Congresswoman Annie Kuster won't seek reelection

By ETHAN DEWITT

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 03-27-2024 11:50 AM

Modified: 03-27-2024 6:59 PM


Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster will not run for reelection this year, she announced Wednesday morning, ending a 12-year congressional career and creating a rare open race for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.

Kuster, a Democrat from Hopkinton, did not give a direct reason for her decision, which was first reported by WMUR. But she said she had always planned to leave eventually.

“I always said I was not going to stay in Congress forever — I will not be seeking reelection in 2024,” she said in a statement. 

First elected in 2012, Kuster has been surrounded by politics her whole life. Her father, Malcolm McLane, served on the state’s Executive Council and as mayor of Concord, and her mother, Susan McLane, was a Republican state senator. Kuster helmed the New Hampshire law firm Rath, Young and Pignatelli and served as a health care lobbyist at the State House. She won the congressional seat in 2012 after narrowly losing to Republican Charles Bass in 2010.

In Congress, Kuster has focused on domestic and sexual assault prevention, substance use treatment, veterans services, and health care legislation, and at various points served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Energy and Commerce Committee. 

She founded the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, and the Bipartisan Ski and Snowboard Caucus, and helped pass the STOP Fentanyl Deaths Act, which funded fentanyl detection efforts; the Safe Connections Act, which allowed domestic violence victims to leave shared wireless plans; and the Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act, according a news release from her office. 

“As founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I have worked across the aisle to tackle the scourge of sexual violence and equip survivors with the support they need to recover,” Kuster said in her statement. “As chair of the New Democrat Coalition, I have helped bridge the partisan divide and find common sense solutions to the biggest issues facing our country. While there is still more to be done, we have made great progress.” 

Kuster’s departure sets the stage for competitive Democratic and Republican primaries this year to replace her. The district is Democratic-leaning; in the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections, Kuster won the general election by at least 10 percentage points. Her last close election came in 2016, when Kuster earned 49.8% of the vote and Republican candidate Jim Lawrence earned 45.3%.

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The state recently redistricted the two congressional districts after the 2020 Census. In 2022, Republican lawmakers passed a map that analysts said would have made the 1st Congressional District lean to Republicans and the 2nd District tilt more heavily to Democrats.

But Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed that plan, arguing the two districts should stay competitive.  “I think Republicans can win both congressional districts,” Sununu said at the time.

Candidates in both parties have several months to decide; the state’s filing period is in June. The state primary is Sept. 10.