In New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District, a Democrat announced her exploratory committee, while a Republican said it’s time to explore an independent candidacy in the race.

And the candidate viewed as the likely GOP nominee is all but certain to run for Executive Council instead. All that on a busy Wednesday in New Hampshire politics.

State Sen. Becky Whitley (D-Hopkint0n), a progressive favorite, announced she’s formed an exploratory committee.

“I’m exploring a run for Congress because New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District deserves a proven and effective leader who will never stop fighting to protect reproductive freedom, to preserve our democracy, and to lower costs for hard-working families,” Whitley said in a statement.

The only announced candidate is former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. Whitley made it clear that gender will play a key role in her campaign.

“Our state has a proud tradition of sending strong women to Congress to fight on the front lines for our democracy’s future and for our fundamental freedoms,” Whitley said in her statement.

And she reiterated that message in an interview with WMUR. “I think folks see this seat as an incredibly important one,” Whitley said. “There has been a long history in New Hampshire of strong women leaders, and Annie was one of those trailblazers. I think folks are really looking to continue that tradition.”

If elected, Van Ostern would be the only straight, White male in the Granite State’s federal delegation.

Another potential Democratic candidate, Maggie Goodlander, continues to inspire speculation. A Nashua native, Goodlander actually lives in the First Congressional District with her husband (and President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor) Jake Sullivan. Her parents were prominent Nashua Republicans, and her mother ran unsuccessfully in the Second District GOP primary in 1988.

“Maggie Goodlander Sullivan is actually Maggie Tamposi Goodlander Sullivan and the Tamposi name would mean a lot in the critical Nashua part of that district,” said veteran New Hampshire strategist Tom Rath. “I doubt very much that this happens, but I would not dismiss it.”

On the Republican side, the biggest news is who’s exiting: 2022 GOP nominee Bob Burns is running for the Executive Council seat being vacated by the retiring Ted Gatsas (R-Manchester).

The two other major 2022 candidates, Lily Tang Williams and former Keene Mayor George Hansel, are also in the mix. Williams has been running for months, while Hansel is still considering a possible run, through sources close to the candidate say it’s far from certain he would enter the race.

One of the people most likely to enter the GOP primary in the Second Congressional District is 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Vikram Mansharamani.

Sources close to Mansharmani, an entrepreneur and businessman who lives in Lincoln, tell NHJournal that the candidate is quickly assembling a team. “Vikram is getting a great response from both donors and the grassroots,” one source said. “He will have the money and support he needs to win the primary and is the best candidate to take on the Democrats in the fall.”

But one longtime GOP player, former Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey, wants a candidate in the race who rejects both parties.

“WANTED IN THE SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: Independent minded New Hampshire citizen with a working brain, (preferably a native who knows how to pronounce Lebanon, Berlin, Milan and who knows what Stark NH is famous for, and what town NH’s only Supreme Court Chief Justice was from, among other facts ) to run as an independent for Congress in the NH 2,” Duprey posted on social media.

Among the characteristics Duprey is looking for:

  • Refuse to caucus with either party; fiscal conservative, social moderate;
  • Pro liberty=pro choice;
  • No PAC money;
  • Stand strong with Ukraine against thug Putin and start serious strategic disengagement from China and their cheap products created with slave labor.

Asked by NHJournal who he had in mind, Duprey said he had “no idea who that person could be.”

“My hope would be that if one or two could do it this time in the country, then two cycles from now there might be 30 or 40. And they could make the difference in making both the liberals and the conservatives calm down and get stuff done,” Duprey said.

At least one fellow Republican says Duprey may be onto something.

“Other New England states have elected independents: Maine (King), Vermont (Sanders), and Connecticut (Weiker, Lieberman),” said former NHGOP state chair Fergus Cullen. “So, I don’t think it’s as far-fetched as some may think. It would take special circumstances and a special candidate.”