Shaheen to run for third term in U.S. Senate in 2020

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks during a press conference urging the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and vote on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland at the federal courthouse in Concord on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington in August 2018. AP file

For the Monitor
Published: 1/27/2019 11:13:16 AM

In a widely expected move, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen announced she’ll run for a third six-year term representing New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate when she’s up for re-election in 2020.

Shaheen, the first woman in U.S. history to be elected both a governor and a senator, made her official announcement Sunday morning.

“I do intend to run again in 2020,” Shaheen declared on WMUR.

“I think what this Senate race needs to be about is what we need to do in New Hampshire and this country to address our future,” she explained.

Shaheen said she’ll continue to prioritize good jobs for New Hampshire families, access to health care, affordable prescription drugs and the opioid epidemic.

Shaheen, a member of the high profile Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and the influential Appropriations and Small Business panels, has become a leading voice among Democrats in the Senate since the start of President Donald Trump’s term in the White House.

Shaheen’s announcement was anything but a surprise.

Last month, at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s 2018 midterm election victory celebration, both Shaheen and longtime state Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley made it pretty clear that she would be bidding for another six years in the Senate.

“We’ve got to re-elect Jeanne Shaheen to the United States Senate in 2020,” Buckley said as he introduced her.

Although not as direct, Shaheen hinted toward her intentions, saying “we are going to hold this Senate seat. We’re going to take back the United States Senate.”

Shaheen, the wife of attorney and New Hamsphire Democratic National Committee member Bill Shaheen, has had a long history in politics. She worked on several presidential campaigns in the first-in-the-nation primary state, including those of Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Gary Hart in 1984.

Shaheen first ran for office in 1990, winning election to the state Senate. She was elected governor in 1996, winning re-elections in 1998 and 2000.

But she lost a bid for the U.S. Senate to Republican John E. Sununu in 2002. After serving as national chairperson of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and a tenure as director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, she won the 2008 rematch with Sununu. Shaheen narrowly won re-election in 2014 – during a difficult cycle for Democrats – over former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

With Shaheen now officially running, the spotlight now turns to which Republicans may try to challenge her.

It seems unlikely that the two most popular New Hampshire Republicans would run for the Senate in 2020.

Gov. Chris Sununu has repeatedly vowed that he has no interest in running for the U.S. Senate. The odds are much greater that the governor would run in 2020 for a third term in the corner office rather than for a full-time job in the nation’s capital.

“I have absolutely no interest,” Sununu told the Monitor in June. “I’m a manager. I love to manage.”

While she’s staying mum, it’s also highly doubtful former Sen. Kelly Ayotte will run in 2020.

Ayotte, who lost to then-governor Maggie Hassan by just 1,017 votes out of nearly three-quarters of a million cast in 2016, has joined the boards of numerous corporate and nonprofit entities, including News Corp., BAE Systems, Bloom Energy, Caterpillar, the One Campaign and the McCain Institute. She’s also a member of the executive committee of New Hampshire Veterans Count.

People close to her say it’s unlikely she’d run in 2020, with Shaheen running for re-election and with Trump at the top of the ticket.

Ayotte struggled when asked at a 2016 Senate debate if she considered Trump a role model. A few weeks later, she broke with her party’s presidential nominee after Trump’s controversial 2005 Access Hollywood comments regarding women surfaced.

While those close to Ayotte say the odds are slim-to-none that she would run in 2020, a lot can change politically as the cycle progresses over the next year and a half.

Another option for Ayotte would be to wait until a 2022 rematch with Hassan.

There’s another name being bandied about – Republican business executive and Newport native Jay Lucas.

“I’m flattered that there have been a number of people who have been reaching out and asking me to consider running, particularly because I have been so active helping my hometown of Newport recently, and a number of other causes,” Lucas told the Monitor last month.

“The truth is, I don’t have any plans right now to run,” Lucas said.

But he added, “I’m not ruling it out.”

Some Republicans point to Brown, who’s currently serving as U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. Those close to the former senator say there are no current plans for him to prematurely end his diplomatic post and return to New Hampshire to possibly launch a Senate campaign.

Others suggest former two-term Republican Congressman Frank Guinta may entertain a run for the Senate.

One more name that’s being mentioned as a possible GOP Senate contender in 2020 is state Rep. Al Baldasaro.

The outspoken and often controversial Republican from Londonderry served as a top surrogate and adviser in New Hampshire for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Last month, he narrowly lost the election for state House minority leader to GOP leader Dick Hinch. Baldasaro was named by Hinch as part of the chamber’s top GOP leadership, as House Republican Floor Leader.

Asked about a possible Senate bid, Baldasaro told the Monitor last month that “time will tell” before adding that running for the Senate is “a lot of money, it’s a lot of involvement.”

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