Who NH Democratic insiders are talking about for NH’s CD2 seat after Kuster’s surprise announcement

Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s surprise announcement she would not run for reelection in November has set off a raft of speculation on who could succeed her in the seat. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Colin Booth

March 27, 2024

With Wednesday’s shock announcement that Congresswoman Annie Kuster would not seek reelection in November, speculation began running wild almost instantly.

Congresswoman Kuster will likely go down in history as one of the most important elected officials in the history of the state. She has made history for the district and the Democratic Party across multiple lanes of influence and success both in the state and nationally, meaning the next person to run for the seat will need a record or the potential to create a legacy that fulfills the expectations the congresswoman leaves behind.

With that, here are the names top New Hampshire Democrats are talking about for the role, presented in alphabetical order.

State Representative Angela Brennan

One of the most high-profile state representatives, Brennan has been a highly visible political presence in state politics. Recognized by the National Conference of State Legislators as an emerging leader, Brennan has worked on bipartisan legislation around AI, sat on the House election law committee, and was deeply involved in the Biden Write In campaign. She has been previously supported by EMILY’S List, and was a strengthening democracy fellow for Future Caucus.

State Senator Donovan Fenton

“In my mind there are only two names that are serious contenders for this race that aren’t Colin Van Ostern: Becky Whitley and Donovan Fenton,” One senior New Hampshire strategist said.

At 35 Fenton is the youngest leader on the short list of candidates Democrats in the state are floating. A Keene business owner, former state representative with a masters degree in political management from George Washington University and a family deeply active in state Democratic politics for many years, Fenton’s political ascent has caught the attention of many, and his running for higher office has been openly speculated following his successful state senate bid.

Matt Houde

The dark horse of this list, former State Senator Matt Houde’s name was floated several time despite a near total absence from New Hampshire political life seemingly since his departure from the Senate in 2012. A former state representative, state senator, and current Vice President of Government Relations at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Houde seems to be rekindling relationships in anticipation of a possible run.

Molly Kelly

Former State Senator for New Hampshire’s 10th district where she served for a decade, Kelly ran for Governor in 2018, losing to incumbent Chris Sununu 53 percent to 46 percent at the height of his popularity, but leaving Democrats with major gains down the rest of the ticket.

Kelly has served on a wide range of boards and commissions, including being one of the founders of AmplifyNH, a leading political advocacy organization in the state.

At 74 Kelly is on the older range of names being floated, but many say her strong record in state races and coalition work would pay dividends in a congressional race in the district.

Kayla Montgomery

As Vice President of Public Affairs New Hampshire for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Montgomery has been one of the most visible figures fighting against Republican efforts to roll back reproductive rights in the state, where the issue has proven one of the top concerns among voters. 

With one of the most powerful women in congress leaving her seat, many senior Democrats are speculating that national organizations committed to electing women like EMILY’s List will not be shy about spending and endorsing in a contested primary. Montgomery would be well positioned to navigate channels to draw those resources.

Colin Van Ostern

There is no mistaking Van Ostern’s interest in the role, as he sent his first tweet in nearly 2 years just minutes after Congresswoman Kuster’s announcement, releasing a statement on her departure. Van Ostern’s next most recent political activity was seen in the Write-In Biden campaign where he assisted in organization and fundraising. He ran a very close campaign for New Hampshire Secretary of State in 2018, where he narrowly lost to incumbent Bill Gardner. He served on the New Hampshire Executive Council from 2013 to 2017.

Many party insiders have expressed concerns with Van Ostern expecting an easy path to the nomination, possibly even receiving support from Congresswoman Kuster on her way out. But they view a cruise through the primary as unlikely. Others are concerned about his relative lack of visibility in New Hampshire politics since his 2018 run.

That said, many others consider him a top contender for the seat, with friends and coalitions built up over decades ready to support his run.

State Representative Laura Telerski

Another rising star in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, State Rep. Laura Telerski took the helm of the New Hampshire Democrats Victory Campaign Committee in 2021, the organization charged with electing House Democrats and has overseen seven special election wins in nine contests for the organization.

Andru Volinsky

Former Executive Councilor and favorite of the politically disaffected left of New Hampshire, Volinsky would have a base of support right out of the gate. Many still say his loss in a primary against former State Senator Dan Feltes in 2018 cost Democrats the seat. His association to Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Volinsky in his primary bid, would also bring major support.

State Senator Becky Whitley

One of the youngest candidates on this list at 44, State Senator Becky Whitley’s name was one of the first and most widely speculated on for the congressional seat. An ambitious and passionate legislator in the New Hampshire State Senate with a range of legislative accomplishments under her belt, many Democratic insiders in the state have spent years speculating on Whitley’s next political move, and expect this could be it.

One democratic operative with extensive experience in New Hampshire races said of a possible Whitley run:

“Becky Whitley embodies the ideal candidate for this moment. Granite Staters deserve a Congresswoman with proven legislative achievements. She defeated a former Congressman in her first campaign and has since spearheaded crucial bipartisan bills, such as New Hampshire’s MOMnibus package and initiatives to combat child hunger.”

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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