Outspoken progressive state Sen. Becky Whitley (D-Hopkinton) has made it official, telling WMUR she’s entering the Second Congressional District primary to fill the vacancy left by retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

Whitley, 44, made her announcement just days after Kuster endorsed longtime political operative — and her 2010 campaign manager — Colin Van Ostern.

“I have so much respect for Congresswoman Kuster,” Whitley told WMUR’s Adam Sexton when asked about the endorsement. “She’s the first woman to hold this seat and she’s been a mentor for so many women.

“I have also heard from the community that they want to see my results-oriented approach [in Congress],” Whitley added. “So I need to listen to them, and I think it’s really important that the voters decide.”

Whitley was first elected to the state Senate in 2020. She formerly served as policy director for the New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative and as a “climate organizer” for the Environmental Defense Fund.

She’s recently made headlines by calling out Senate colleagues for using the phrase “illegal aliens” to describe foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally, calling it “dehumanizing.”

“An ‘individual who is undocumented’ is a more humane way to refer to these folks,” Whitley said.

She also led the unsuccessful fight to block a bill banning sanctuary city policies in the Granite State.

“We’re not here to solve the border crisis,” Whitley told her colleagues. “We are not Congress.

Now that she’s running for Congress, Whitley’s stance on illegal immigration is part of the campaign.

Whitley told WMUR, “We need to make it harder for people to come here illegally,” but she supports amnesty (“a path to citizenship”) for people who have made it past border security and into the country illegally.

‘These are people. These are people that have families, they have children, they have built a life here,” Whitley said.

Like many of her fellow Democrats, Whitley has made support for unlimited legal abortion a top priority.

Whitley opposes New Hampshire’s current late-term abortion ban. Asked if there is any point in a pregnancy when abortion should not be allowed, Whitley said no.

“I trust women. I trust women to make the best decisions for themselves. I have been pregnant, and I know a lot of pregnant women,” Whitley said. “And they also know that the only way that women will have true equality is if they have the [ability] to decide the course of their futures.”

Whitley previously announced she’d formed an exploratory committee, and soon after, Van Ostern released a list of more than 100 Democrats, many from the Concord community Whitley represents. It was seen as an attempt by Kuster and her allies to keep Whitley out of the race. But Granite State Democrats have been telling NHJournal on background for weeks that it wouldn’t work.

One progressive activist told NHJournal the day after Kuster announced her retirement that the mood among the Bernie-Sanders-supporting base of the party, particularly in the Second District, was not to sit back and accept an Establishment coronation.

“Enough of that bulls—,” the activist said.

And a veteran Democratic operative told NHJournal there just isn’t a lot of enthusiasm for Van Ostern among the party faithful. His ill-fated 2018 attempt to oust Secretary of State Bill Gardner from his job “left a bad taste” with some of the Democrats Van Ostern needs to win.

“And there is something about Colin some Democrats just don’t like,” the source added.

The Republican field includes entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani and Lily Tang Williams, who received 25 percent of the vote in the 2022 Second District primary. It’s also widely speculated that Hanover businessman William Hamlen will enter the race.

On the Democratic side, there has been speculation that former Nashua resident Maggie Goodlander, wife of President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, might return to the district and run. But she has not made any public statements of late and Second District sources tell NHJournal it appears unlikely she will enter the race.