The battle for control of the Senate next year got hotter Monday, as Democrat Maggie Hassan, the governor of New Hampshire, said she’d challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican seeking re-election.
New Hampshire is a swing state, and Democrats were eager to field a strong candidate against Ayotte, a center-right senator who’s gained notice for her national security expertise.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report immediately declared the race a tossup. Republicans now have 54 Senate seats, meaning Democrats need a net gain of five for control. Republicans are defending 24 seats next year to Democrats’ 10.
“Democrats scored perhaps their biggest Senate recruiting success of the cycle this morning when Gov. Maggie Hassan announced that she will run against first-term GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte,” it said Monday. Cook analyst Jennifer Duffy called the race “a nail-biter.”
Hassan posted a video on her website Monday, noting how as governor she balanced the budget and “ created a business friendly environment that has New Hampshire's unemployment rate at the lowest levels since 2008. Now, to continue working to realize our state's full potential, we need a response from Washington that meets the progress we are making at home.”
Ayotte tweeted that she welcomed Hassan into the race.
New Hampshire was already due for special attention in the 2016 presidential race because it is seen as up for grabs. Hassan, 57, first elected governor in 2012, is backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president.