By Kevin Landrigan

Gov. Chris Sununu confirmed he'll pass on a U.S. Senate campaign in 2020 and run for reelection to a third term as governor.

Sununu, a 44-year-old Newfields Republican, made the announcement Tuesday night on social media after he and his wife had discussed his future.

"Over the past few weeks, Valerie and I have taken a deep look at how my path of public service can best help New Hampshire families. Nothing is more critical to our state's future than ensuring strong leadership in the corner office and saving our New Hampshire Advantage," Sununu said.

"We are getting the job done ... more people are working today in New Hampshire than at any time in history. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and wages are at an all time high."

Sununu thanked those who encouraged him to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who is seeking her own third term next year.

"We all know that I would defeat Jeanne Shaheen, but others can too," Sununu said. "Never before has a sitting twelve-year senator from New Hampshire accomplished so little."

Shaheen first won the Senate seat in 2008 defeating Sununu's older brother, incumbent Sen. John E. Sununu, who had defeated then Gov. Shaheen for the Senate seat in 2002.

Former Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan of Manchester said Gov. Sununu knew he would have been outmatched against Shaheen.

"Translation: Chris Sununu knew he would lose. Why else would he be so churlish?" Sullivan tweeted.

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said in any event New Hampshire voters will retire Sununu next year.

"While we regret missing the opportunity to retire Chris Sununu in a campaign for U.S. Senate, we look forward to replacing him as governor in 2020, along with his mentor, Donald Trump," Buckley said in a statement.

"After four years of enriching himself and leaving New Hampshire families in the dust, Chris Sununu will face a successful and strong challenger."

Republican Governors Association Deputy Communications Director John Burke noted Sununu is among the most popular governors in the country according to recent independent surveys.

"@ChrisSununu is one of the best governors in America, New Hampshire is a better place because of his leadership!" Burke posted on Twitter.

Several less well-known Republicans are considering a Senate bid next year including former N.H. House Speaker Bill O'Brien of Nashua, Portsmouth businessman Jay Lucas, retired, Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc of Stratham and Seacoast lawyer Corey Bryant Messner.

National GOP leaders had urged Sununu to make up his mind as soon as possible so that others who wanted to challenge Shaheen would have enough time to raise enough money and political support to compete against the state's senior senator, who also served as governor for three terms.

Sununu said it's essential the GOP holds onto the governor's seat, especially since the Democrats took over both houses of the Legislature last November.

He again lashed out at Democratic legislative leaders for sending him the mandatory family and medical leave bill he vetoed last week that would be financed by a payroll tax hike.

"What is also clear is that the (Democrats') agenda in New Hampshire has become more radical than any of us ever believed possible," Sununu said.

"This is highlighted by the fact that the Democrats in Concord, for the first time in history, put an income tax bill on the Governor's desk. We stood up for New Hampshire citizens and vetoed that bill, but more Washington, DC extremism is on its way and I hope you will continue to stand with me."

For the past several months, Sununu has been working behind the scenes to recruit GOP candidates to run for legislative seats in hopes of taking back control of the Legislature in 2020.

Polls had showed a Shaheen-Sununu race would have been competitive, though Shaheen raised a record $1.4 million in the first three months of 2019.

Several Democrats have not ruled out running for governor themselves next year, including 2018 nominee Molly Kelly of Harrisville, Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord.

"Chris Sununu was true to form tonight showing his pettiness and lack of vision. Unfortunately, this means that Granite Staters who worry about health care, or the quality of their schools or the burden of their property taxes will get nothing from him," Volinsky said in a statement.

"He doesn't understand that leadership is based on innovation, competence and hard work. We can do better."

(c)2019 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)