New Hampshire’s Hassan jumps into Senate race targeting Ayotte

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CONCORD, N.H. – Two-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan launched a U.S. Senate bid Monday in a move likely to pit her against Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte in November 2016.

Hassan launched her campaign stressing her bipartisan approach to problem solving and criticizing the federal government for letting special interests hold sway, without singling out Republicans or Democrats, or mentioning Ayotte.

“Washington has given in to powerful special interests and lobbyists who rig the system for themselves and against the middle-class, and I believe we can do better for New Hampshire families,” Hassan said in a statement on her campaign website.

Ayotte came back with her own assertions of bipartisanship and a focus on New Hampshire, in a statement on her campaign website.

“As a working mom who commutes from Nashua every week, I’m guided by the concerns and solutions you share with me,” she said in a statement on her campaign site. “In the Senate, I fight every day for better opportunities and a brighter future for our kids and our state.”

Ayotte, a Nashua native and former state attorney general, was first elected to the Senate amid the 2010 Republican wave that sent dozens of freshmen lawmakers to Washington. No other Granite State Democrat has announced a bid to unseat Ayotte.

Ray Buckley, New Hampshire Democratic Party chair, wasted no time in skewering Ayotte as in league with the special interests Hassan cited.

“Washington is broken and special interest favorite Kelly Ayotte is part of the problem,” Buckley said on his party’s website. “Since going to Washington, Ayotte has put her special interest backers first, protecting tax breaks for big oil companies and outsourcers while voting to turn Medicare into a voucher program, defund Planned Parenthood, and make higher education more expensive.”

On the other side, Jennifer Horn, the Republican State Committee chairman, shot back, faulting Hassan for her support of the White House in its dealing with Iran.

“On her first official day as a Senate candidate, Maggie Hassan is already demonstrating that she is willing to march in lock step with President Obama’s reckless agenda instead of standing up for commonsense values,” Horn said in a statement on the party’s website. “Governor Hassan’s support for President Obama’s dangerous deal with Iran shows that she has a fundamental misunderstanding of foreign affairs and is clearly the wrong choice to represent our state in the United States Senate.”

Hassan was first elected governor in 2012 and won a second two-year term in 2014.

The race in a swing state could help alter the balance of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold an eight-seat majority. A net gain of just five seats could put the chamber back in Democrats’ hands.

Ayotte has an edge in money terms, with about $5 million in cash on hand, Washington publication The Hill reported on its website. WMUR-TV in Manchester said Hassan’s $5 million state campaign war chest won’t be available to her for the Senate bid.

“This will be close all the way through,” University of New Hampshire polling director Andy Smith told The Hill.