While Democrat Colin Van Ostern has hit the ground running in the race to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, no new Republican candidates have thrown their hats in the ring.

But that’s expected to change this week when multiple sources tell NHJournal that 2022 GOP nominee and former Hillsborough County treasurer Bob Burns and Hanover businessman William Hamlen are expected to announce their candidacies.

Another potential Republican, former Keene Mayor George Hansel, who lost to Burns in 2022, is still taking calls from supporters urging him to run, though he hasn’t made a decision, sources say.

State Rep. Joe Sweeney (R-Salem) is also on the potential candidates list.

There are already five Republicans in the race, among them Lily Tang Williams, who won just under 25 percent of the vote in the 2022 primary.

Many Granite State Republican insiders say a GOP win in the Second Congressional District, even with an open seat, is a longshot at best.

Others in the party, however, are more optimistic.

“Kuster’s departure gives Republicans in the Second District a real shot at taking the seat back from the left-wing ‘open borders’ crowd,” said New Hampshire state GOP chair Chris Ager.

A legislator who represents part of the district also sees a path to victory, though it’s a narrow one.

“If we nominate the right person, like a George Hansel, and they nominate the wrong person — some progressive extremist — we can win that seat,” one NHGOP legislator told NHJournal on background. “A pro-Trump candidate can’t win that district.”

But, the legislator added, it’s unlikely any non-MAGA Republican could win the primary.

Burns is proudly pro-MAGA and ran hard as the most pro-Trump Republican in the 2022 primary. It helped him win a narrow victory with 33 percent of the vote.

“I think it’s all but a sure thing I’ll get into this race,” Burns told WFEA radio’s Drew Cline on Friday. “I really don’t see what would prevent me at this point.”

Hamlen, a former commodities trader and a real estate investor, isn’t well known in the state’s GOP circles, though he has donated to Republican candidates and causes. Sources say he’s working through the process of formally becoming a candidate.

Both state Sen. Carrie Gendreau (R-Littleton) and businessman Vikram Mansharamani– who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2022 — are also being discussed as potential candidates.

As for Democrats, Van Ostern is already pushing out fundraising emails and giving interviews to Democrat-friendly outlets. But few state Democratic insiders expect him to have an open field.

The name most commonly mentioned is former Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who lost his party’s primary for governor in 2020. However, he’s also deeply involved in the litigation to force the state to provide more K-12 education funding in the wake of the Claremont lawsuits — lawsuits in which he was the original plaintiff’s attorney. He may see that work as more important than a seat in Congress.

Another frequently-named Democrat is state Sen. Becky Whitley of Hopkinton, an outspoken progressive who’s popular among many in the activist class. On Sunday, Whitley tweeted from on a plane headed to Washington “to find the Easter Bunny,” a reference to the White House Easter Egg hunt. But several state politicos noted it would also be a good time to meet with potential D.C. funders, too.

Kayla Montgomery with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has also been ID’ed as a potentially formidable candidate. Another name that’s popped up: Nashua native Maggie Goodlander, who’s served in the Biden Department of Justice, was an advisor to Attorney General Merrick Garland and is married to Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

The big issue behind all the conversations is money. National Democrats are expected to spend whatever it takes to hold the seat. Given Kuster’s war chest and fundraising success, she’s unlikely to let a potential successor run out of cash.

Republicans, on the other hand, are struggling to raise enough money for a competitive presidential race, pick up opportunities in the U.S. Senate, and hold onto their one-vote majority in the U.S. House.

“We need a millionaire who wants to go to Washington and hang out with Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene,” one New Hampshire Republican joked. “Know any?”