On the trail: Manchester Mayor Craig formally launches gubernatorial campaign

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 07-11-2023 2:50 PM

If anyone doubted her resolve, Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester on Tuesday officially launched a campaign for New Hampshire governor after forming an exploratory committee in May.

“I’m running for Governor to ensure that everyone in New Hampshire has the opportunity to succeed by strengthening our public schools, creating good-paying jobs, building more affordable housing, and protecting access to abortion,” the three-term mayor said in a statement announcing her candidacy.

“I’m a fourth-generation resident of New Hampshire and I love this state,” the first female mayor in the history of the Granite State’s largest city said in an interview with the Monitor. 

At this point in the campaign, her promises were broad.

“I’m running for governor to ensure everyone has the opportunities to succeed,” Craig said. “We need a governor who will support our local communities, who will work with our local communities so that no matter where you live, you’ll have access to strong public schools, affordable housing, good paying jobs, and reproductive freedom and I’ll be that governor.”

Born and raised in Manchester, Craig defeated four-term GOP Mayor Ted Gatsas in a 2017 rematch of their 2015 election to become the city’s first Democratic mayor in a dozen years. Craig was re-elected in 2019 and 2021 and helped Democrats gain more seats on Manchester’s aldermanic and school boards.

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The city has the distinction of being portrayed as the drug and crime capital of New Hampshire, which could provide ammunition for primary or general election opponents as Craig runs for governor.

Craig said her time serving in Manchester is an asset.

 “As mayor of the largest city in the state, I have the executive experience and firsthand knowledge of the statewide challenges that are affecting all of our local communities,” she said.

“There are so many statewide issues that are affecting our local communities and as mayor I’ve been on the frontline working with our community to address these issues and put forward solutions,” she added. “But we need a governor who will do that.”

Craig criticized Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s yet to announce whether he’ll seek an unprecedented fifth two-year term as governor.

“We need a governor who will come to our local communities, work with our local communities, help us address these statewide issues,” she said. “That doesn’t exist right now and that’s what I’ll do as governor.”

On Wednesday, Sununu visited the town of Winchester and areas of Cheshire County to tour areas of the state hit hardest by heavy rains and flooding.

Craig touted a list of accomplishments she said she made as Mayor of Manchester.  

“We’ve created hundreds of new, affordable housing units and thousands of good paying jobs. We’ve reduced violent crime by 38%. We’ve strengthened our public schools by decreasing class sizes, implementing new curriculum, and implementing professional development for our educators,” she said. “We have a growing biomanufacturing industry in the Millyard and Manchester was the only municipality to win a Build Back Better regional challenge, which is bringing $44 million to build out that industry, to build out workforce development, and will bring forward $7-thousand good paying jobs. That’s not only going to benefit Manchester. That’s going to benefit the entire state.”

When Craig announced her exploratory campaign in May, she showcased the support of 70 New Hampshire leaders, including some top Democrats. And her finance report from last month’s filing deadline indicated that she hauled in over $361,000 in fundraising in just over a month.

She said he’s proud of her fundraising totals while working to build a base across the state. 

“What I think is really important is those conversations that I’m having with community members from across the state,” she said. “They’re really pleased that they have a gubernatorial candidate coming to the local communities, listening to them, and understanding the challenges that they’re facing. And that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

Craig becomes the second major Democrat to jump into New Hampshire’s 2024 gubernatorial campaign, following Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, who launched her gubernatorial at the beginning of June. Warmington is the only Democrat on the five-member council, which acts as an elected cabinet while approving the governor’s personnel nominations and major state contracts.

Warmington, who was first elected in 2020 and re-elected last November, has been an outspoken defender of reproductive rights from her perch on the council, and has fought GOP efforts to nix public health contracts for abortion providers.

Asked about her primary opponent, Craig didn’t mention Warmington by name.

“We need someone with a record of leading a community, delivering results, and winning tough elections,” Craig said. “And that’s what I have.”

If Sununu passes on seeking re-election next year, three major Republicans have been indicating they’re ready to run for the Corner Office. They are former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general; former state Senate president Chuck Morse; and New Hampshire education commissioner Frank Edelblut.

Craig said that “whoever runs” and ends up winning next year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination, “the contrast couldn’t be clearer.”

“We need to make sure that we have a governor who will defend our reproductive freedom, invest in our public education and create opportunities for families from across the state,” she said.

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