition to Bradley, former U.S. senators John E. Sununu and Bob Smith, and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu also considered Senate runs next year but decided to pass on the race.
In a statement yesterday, Testerman called Bass a friend and said she respects him for his years of service.
“If Charlie had decided to run he would have added another dimension to the healthy discussion of issues that Republicans encourage,” she said.
Shaheen, a former three-term governor, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2002 but won a rematch with John E. Sununu in 2008. She’s up for a second term in 2014, with $2.8 million in the bank as of Sept. 30 and strong numbers in most polls.
There’s at least one wildcard left: Scott Brown, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has hinted at a possible run against Shaheen in 2014. He has a vacation home in Rye, recently registered a political action committee in New Hampshire and has been attending Republican events across the state for months.
Brown has repeatedly declined to make a definite statement about the race.
“With regard to my political future, listen, there is a role for me,” Brown said Sunday on Fox News Sunday. “This is not about me. It’s about . . . letting people know who we are as a party and how we can move forward with a positive message to convince people how to vote for us.”
Host Chris Wallace replied, “I’ll take that as a definite maybe.”
Rubens yesterday dismissed a potential Brown candidacy, saying the former Bay State senator “seems to be running some sort of national effort” and New Hampshire Republicans should coalesce around a candidate sooner rather than later.
“The mountain is tall,” Rubens said. “Anytime one challenges an incumbent, you’re an underdog. . . . But I believe, in 2014, Americans are going to be really, really ready to see some alternative to gridlock in Washington.”
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter