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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Representative Annie Kuster ’78 will not seek reelection

Kuster will step down from Congress to work in support of Democratic election campaigns across the country.

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Representative Annie Kuster ’78 announced on Wednesday that she would not seek reelection to Congress in November. Since 2013, Kuster has represented New Hampshire’s second Congressional district, which includes Grafton and Sullivan counties. 

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Kuster said she wants to use her retirement from Congress to campaign in support of President Joe Biden’s reelection bid and to help Democrats regain a majority in the House.

“I feel as though there’s a new generation of leadership coming in Congress for the Democrats,” she said. “I want to make room for [them] and teach my younger colleagues to carry on this tradition of working across the aisle.”

Kuster has not yet endorsed a candidate to fill her seat. However, Kuster’s former campaign manager Colin Van Ostern announced on March 28 a bid for the second district. Van Ostern served on the New Hampshire Executive Council from 2013 to 2017 and ran for New Hampshire governor and secretary of state in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

“We have about 20 members of the [New Democrat Coalition] that are in very challenging seats that will need our support,” Kuster said.

Kuster said she told the Biden campaign that she “was willing to travel anywhere in the country to support” his bid.

“I genuinely believe that Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy, and I want to make sure I’ve done everything possible to save our democracy,” Kuster said.

Kuster said she will also fundraise for the New Democratic Coalition — the center-left Democratic House caucus which Kuster currently chairs  — and support female political candidates through Elect Democratic Women, a political action committee that she co-founded in 2018. 

“It was time for me and my family,” she said. “I’d always said from the beginning I wouldn’t be [in Congress] forever.”

Kuster said her most meaningful work in Congress involved lowering the cost of healthcare and advocating for sustainable energy. She emphasized the need for reproductive rights in New Hampshire and noted that her successor should fight for affordable housing and childcare. 

Government professor and state representative Russell Muirhead, D-Grafton 12, wrote in an email statement that Kuster “has been a devoted, passionate, judicious and intelligent congresswoman.” 

“She has a deep familiarity with this district,” Muirhead wrote. “I think it’s possible that she knows every person in the district by their first name. She’s also a policy wonk: she does her homework, she sweats the details, she prepares for every meeting.”

Dartmouth Democrats executive director Prescott Herzog ’25 said Kuster’s announcement “came as a real shock.” He described her as “a really effective legislator,” citing her work on the Agriculture Committee and her efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. 

“Congresswoman Kuster was one of the first elected officials I ever met,” Herzog said. “Coming from Claremont [N.H.] — which was the one of the hearts of the opioid epidemic inside of the second Congressional district — [Kuster] was always coming to Claremont and working on behalf of Claremont and Sullivan County.”

Herzog emphasized the importance of voter turnout, especially Dartmouth student turnout, in the upcoming election this November — which he said “is probably the most exciting election season in Hanover in decades.” 

“There’s an open seat in the state House. There’s an open seat for Congress. There’s an open governor's race and the presidential election,” Herzog said. “Hanover residents and Dartmouth students really have a chance to have their say in a way that hasn’t been seen in quite a long time.”

Muirhead wrote that Kuster should return to Dartmouth.

“The only consolation is that it might be easier to get her up to Dartmouth to give a talk — who knows, perhaps even to do some teaching,” Muirhead wrote. “Annie, if you’re reading this: come back to Dartmouth and share with us what you’ve learned.”