On the trail: Marchand hints at third bid for governor

  • Democrat Steve Marchand holds a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Thursday. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 5/16/2019 6:32:11 PM
Modified: 5/16/2019 6:32:00 PM

Just two days after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced that he’s running for a third term steering New Hampshire, former Portsmouth mayor and 2016 and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Marchand sparked speculation that he’ll mount a third bid for the corner office.

Marchand held a news conference Thursday to call for state lawmakers to quickly move to enshrine in state law the right of women to terminate a pregnancy. Marchand first unveiled his plan last year during his primary race against eventual gubernatorial nominee and former state senator Molly Kelly.

“Now more than ever, we have an obligation at the state level to assert in the clearest, strongest manner possible New Hampshire’s commitment to protect and maximize the right of women to make their own health care decisions about their own bodies,” Marchand said as he pointed to last year’s confirmation of Republican President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court – Justice Brett Kavanaugh – and this week’s signing into law in Alabama of the most restrictive abortion measure in the country.

The event had the trappings of a campaign announcement – except Marchand’s not running for anything – at least right now.

“I’ve made no decision about what I’m going to do in 2020. Obviously I haven’t ruled it out,” Marchand said in an interview with the Monitor.

Marchand highlighted that “I’ve got a lot of friends in a lot of places – over 40,000 votes last time. And those were folks that got to know me and there’s a personal relationship in so many of those cases. They’re urging me to do it again. But I have no timeline for making the decision.”

Marchand, who’s currently serving as a senior political adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, sounded like a candidate in waiting, saying “I’m not going away. I’ll be very active. There are big things to do in New Hampshire and we need leaders that are comfortable leading in big ways.”

Marchand jumped in late to the 2016 race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but ended up finishing a surprise but distant second to then-executive councilor Colin Van Ostern of Concord in a multi-candidate field.

He jumped in extremely early in his second bid, launching his campaign in April of 2017, just four months into Sununu’s first term in office. While he had a year’s head start over Kelly, the Harrisville Democrat ended up crushing Marchand in last September’s gubernatorial primary.

While persistence is an admirable quality, the third time is often not the charm in campaign politics.

“Everyone has the right to run for elective office but when you’ve run for the same office twice and lost, you should probably give some sober thought to whether it’s wise to run again,” noted longtime New Hampshire-based Democratic strategist Judy Reardon.

If Marchand runs again, it’s likely he’ll have plenty of competition. State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky – who are both Concord residents – appear likely to announce gubernatorial bids this summer.

Kelly, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, has not ruled out another run. Another possible contender could be Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who’s running this year for re-election to a second term steering New Hampshire’s largest city.

Sununu slams U.S. Senate

Sununu’s decision to run for re-election as governor put to rest any speculation that he would launch a GOP challenge in 2020 against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who’s running for a third 6-year term next year.

But Sununu took aim at Shaheen in his announcement, writing that “we all know that I would defeat Jeanne Shaheen, but others can too. Never before has a sitting 12-year senator from New Hampshire accomplished so little.”

The next day, the governor tempered his criticism a little bit, telling reporters “I think Sen. Shaheen is very competent. She’s very accomplished ... but when it comes to putting the people of this state first, I’m sorry, that just isn’t happening anymore. There’s no sign of that.”

He also lobbed some grenades at the U.S. Senate, stressing that “I don’t know what they do in the Senate frankly. They don’t do much. So I can’t imagine going to Washington and being one of 100 senators who doesn’t get a whole lot done.”

Remember those words, just in case Sununu changes his mind and runs for the Senate in 2022 against Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, the governor’s direct predecessor in the corner office.

Harris, in N.H., turns tables on running mate talk

Sen. Kamala Harris is near the top of the rankings in the latest polls for the Democratic presidential nomination. The former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the upper single digits, trailing front-runner Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Regardless of her poll position in the historically massive field of Democratic contenders – which has reached 24 candidates – there has been national media speculation in recent weeks about a Biden-Harris 2020 Democratic ticket.

On the campaign trail in Nashua on Wednesday, Harris had a chance to weigh in on the speculation.

Asked about talk of her serving as the former vice president’s running mate, Harris told reporters, “If people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that. Because I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As vice president, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job. And certainly, a lot of other candidates for me would make a very viable and interesting vice president.”

Biden – campaigning in Concord a day earlier – brushed aside his standing right now as a clear front runner in the polls in the Democratic nomination race.

With eight and a half months to go until the voting begins in the primaries and caucuses, Biden repeated the standard line that most of the White House hopefuls use when asked about their poll position, saying that “this is a marathon, this race. A lot can happen.”

And the former vice president joked that “if they (the polls) were true and this was a parliamentary system, I’d call for the election tomorrow. But this is early, this is really, really early. We’ll see.”

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