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Former Biden administration official plans to jump into New Hampshire House race

Democrat Maggie Goodlander, a former senior official in the Biden White House and the Justice Department, is on the verge of launching a primary campaign against the hand-picked would-be successor to Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., according to three sources familiar with her planning.

The move, which could come as early as this week, promises to bring national and international politics to the heart of a House race in New Hampshire when President Joe Biden is trying to keep the state’s four electoral votes in his column.

Scott Merrick, an adviser to Goodlander, declined to confirm or deny that she will run — but he said a decision is coming soon. Kuster announced this year that she was retiring.

“Maggie is thankful for the encouragement she’s received from Granite Staters and will be making a decision in the coming days,” Merrick said.

Goodlander, who worked on domestic issues in the federal government — on antitrust at the Justice Department and on Biden’s “unity agenda” at the White House — was a Navy intelligence officer and an aide to two senators known for their focus on foreign policy. But she also has a connection to the current policy debate over the Biden administration’s positioning on hot-button issues such as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza through her marriage to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who gives Biden counsel on those matters.

But Goodlander’s path to Congress won’t come without obstacles, starting with her Democratic primary opponent, Colin Van Ostern. Van Ostern, a former member of the state Executive Council, has already been endorsed by Kuster and dozens of current and former local officials.

Van Ostern’s campaign declined to comment for this article.

While Goodlander’s résumé in the Biden administration is formidable, she also worked as a senior adviser to the late Sens. John McCain of Arizona, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat-turned-independent.

Though her multipartisan résumé might help in a likely competitive general election for the district, it could hurt her in the Democratic primary.

In addition, operatives in the state have raised questions about how long it has been since Goodlander actually lived and voted in the district. After she left her White House job last month, she now lives in Nashua.

Kuster has held her seat for over 10 years, but it is still rated by the nonpartisan “Cook Political Report with Amy Walter” as competitive, though “Likely Democratic.”

Several candidates are vying for the GOP nomination, including entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani, who was a GOP candidate for the Senate in 2022.

And though the state at large is usually considered solidly blue, New Hampshire’s independent streak puts it on the fringes of the presidential battleground, as well. In 2020, Biden won the state by just over 7 percentage points.

Biden visited the state in March after having shunned its first-in-the-nation primary, while former President Donald Trump visited the state multiple times before the GOP presidential primary there.