Apr. 11—Saying "the appetite for change in leadership at City Hall has only strengthened" over the last two years, Republican former state Rep. Victoria Sullivan will officially announce a second run for mayor in Manchester on Monday.
A little over a week after launching an exploratory phase of a campaign for mayor, the former Assistant House Majority Leader and Ward 9 resident confirmed to the Union Leader on Sunday she will again seek the Queen City's corner office in 2021.
"During this recent exploratory phase, the outpouring of support I've received across the city has been tremendous, and more than I ever expected," said Sullivan. "I've listened to a lot of Queen City residents over the last year about their views on the state of the city. I know we can forge a brighter future for our city, which has an enormous amount of untapped potential."
Sullivan lost to two-term mayor Joyce Craig in 2019, 11,051 votes to 8,441 votes. In 2017, Craig defeated then-Mayor Ted Gatsas to become the first Democrat to be elected mayor of Manchester in 14 years, and the first woman elected mayor of the Queen City.
Craig has not yet said whether she intends to seek a third term.
Sullivan is the first candidate to officially announce a 2021 run for mayor of the state's largest city.
Former city school board member Rich Girard, who recently entered the exploratory phase of a possible run for mayor, said he's known Sullivan for the better part of a decade and respects her "energy and passion."
"The question is whether or not she can unseat Mayor Craig, who handily won reelection two years ago, despite Victoria's unrelenting criticisms," said Girard.
"Based on what we're seeing in the responses to our constituent survey at www.girardformayor.com people — including many who identify as Craig supporters — know what's wrong in the city and are looking for a candidate who has the firsthand knowledge of city issues and the extensive hands-on experience in city government that's necessary to make the changes the city so desperately needs."
Girard said he plans to announce his decision on a run for mayor by April 15. Gatsas said recently he's received calls from supporters urging him to run again.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said Sullivan's announcement shows how "desperate" Manchester's Republicans are to find a candidate to run against Craig.
"The voters overwhelmingly rejected Victoria Sullivan two years ago, and yet she is planning to run again in a race she is guaranteed to lose," Buckley said in a statement. "We're looking forward to reminding voters that while Mayor Craig was strengthening public education and driving economic development, Sullivan was voting to defund public schools and turning away funding to combat the opioid crisis."
Buckley said Craig has provided leadership at City Hall during the pandemic.
"Now Manchester is poised to rebuild as we head toward recovery," said Buckley. "Joyce is committed to solving Manchester's challenges, and she has a record to match."
During her 2019 campaign Sullivan frequently said the city had a reached a "crossroads." This weekend she said Manchester has ventured down the "wrong path" over the last two years.
"As a mother of two boys who are growing up in this city, I'm fighting for a Manchester with quality schools that serve all of our students, more well-paying jobs, a vibrant downtown with thriving small businesses, a busy airport, safer streets devoid of drugs, and a solution to the homeless crisis once-and-for-all," said Sullivan.
"My husband and I specifically chose Manchester as the place we wanted to raise our children. I love Manchester and its people, and I will protect hard-working taxpayers and fight for a better city for all families that call Manchester home."
Derek Dufresne and Michael Biundo, who served as consultants on Sullivan's 2019 campaign, are back in the same role. Larraine Lencki will serve as finance chairman.
Former state Rep. Ray Hebert is onboard as campaign treasurer, while Bettie Lamontagne and Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann have signed on as campaign co-chairs.
"Victoria Sullivan is direct and she is a fighter," said Hirschmann. "As we move to reopen our city after COVID-19, I know Victoria will work tirelessly to remove obstacles to get our city's economy back on track not only for Queen City residents, but also for newcomers drawn by good-paying jobs in Manchester. She will provide leadership from City Hall, which is often suspect with the current office holder."