Two-time Manchester mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan announced over the weekend she won’t be running for the Queen City’s top spot a third time, bolstering GOP hopes of taking back a job it has held most of the past three decades.

“I have made the difficult decision not to seek the office of mayor of Manchester,” Sullivan said in a statement, “I will instead work to get us two strong boards that can help right this ship with good people who want a stronger city. A strong board of aldermen and board of school committee can tie the hands of a bad mayor and in many ways can be a stronger catalyst for change.”

The news comes just days after fellow Republican Jay Ruais announced his bid for mayor has already garnered more than $100,000 in campaign contributions and the endorsements of several prominent Manchester pols, including former mayor and First District Congressman Frank Guinta. Ruais was a Guinta staffer in the past, and many Republican activists believe he is the party’s best shot to win the job being left open by incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig’s retirement.

“It definitely helps Jay,” one NHGOP insider told NHJournal, who said the party believes if it can get him through the nonpartisan primary as one of the top two vote-getters, Ruais has a very good chance of winning the support of both Republican voters and the downtown business community.

Another wild card was Republican Rich Girard, also a two-time Manchester mayor candidate, who announced on the Drew Cline radio show Monday morning he won’t be running, either. It appears Republicans will be able to unite behind the Ruais campaign.

At least two Democrats are in the nominally nonpartisan race, Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart and Alderman-at-Large June Trisciani.

Republicans in Manchester and Concord see the potential for a political twofer out of Craig’s decision not to seek reelection. They believe Ruais — a more mainstream Republican with a powerful personal story of overcoming addiction — can win the mayor’s office in the state’s largest city, partly thanks to Craig’s mishandling of the homeless issue. Even as homeless people were dying on city streets and driving potential customers away from downtown, Craig was on WFEA insisting the problem was no different than in the past.

Downtown business owners were outraged by her response to the problem, and several have already signaled they are prepared to back a Ruais candidacy.

At the same time, State House Republicans are salivating over rumors Craig may run for governor next year, putting her at the top of the state Democratic ticket. (Neither of the state’s U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot next year.)

As one Republican House member said, “The signs are already at the printer: ‘Let Joyce Craig Turn Your Town Into Manchester, Too!'”

Meanwhile, Sullivan said she plans to stay involved in local politics — hardly a surprise for someone who once served as assistant majority leader in the New Hampshire House.

“I will remain an advocate for the taxpayer and be a loud voice for those who can no longer bear the out-of-control spending rampage that our city has been on over the last six years. And I will be a relentless thorn in the side of our legislature and our city government by always being your voice and demanding accountability,” Sullivan said.