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Former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte says she’s running for New Hampshire governor to “protect our Live Free or Die way of life.”

The former state attorney general, who later represented the key New England battleground state in the U.S. Senate for a term, on Monday officially launched a 2024 campaign for governor, in the race to succeed GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.

“Governor Sununu is an excellent leader who has worked hard to defend our Live Free or Die values and improve New Hampshire’s quality of life,” Ayotte wrote in a statement. “The battle to protect our Live Free or Die way of life must continue.”

Ayotte also announced her bid in an appearance on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.”

THIS POPULAR REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR ANNOUNCED HE WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire seen in 2017 file image

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., in 2017. (Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The popular Sununu announced last week that he wouldn’t see an unprecedented fifth two-year term as governor in 2024.

“I’m running for Governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts – from becoming something we are not,” Ayotte wrote as she took aim at the Granite State’s more progressive neighbor to the south.

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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks with Fox News Digital

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu sits for a Fox News Digital interview, at the Statehouse in Concord, New Hampshire, on June 26, 2023. (Paul Steinhauser/Fox News)

“I was born here and raised here. I raised my kids here, and you know what? I am going to die here because this state and it’s people are different. What we have here is worth fighting for,” Ayotte emphasized. “Together, we will ensure that New Hampshire remains safe, prosperous and free.”

Ayotte made history as New Hampshire’s first and only woman to serve as state attorney general, from 2004-09. 

Kelly Ayotte launches 2024 run for New Hampsihre governor

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks at a campaign rally, Sept. 22, 2020, in Gilford, New Hampshire. Ayotte announced Monday, July 24, 2023, she’ll be running for governor, days after fellow Republican Chris Sununu said he’s not seeking re-election to a fifth term in 2024. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

She won election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, but narrowly lost re-election in 2016 to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, by a margin of just 1,017 votes.

Ayotte becomes the second Republican to launch a gubernatorial campaign. Former longtime state Senate President Chuck Morse declared his candidacy minutes after Sununu announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

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“I think I take what I did in the Senate presidency and take it to the governor’s job,” Morse told Fox News last week as he pointed to the conservative agenda he and Sununu helped pass over the past seven years.

Chuck Morse launches GOP run for NH governor

Former state Senate President Chuck Morse is interviewed by Fox News Digital hours after he launches a 2024 Republican gubernatorial campaign, on July 19, 2023, in Hudson, New Hampshire. (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

Frank Edelblut, Sununu’s education commissioner who came close to defeating Sununu in the 2016 GOP gubernatorial primary, is seriously considering a gubernatorial run.

Two Democrats have already launched campaigns for governor: Cinde Warmington, the only Democrat on New Hampshire’s five-member elected Executive Council, and three-term Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.

As she announced her campaign, Ayotte unveiled an extensive list of endorsements from different wings of the GOP, including former senator and governor Judd Gregg, New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, and Bruce Breton, a co-chair of former President Trump’s 2024 White House campaign in New Hampshire.

Ayotte had a strained relationship with Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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In October of that year, after lewd sexual comments Trump made in a decade old video went viral, Ayotte said that as a mother and a former prosecutor who had worked with victims, she could no longer vote for Trump in the general election, and instead wrote in Mike Pence’s name.

But in 2017, she helped guide Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee – now-Justice Neil Gorsuch – through his Capitol Hill confirmation process, serving as a so-called “sherpa.”

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