Jeff Cozzens is so focused on beating incumbent Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster next year that he’s stepping down as CEO of Schilling Beer Co., the business he founded with his family 15 years ago.

The Littleton Republican announced this week he’s running against Kuster in the Second Congressional District, a seat Democrat Kuster has held since 2013.

“You know, for me this is a really simple decision. Our business has been, I think, the epitome of the American dream. We started with nothing, worked together as a family, and built this thing up to be one of the larger employers in the region and among the best breweries in the world. But it’s also time for me to step away so I can focus on this task at hand, and that’s beating Annie Kuster,” Cozzens told NHJournal.

First, however, Cozzens has to win the GOP nomination. Several Republicans have already said they’re running, including former Hillsborough County Treasurer Bob Burns, Rep. Jeffrey Greeson (R-Wentworth), and disabled veteran activist Dean Poirier.

But Cozzens has already gotten a valuable shout-out from New Hampshire’s most popular Republican.

“No one in New Hampshire I’d rather have a beer with than my friend @JeffreyBCozzens,” Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted soon after his announcement. “Jeff is the real deal— authentic, hard-working, a community leader. Democracy is better when good people step up to run for office.”

Cozzens argues Kuster’s record is out of step with the district, he said. Kuster has forgotten the real needs of people in New Hampshire and is siding with the liberal elite that seeks to control too much of people’s lives.

“This is a group of elitist politicians in Washington that want to tell Granite Staters how to raise their kids, how to run their businesses, and how to live their lives,” Cozzens said. 

He points to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate as the type of federal interference he opposes. Cozzens supports the vaccine, but does not want the government to force people to get it.

“I’m vaccinated, my family’s vaccinated, most of the people in my business were vaccinated, but you know what? I don’t need the president of the United States telling me that I must be vaccinated to work in a business,” he said.

He’s also opposed the so-called “We The People Act” which would adopt New Hampshire-style voter registration rules for the rest of the country.

“I think election integrity is incredibly important, and I think in order to vote in New Hampshire, you need to be a Granite State resident and you’ve got to show ID,” he said. “I think there’s very much a state issue, and I think it’s a state issue that we’ve shown in the Granite State that we can handle very aptly.”

Cozzens also criticized Kuster for her support of the $3.5 trillion spending package being pushed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress, which he said would lead to financial ruin for the country.

“That is nothing short of socialism,” he said. “I look at my kids and I look at my grandkids, someday, and I want to make sure that we’re leaving a country that isn’t just petering economically.”

Cozzens is a former Department of Defense employee who advised the military on emerging threats. He said Biden’s foreign policy, as exemplified by the disastrous Afghanistan pull-out, is humiliating and un-American, and that Kuster is wrong to support the president.

“Their foreign policy is based on an ideology of weakness. Those certainly aren’t Granite State or values and they’re not American values,” Cozzens said.

Kuster has proved popular with Granite State voters in the past, beating her Republican challengers by 5 to 10 percentage points since she first defeated Charlie Bass in 2012. Wayne Lesperance, political science professor at New England College, said Kuster is not unbeatable, but that her challenger has their work cut out for them.

“Unseating an incumbent is almost always a tall order. A GOP candidate’s chances in a (Democratic) leaning district like CD-2 is even more of a challenge,” Lesperance said. “Still, voters – especially independents – remain unpredictable. The right candidate with a strong message has an opportunity to tap into the middle with the right message.”