Democratic primary race to replace Kuster in Congress begins to take shape


New Hampshire Public Radio

Published: 04-04-2024 4:26 PM

One week after a surprise announcement by Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster that she won’t run for reelection this year, the race for the Democratic nomination to succeed her is quickly taking shape.

Former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern kicked off his candidacy one day after Kuster’s announcement. On Wednesday, Hopkinton state Sen. Becky Whitley said she’s launching an exploratory committee to run for the seat representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

If Whitley, who worked as a disability rights lawyer before joining the state Senate in 2021, becomes a candidate, it will pit two prominent Democrats against each other in the primary race for a seat that could determine the partisan makeup of Congress next year.

In a statement Wednesday, Whitley, who is 44 and now serves as assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, described herself as “a steadfast champion for women, children and families,” and called serving in Concord “an absolute privilege.”

“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. "I have been truly humbled by the outpouring of encouragement to bring my solutions-oriented approach to D.C."

Van Ostern, 45, mounted unsuccessful campaigns for governor in 2016 and New Hampshire secretary of state in 2018. He has worked in both business and politics in New Hampshire for years, including stints as a spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic party and the campaigns of Jeanne Shaheen, John Kerry and John Edwards. He also managed Kuster’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 2010. He has worked as an executive at Stonyfield Yogurt, Southern New Hampshire University and — most recently — a Manchester-based venture capital firm.

In launching his own congressional campaign last week, Van Ostern said his top priority is to fix Washington, which he says starts with passing a federal law to protect reproductive rights, and by working to reduce the costs of housing, healthcare and childcare.

Other Democrats eyeing runs for Kuster's seat include Maggie Goodlander, a top lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice who grew up in Nashua.

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Goodlander is the daughter of Betty Tamposi, who served in the U.S. State Department in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. She is married to President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Rich Gulla, president of SEIU 1984, which represents state employees, is also considering a bid.

Republican Lily Tang Williams of Weare, who finished third in the district's 2022 Republican primary, has been actively campaigning for the GOP nomination for months.

Bob Burns, a former Hillsborough County treasurer who was the Republican nominee against Kuster in 2022, has indicated interest in another run.

Other potential Republican candidates include Salem state Rep. Joe Sweeney and 2022 US Senate candidate Vikram Mansharamani.

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