On the trail: NH Senate president Morse formally launches US Senate bid

  • New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse speaks to a reporter in the executive council chambers at the Statehouse, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, in Concord, N.H. For two days only, Senate President Morse is New Hampshire's governor. The Republican landed in the state's top job due to a unique political time, with Maggie Hassan resigning to become a U.S. Senator two days before Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu is officially sworn in. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

For the Monitor
Published: 1/28/2022 5:00:05 PM
Modified: 1/28/2022 4:58:50 PM

State Senate President Chuck Morse doesn’t plan to let a powerful winter storm get in the way of his campaign launch.

The longtime business owner and Republican state lawmaker from Salem is scheduled to formally declare his candidacy for the U.S. Senate during an outdoor kick-off event at 9 a.m. at Freshwater Farms, his garden center, nursery and florist on Route 111 in Atkinson.

“I’ve been plowing for over thirty years,” Morse said in an interview. “I’ve worked hard my whole life-fighting snowstorms and we’ll do that the same way we’ll fight for this U.S. Senate seat.”

Morse becomes the third Republican to officially enter the campaign for the U.S. Senate GOP nomination in New Hampshire, to face off against former governor and first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan in the November general election.

Political pundits had long viewed Morse as a gubernatorial contender in 2022, with the thought that three-term GOP Gov. Chris Sununu would challenge Hassan, his predecessor in the corner office, in a race that could decide which party controlled the chamber’s majority going forward. But Sununu made national headlines in nearly November by announcing he would run for reelection rather than seek the Senate seat.

Morse said serving as a U.S. senator is “a position that I am quite qualified for.”

“Our track record in New Hampshire of lowering taxes and getting out of businesses is a blueprint that we should take to Washington and that’s what I intend to do and obviously I’ve proved that it works here in the state,” Morse said, pointing to his years of experience as a key architect of the state budgets.

Morse, who was involved in rough negotiations with then-Gov. Hassan during the 2015 budget stalemate, criticized Hassan and fellow Democratic lawmakers in Washington, arguing that “their policies with energy and excessive spending are what’s causing this country to leave them.”

Taking aim at what he said was a lack of fiscal discipline in the nation’s capital nowadays, he charged that “Gov. Hassan has done nothing about it and Sen. Hassan has done nothing about it.”

Responding, Hassan reelection campaign spokesperson Kevin Donohoe told the Monitor that “Senator Hassan has a long record of cutting taxes for New Hampshire small businesses and families — and working to cut government waste.”

Donohoe said Morse would be a rubber stamp for the Republican agenda.

“While Senator Hassan is delivering for NH taxpayers, Chuck Morse has made clear that if he made it to Washington he would be a yes vote for Mitch McConnell’s agenda of cutting Social Security and Medicare and raising costs for Granite Staters,” he said.

While’s he’s well known in Concord among state government circles and among Republican activists statewide, Morse and the other Republicans running for the Senate aren’t household names to most Granite Staters.

Morse said he plans to bring his message to people throughout the state, to “show them how we govern in New Hampshire and how we’ve led through the COVID crisis.”

One issue New Hampshire Democrats have already attacked Morse over is a state ban on late-term abortions that was included in the state budget that Morse helped write and pass last summer in the GOP-dominated state legislature. Republicans wrote into a budget rider bill a ban on abortions after 24 weeks of gestation that requires mandatory ultrasounds for all women before a pregnancy is terminated. The language in the budget made no exception for rape or incest, or for fetal viability, and included criminal and civil penalties – including prison sentences – for health care providers who conduct abortions after 24 weeks.

Morse made no apologies.

“I’m a pro-life Republican. I always have been,” Morse said.

Morse said the ban was “what the people of New Hampshire wanted.

“In the seventh, eighth, and ninth month, we’ve made it very clear that there will not be abortions. And I think the public’s with us on late-term abortion,” Morse argued. “On the first six months, we’ve certainly left those decisions up to the mother and her doctor and those decisions will be made by her. I think it’s commonsense what we did in New Hampshire and I think the public’s with us.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party charged that “not only does Chuck Morse want to ban abortion, but he also wants to defund Planned Parenthood and deny critical reproductive health services to thousands of Granite Staters.”

Morse pushed back.

“You can go out and lie and say we’ve banned abortion completely in New Hampshire,” Morse said. “We didn’t do that and if that’s what Sen. Hassan wants to go out and talk about, I certainly will debate her on it.”

The sanctity of the election process is also a top issue for Republican voters.

In the wake of former  President Donald Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that his loss to now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election was due to massive voter fraud and that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him, Morse noted that “New Hampshire runs the best elections in the United States.

“You can tell that by the way that the voters come out and vote and I’m proud of the way we run elections in New Hampshire,” Morse said.

Asked what he would say to the former president and his many supporters who doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, Morse answered, “I’m very clear that New Hampshire runs the best elections in the country and I would tell him that.”

Smith jumps in

Morse’s formal entry into the Senate race comes one week after Kevin Smith declared his candidacy at a campaign launch event in his hometown of Londonderry.

“Folks, Washington is failing us. And we need new leaders and imbued with common sense and decency and compassion to replace the distant, disinterested and dishonest career politicians in Washington, D.C.,” Smith said as he kicked off his Senate bid last Saturday.

Smith, who’s stepping down as Londonderry town manager, also chaired the Pease Development Authority and is remembered by many Republicans for his run for the 2012 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Longtime New Hampshire-based Republican consultant Michael Dennehy, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, is helping to guide Smith’s Senate bid.

Bolduc makes a big hire

The third Republican in the Senate primary is retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who until this month was the only declared candidate in the race. Bolduc, the runner-up for the 2020 GOP Senate nomination, launched his second Senate bid weeks after the 2020 election.

Bolduc, who’s been waging an “outsider” campaign for the Senate, made news this past week, hiring a veteran GOP consultant. Rick Wiley, a former Republican National Committee political director who also served as campaign manager then Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential bid, signed on a senior adviser for the Bolduc campaign.

In a strategy note, Wiley emphasized that the midterms are shaping up to be “an outsider election” because “voters are fed up with politicians and don’t trust them.”

“As the race in New Hampshire takes shape on the Republican side, retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc is uniquely positioned to win the primary and defeat Maggie Hassan in the general election,” Wiley argued.

Regardless of which Republican wins the September primary, beating Hassan in November won’t be easy, as she has a history of winning tough elections.

Hassan, as a first-term governor in 2014, won reelection during another cycle that was horrendous for Democrats, and she narrowly came out on top in a blockbuster battle with then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016. And Hassan’s continuing to build a very formidable fundraising war chest.

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