Rumors swirling about Ayotte’s future after loss to Hassan

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte greets supporters outside a polling place at Bedford High School on Election Day. Ayotte lost her U.S. Senate seat to Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte thanks supporters Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, 2016, after telling them her race with Democratic challenger for Senate, Gov. Maggie Hassan was too close to call in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Monitor staff
Published: 11/16/2016 4:07:13 PM

Defense secretary. Ambassador to the United Nations. New Hampshire voters narrowly ousted Kelly Ayotte from the U.S. Senate and now rumors are swirling about the Republican’s next step.

Ayotte has remained tight-lipped on future prospects. And while reports have surfaced that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is considering the Nashua resident for a cabinet position, both Ayotte backers and his local supporters cast doubt on the idea.

“I would be surprised,” said Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican and a Trump campaign’s veterans advisor. “I’m still not happy she did not endorse Trump.”

Ayotte hasn’t made many public appearances since losing her seat to Democrat Maggie Hassan by a little more than 1,000 votes. But she told NH1 at a Veterans Day ceremony last week that she was focused on regrouping with her family. Ayotte lives with her husband and two school-aged children in Nashua.

“I will always find a way to serve our state and our country, even as a private citizen,” Ayotte said when asked whether she would serve in a Trump administration.

Through a campaign spokeswoman, Ayotte declined to comment about what’s next or whether she has been invited to join Trump’s cabinet. Following other failed U.S. Senate campaigns, candidates have turned to the private sector and academia.

“I have told her to take some time to relax and rest,” said Steve Duprey, an Ayotte backer and member of the Republican National Committee. “She will have terrific opportunities.”

The loss represents a stunning fall for Ayotte, who had become the state’s top Republican after winning the U.S. Senate seat in 2010. In Washington, Ayotte also carved a name for herself as a foreign policy hawk, signing a warning letter to Iran over nuclear talks and battling the Obama administration for information about detainees kept in the U.S military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Ayotte’s tumultuous relationship with Trump may have played a role in her election downfall, and it’s a prime reason why supporters dismiss reports she is being considered for his cabinet.

Throughout most of the campaign, Ayotte supported but refused to endorse Trump’s candidacy. He verbally lashed out at the New Hampshire senator over the summer, accusing Ayotte of giving him no support during an interview with the Washington Post.

Weeks later, Ayotte called Trump a role model during a televised debate, but quickly walked it back saying she had “misspoke.”

Ayotte eventually denounced Trump’s candidacy altogether after a 2005 video surfaced showing the businessman talking about groping and kissing women without consent.

News outlets began reporting that Ayotte was under consideration for a cabinet post after columnists for the Washington Post and the National Review opined last week that the Republican would be a good fit.

“Her elevation would signal that Trump campaign cronies won’t be moving into the West Wing – or the Pentagon; Trump would get credit for selecting a mainstream, serious person,” wrote Jennifer Rubin, a conservative who writes for the Washington Post.

A Trump spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Before joining the U.S. Senate, Ayotte was the state’s first female attorney general, appointed by Republican Gov. Craig Benson and twice reappointed by his Democratic successor, John Lynch. Ayotte oversaw the team that prosecuted Michael Addison, which resulted in the state’s first death penalty conviction in decades.

Ayotte served briefly as legal counsel to Benson in 2003 and spent the preceding years at the attorney general’s office and in a private practice. She graduated from Villanova University School of Law in 1993.

After losing her first bid for U.S. Senate in 2002, Jeanne Shaheen continued in politics, taking over as national chairwoman of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. She was then named Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2005. She ran again for the U.S. Senate seat in 2008, successfully defeating Republican incumbent John E. Sununu in the pair’s second matchup.

Sununu, a one-term senator, moved to the private sector following the loss. He became a senior policy advisor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a lobbying and law firm in Washington, D.C. He kept up a public profile, writing op-eds for the Boston Globe.

While Ayotte has stayed mum on her own future, she is weighing in on the fate of others. The Republican told the Union Leader this week that Gordon MacDonald, a partner at the law firm Nixon Peabody, would be a good fit to head up the state attorney general’s office. Republican Governor-elect Chris Sununu is reportedly weighing the Manchester attorney to replace Joseph Foster, whose term is up at the end of March.

“Gordon is a highly respected and talented attorney who possesses great intellect and integrity,” Ayotte told the Union Leader. “He would be an excellent choice to serve as attorney general.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or

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