State Senate President Chuck Morse is making it official, telling WMUR he’s filing paperwork this week as part of the process of entering the GOP U.S. Senate primary.
“I obviously believe that I have what it takes to win a statewide race in the state of New Hampshire,” Morse told WMUR. ”I honestly believe that I’ve done a good job in New Hampshire on reducing taxes and growing the economy. Compare that to Washington.”
The veteran state lawmaker who faced off against then-Gov. Maggie Hassan over budget and fiscal issues has been on the shortlist of likely Republicans to enter the race. The only other declared candidate is Gen. Don Bolduc who, according to Cook Political Report, “is not seen as a serious candidate.”
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith is expected to make an announcement about his future intentions this week, and both media millionaire Bill Binnie and former Congressman Frank Guinta are also reportedly considering a run as well.
Last week the news broke that Morse had hired longtime GOP strategist Dave Carney to oversee his campaign.
“Chuck Morse is taking the next required step which is filing the FEC form 1 [statement of organization]. It allows the campaign to begin raising funds in earnest,” Carney told NHJournal. “Final pieces should be in place before he formally enters the race. Stay tuned.”
According to WMUR, “a planned major launch event at Morse’s Freshwater Farms and Garden Center in Atkinson.”
Morse, who has been a state senator since January 2011 and chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee before becoming GOP leader, is known among insiders as a steady, hard-working if unexciting, Republican leader who knows how to raise money.
On the one hand, he’s an establishment Republican who endorsed Jeb Bush in 2016. On the other, he navigated last year’s conservative budget through the Senate and to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk, including a ban on late-term abortions and education freedom accounts. He’s also been an outspoken opponent of government-imposed vaccine mandates and so-called “vaccine passports.”
While Morse is a veteran pol, he’s not a tested campaigner. “Chuck Morse has not faced a seriously competitive race for office — primary or general — since he entered the Senate in 2010. Now he will run in two in 10 months,” UNH political science professor Dante Scala told NHJournal. “Safe in his state Senate district, Morse has been insulated from the changes that have roiled his party in the past decade. In his first bid for statewide office, will the quintessential Concord insider find his establishment credentials a burden — especially to his fellow Republicans?”
Over the weekend, Morse called out Hassan for her vote to send COVID relief checks to convicted felons in prison. One of those checks was received by Boston Marathon Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev.
Several GOP insiders pointed out Morse has the advantage of having “gone toe-to-toe with Hassan,” as one put it. “When she says something that contradicts her previous positions, he can say ‘Sorry, Maggie, I know your record.'”
NH Democratic Party state chair Ray Buckley took to Twitter Sunday night to attack Morse as “anti-choice” and “anti-education.”
“With Chuck Morse jumping in the Senate race, NH Republicans are going to spend the next eight months embroiled in a race to the far right that will seriously damage whoever emerges as their nominee,” Buckley said.
And the Cook Report wrote that “Morse leaves sources who talked to us the least impressed as a potential statewide candidate…who would suffer in a GOP primary as being part of the establishment.”
But with a political climate that is extremely unfavorable to Democrats — President Joe Biden hit yet another record low approval in the RealClearPolitics polling average over the weekend — a generic Republican may be all it takes to defeat Hassan. And her decision to abandon her “bipartisanship” message and embrace the AOC politics of killing the filibuster and federalizing state elections is considered a risky campaign strategy in a state where moderate Democrats have done well.
“I’m not convinced you need a rock star to win this race in 2022,” NHGOP strategist Jim Merrill told The Boston Globe.
In a way, Hassan is responsible for helping Morse achieve his highest success. She had to resign from the governorship in 2017 before Sununu could be sworn in. As a result, Morse — who has made no secret of his desire to be governor — spent about 48 hours in the job.