New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday that he will not run for Senate in 2022, delivering a blow to Republicans’ chances of regaining control of the chamber.

Sununu, in a news conference at the Statehouse in Concord, said he instead would seek a fourth two-year term as governor.

“My responsibility is not to the gridlock and politics of Washington, it is to the citizens of New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “I’d rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire than just slow down and end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results. That’s why I’m going to run for a fourth term. And I’d be honored if the people in New Hampshire would elect me again as their governor. We have a lot more to do to protect the interests of New Hampshire citizens. And it’s just clear that I can be most effective doing that.”

GOP leaders from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had been courting Sununu to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, seeing him as their best prospect to flip a seat.

Democrats control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

Scott had said several times in recent months that he thought Sununu would run.

Sununu, 47, has remained a relatively popular figure in New Hampshire while avoiding the snug embrace that many in the GOP have offered to former President Donald Trump. And — thanks to his three terms as governor and a father and brother who were elected to statewide office before him — Sununu’s name is recognizable to nearly every voter in the state.

But Sununu had struggled with his decision. In interviews with NBC News last summer, he expressed reservations about whether the executive power he has as governor was worth trading for one of 100 Senate seats in hyperpartisan and gridlocked Washington, D.C. He also wondered how the job would affect his family. Sununu and his wife have three school-aged children.

Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory last week in Virginia’s race for governor buoyed GOP optimism that candidates who don’t run as champions of Trumpism can win on their own personalities and policy agenda. Like Youngkin, Sununu has kept a distance from Trump.

Sununu also signaled sharp disagreements with the ideological and personality-driven politics that Trump and his right-wing GOP supporters practice. Last month, for example, Sununu clashed with other Republicans in New Hampshire and voiced his frustration after GOP members of the state’s Executive Council blocked federal funding to assist with Covid-19 vaccinations. And although Sununu twice voted for Trump, he has been candid about his disagreements with the former president. Unlike other Republicans who audition for Trump’s endorsement by parroting false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Sununu quickly acknowledged President Joe Biden as the legitimate winner.

“Somebody asked me, ‘Well what about the election in 2020?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about the election. That’s history, man,’” Sununu said, according to The New York Times, at last weekend’s Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas.

Trump had not weighed in publicly on Sununu’s prospective candidacy, and some who have the former president’s attention, like Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, encouraged the governor to enter the race. But Trump raised eyebrows in September by issuing a statement that complimented a more conservative candidate who was already running, Don Bolduc. Bolduc lost a Senate primary in 2020 and implored party insiders not to anoint Sununu in 2022.

Polls have shown Hassan could be vulnerable to a strong challenge. A recent survey from the University of New Hampshire found her in close hypothetical races against Sununu and Bolduc.

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