On the trail: Is a 2024 gubernatorial run next for Joyce Craig?

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 03-16-2023 2:50 PM

With Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig’s announcement that she won’t seek re-election later this year, speculation is building about the mayor’s next political move.

Sources close to the Democratic mayor, who’s currently serving her third two-year term steering the Granite State’s largest city, tell the Monitor that Craig is seriously looking at a potential run for governor in 2024.

In her statement Thursday, Craig sounded a lot like a politician looking to run for a new office as she touted the Queen City’s “historic growth” during her tenure.

As for her political future, the mayor was tight-lipped, saying “right now, I’m finishing off my term, I still have a number of months here as mayor of Manchester, and then we'll decide how I can best serve our community.”

Craig, who served on the Manchester School Board and later the city’s Board of Aldermen, narrowly lost the 2015 nonpartisan mayoral election to then-longtime GOP Mayor Ted Gatsas. But she defeated Gatsas in a 2017 rematch and was comfortably re-elected in 2019 and 2021. She’s long been viewed by political pundits as a potential Democratic gubernatorial contender.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who last November was easily re-elected to a fourth two-year term in the Corner Office, has yet to make any announcements about whether  he’ll seek an unprecedented fifth term next year. But Sununu has repeatedly acknowledged that he’s seriously considering a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. On Wednesday evening, the governor met at a gathering at the Bedford Village Inn with donors as he continues to take steps that could lead to a White House run.

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“It will come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the political landscape in New Hampshire that Joyce Craig is seriously considering a gubernatorial run,” veteran Granite State political scientist Wayne Lesperance emphasized. “Three terms as mayor of the state's largest city, an approach to politics that seeks to bring citizens together instead of engaging in divisive politics, and a willingness to roll her sleeves up and tackle big, often intractable, issues makes her a rising star in her party.”

Lesperance, the president of the Henniker-based New England College, noted the Republican elephant that’s standing in Craig’s way. 

“The number one question that must be part of her calculation is whether or not Gov. Sununu seeks another, unprecedented term or not. And that's no small consideration.”

Sununu has enjoyed positive approval ratings and easily defeated all three Democratic challengers – Molly Kelly in 2018, Dan Feltes in 2020 and Tom Sherman in 2022 – during his three re-election bids.  

Craig has already shown she’s willing to take on Sununu.

Earlier this year she and a handful of other New Hampshire mayors sent Sununu a letter urging him to take steps to immediately address the state’s homelessness crisis.

“The State of New Hampshire’s systems of care for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness are not meeting the needs of communities across the state and are contributing to a statewide homelessness crisis,” the mayors argued.

The governor, responding, argued his administration has taken unprecedented steps to address the issue and said “politically motivated letters” defeat the goal of mutual collaboration.

Craig’s political team released a statement on Thursday chocked full of praise for the mayor from leaders from across Manchester and the state. Among them was Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a former two-term governor, who looking to the future wrote that she wished Craig “continued success as she moves on to the next chapter.”

And longtime Democratic state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester wrote “I can’t wait to see what Mayor Craig does next to make a difference for our great city.”

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