Former state Senate President Chuck Morse was in familiar territory—geographically and politically—Tuesday when he held a press conference in the Legislative Office Building lobby in Concord to outline his plans to crack down on illegal immigration and crime.

“Border Patrol agents have estimated that more than 10 million illegal immigrants have crossed our southern border since Joe Biden took office. That is greater than the entire population of the state of New Hampshire,” Morse said.

The Salem Republican has made border security a centerpiece of his campaign for governor. Several of Tuesday’s proposals were already well-known positions for the Morse campaign: Outlaw sanctuary cities, back local law enforcement, and impose harsh sentences for fentanyl dealers. (“Anyone who deals fentanyl in this state needs to be treated like the murderer they are.”)

Morse wandered into new territory, however, when he directly criticized his GOP opponent, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, over her record on the immigration issue.

“We shouldn’t be talking about any [idea] that we want sanctuary cities. We shouldn’t be talking about any [idea] that when they get in this country, we find a path forward for them to become citizens. That’s what my opponent believes should happen,” Morse said.

“We should not be playing any games to say that we’re going to work with illegal immigrants that came to this country. No amnesty!”

As a senator, Ayotte supported the so-called “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration plan that would have given millions of illegal immigrants a path to becoming U.S. citizens, calling it “a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem.”

And in 2005, while serving as state attorney general, Ayotte chose not to appeal a ruling by Judge L. Phillips Runyon III that the arrest of a group of illegal aliens in New Ipswich and Hudson was unconstitutional. The local police chiefs had arrested the immigrants for “trespassing” by being in the U.S. illegally. Some of Ayotte’s critics said her refusal to challenge the judge’s ruling was a sign of her tacit support for sanctuary policies.

A reporter noted Ayotte “seems to take a harder line” on illegal immigration and asked Morse, “Do you think voters can trust her on this issue?”

“Well, I certainly wouldn’t support amnesty,” Morse replied.

Team Ayotte fired back.

“New Hampshire would’ve banned sanctuary cities already if Chuck Morse hadn’t deep-sixed the Republican bill in 2022,” said Ayotte spokesperson John Corbett. “Chuck’s record is clear – he killed a sanctuary city ban, failed to use E-Verify at his own business, and is now trying to backpedal and cover his tracks because he is desperate and losing.

“Kelly Ayotte has never supported amnesty and never will. As a former prosecutor, Kelly is the only candidate in this race with a track record of keeping New Hampshire safe and putting criminals behind bars,” Corbett said.


Morse was joined by familiar faces from his time in the state Senate, including current Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry). Carson said the Senate “has stepped up and passed bills dealing with these issues,” a reference to legislation banning sanctuary cities, which all 10 Senate Democrats opposed.

“Chuck knows the issues. Chuck has the answers. We need him in that corner office,” Carson said.

Morse has embraced another state Senate proposal, allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants for trespassing on privately-owned land — a bill sponsored by Senate President Jeb Bradley (R- Wolfeboro) that also passed over unified Democratic opposition.

Morse also said that, as governor, he would work to prevent New Hampshire from offering “lavish perks and services to illegal immigrants,” according to his proposal. “I promise New Hampshire will not be a welcome mat for illegal immigrants, nor will we participate in offering them services here in the Granite State.”

Both Democrats running for governor — former Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington — oppose a state ban on sanctuary cities. And their fellow Granite State Democrats have compared support for increased immigration enforcement to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews, with state party chair Ray Buckley calling it “fascist fearmongering” and “thinly-veiled racism.”

Asked about those accusations from Democrats, Morse told NHJournal, “I think these kind of things are things people say when they don’t want you to see the truth.”