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Hassan first ran for the New Hampshire Senate in 2002 after Democratic Party leaders recruited her. She lost to incumbent Russell Prescott but ran against Prescott again in 2004 and won. Hassan was elected to a total of three two-year terms, representing New Hampshire's 23rd district from January 2005 to December 2010. She became the Majority Leader in the State Senate in 2008 before losing reelection in a 2010 rematch with Prescott.
In 2016, Hassan ran for the U.S. Senate and narrowly defeated Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent, by about a thousand votes (about 0.1% of the vote). She is serving with Jeanne Shaheen, another former governor. Hassan and Shaheen are the only two women in American history to be elected both governor and U.S. senator.
In 1996, Hassan began working as an attorney for Sullivan, Weinstein & McQuay, a Boston corporate defense and business law firm. In 1999, then-New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen appointed her as a citizen advisor to the Advisory Committee to the Adequacy in Education and Finance Commission.
In November 2010, Hassan lost to Prescott in a second rematch, 53% to 47%, as Republicans regained control of both the state House and state Senate.
Hassan served on the Capital Budget Committee and the Budget Conference Committee. She helped pass the FY2008-FY2009 budget.
In 2008, Senate President Sylvia Larsen chose Hassan to serve as Senate Majority Leader, the number two position in the New Hampshire Senate. Larsen chose her for the position because she wanted someone who would fight to get the Democratic caucus to support the same agenda, at times creating friction between Hassan and her Republican colleagues.
During her tenure as majority leader, Hassan had a major role in legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire. She presented three versions of a same-sex marriage bill, one of which narrowly gained enough support to pass both chambers.
Hassan helped pass the FY2010-FY2011 budget. This budget increased spending by over a billion dollars and contained 33 tax and fee increases, including taxing campsites like hotel rooms, a so-called "income tax" on New Hampshire business, and raising vehicle registration fees.
Capital Budget Committee
Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection
Public and Municipal Affairs (Chair)
Energy, Environment, and Economic Development (Vice Chair)
In June 2014, Hassan filed to run for reelection. In August 2014, New Hampshire Attorney GeneralJoseph Foster, a Hassan appointee, ordered her to return $24,000 in campaign contributions that violated New Hampshire campaign finance laws. In October 2014, Hassan was ordered to return another $25,000 in funds a union donated to her gubernatorial campaign because the union had not properly registered with the state as a political committee.
Hassan defeated Ian Freeman in the September 9 Democratic primary and Republican nominee Walt Havenstein in the general election, 52% to 48%. She carried 7 of 10 counties.
In July 2015, Hassan vetoed a bill that would have removed the licensing requirement for carrying concealed firearms in the state. In response to New Hampshire's opioid crisis, she appointed Jack Wozmak the state's "drug czar" in early 2015. He resigned one year later in response to complaints about his job performance. Hassan also worked to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state.
She resigned as governor at the end of January 2, 2017, to prepare for her swearing-in to the U.S. Senate. Senate president Chuck Morse became acting governor.
On October 5, 2015, Hassan announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016. She challenged Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte. The race was considered one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races of the year.
Hassan was endorsed by the pro-choice Democratic political action committeeEMILY's List, which also backed her two gubernatorial runs. Hassan endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. She said climate change and reproductive rights would be her top priorities if she were elected to the Senate.
On November 9, the day after Election Day, Hassan was declared the winner. Ayotte conceded that evening, choosing not to pursue a recount.
Hassan has announced that she will run for reelection in 2022.
Hassan being sworn in to the U.S. Senate by Vice President Joe Biden.
Hassan was in the Senate chamber on January 6, 2021, for the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. After the Capitol was breached by rioters, Hassan, along with staff and other senators, was removed from the chambers to an undisclosed location. Hassan called the event traumatizing, calling it an "insurrection" and "one of the grimmest days in the history of our country." The following day, she called for Trump to resign, calling him "unfit for office". She also called for an investigation into the lack of security, poor law enforcement response, and how law enforcement treated the Trump supporters, which contrasted with the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors.
On June 19, 2018, a congressional intern was caught on video yelling, "Mr. President, fuck you!", as Trump walked through the United States Capitol for a meeting with Republican congressmen. On June 25, Hassan's office confirmed that a Hassan intern, Caitlin Marriott, was the person caught on video swearing at Trump. A Hassan spokesperson confirmed that Marriott had been suspended from her position for a week and was required to return her congressional intern ID badge. Hassan refused demands that she fire Marriott.
In 2019, former Hassan staffers Jackson Cosko and Samantha Davis pleaded guilty to federal crimes. Cosko pleaded guilty to five felonies; following his termination from Hassan's staff, he illegally accessed Senate computers, obtained personal information about five Republican senators, and disseminated that personal information online because he was angry about the senators' roles in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. In June 2019, Cosko was sentenced to four years in prison. Davis pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in July 2019, acknowledging that she had given Cosko access to Hassan's Senate office after he was fired and had lied to investigators about it.
In July 2019, Hassan cosponsored the Fallen Journalists Memorial Act, a bill introduced by Ben Cardin and Rob Portman that would create a new memorial that would be privately funded and constructed on federal lands within Washington, D.C. to honor journalists, photographers, and broadcasters who have died in the line of duty.
Hassan's husband, Thomas, was principal of Phillips Exeter Academy from 2008 to 2015, and as of 2016 is the president of School Year Abroad. When he was principal, the Hassans did not live in the Governor's Mansion, instead living in a colonial mansion on the school campus provided to them as part of her husband's employment. In 2016, The Association of Boarding Schools censured Thomas Hassan for failing to disclose sexual misconduct of a former teacher at Phillips Exeter. After he left his position at Phillips Exeter, the Hassans bought and moved into a home in Newfields, New Hampshire.[a]