After weeks of speculation and forming an exploratory committee, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig announced Tuesday that she was getting into the 2024 governor’s race.

And New Hampshire Republicans couldn’t be happier.

“Voters don’t want a governor who’ll turn New Hampshire into Manchester,” said House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn). “Craig is the New Hampshire Democrats’ Donald Trump: The more she campaigns, the more Republican voters will turn out.”

Craig is finishing her third term as Queen City mayor, where she has come under fire over the issues of crime, homelessness, and opioid overdoses. Manchester suffered a 22 percent increase in suspected opioid overdoses in 2022, according to Chris Stawasz, regional director of American Medical Response. The number of opioid-related deaths jumped 41 percent.

And the homeless problem reached a crisis point this past winter with the deaths of two deaths of homeless people and the discovery of a baby born in a wooded area in Manchester over the Christmas holidays.

As encampments spread across the city, homeless people began referring to a growing tent community outside the Families in Transition (FIT) emergency shelter on Merrimack Street as “Craigville.”

“Joyce Craig has unequivocally failed Manchester during her time as mayor,” said state GOP chair Chris Ager. “Her lack of leadership in the Queen City has led to rising crime and homelessness, failing schools, and increased taxes. Granite Staters have seen what Joyce Craig has done in Manchester and will not let ‘Craig’s Chaos’ spread to the rest of New Hampshire.”

Craig must first win the Democratic primary against Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington. The councilor has been raising significant amounts of money and has a long list of endorsements. Among them: Former First District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, state Sen. Becky Whitley (D- Hopkinton), and two former state speakers of the House, Terie Norelli and Steve Shurtleff.

Both Democrats have raised about $350,000 for their campaigns thus far, and they are expected to be competitive on the fundraising front throughout the primary. Craig’s list of backers includes big names in the Democratic establishment like former Gov. John Lynch, state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, and former state Democratic Party chair Kathy Sullivan.

She also has the backing of former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and former state Sen. Molly Kelly — both of whom lost their bids for governor.

Craig touted her focus on community in an interview with the left-leaning Boston Globe.

“We need a governor right now who will support our local communities and work with our local communities so that no matter where you live, you’ll have access to strong public schools, to affordable housing, to good-paying jobs, and reproductive freedom,” Craig told the Globe. “And I’ll be that governor.

But UNH political science professor Dante Scala said her message might not hit New Hampshire voters the way Craig intends.

“The challenge for that message is that most New Hampshire voters think of ‘local’ as their town, not a city,” Scala said. “And many will see Manchester, the ‘big city,’ as something ‘other’ or foreign to their daily lives.”

Scala pointed to the example of former Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, who struggled in the 2016 GOP gubernatorial primary.

“Ted Gatsas had plenty of resources, but he was unable to translate his mayoral experience into a convincing argument for governor.

“It will be interesting to see whether the urban/rural divide is as bright a line for Democratic primary voters as it is for Republicans.”

Republicans see Craig as a winner — for them. Several GOP legislators privately joked that the party should buy ads for her in the Democratic primary, the same way Democrats spent millions to boost weak candidates in GOP primaries last year.

While it’s possible Gov. Chris Sununu could run for a record fifth term, few NHGOP insiders believe that is likely. The most commonly mentioned names for possible GOP gubernatorial candidates are former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, and former state Senate President Chuck Morse.

State Rep. Joe Sweeney (R-Sweeney), who heads the political activism organization Granite Solutions, said Craig has staked out policy positions that would be a gift to her eventual GOP opponent.

“Joyce Craig’s track record as mayor of Manchester speaks volumes about the kind of governor she would be. Her recent push for driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and her desire to dismantle Educational Freedom Accounts demonstrates a clear disconnect from the values of our state.”

Meanwhile, Osborne offered what could be the most damning verdict of all.

“If Craig is going to be the Democrat nominee, I may think about running against her,” Osborne said.