On the Trail: Democrat Maggie Goodlander jumps into race to succeed Kuster

Maggie Goodlander

Maggie Goodlander


For the Monitor

Published: 05-09-2024 8:17 AM

A former senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration and wife of the current U.S. national security adviser is launching a bid for Congress in New Hampshire, where she was born and raised.

Maggie Goodlander, the wife of National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and a former top lawyer in Biden’s administration who served as a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, on Thursday morning announced her candidacy for the open seat in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.

“I know how to get things done and deliver for New Hampshire,” Goodlander said in a statement. “I’ll be a workhorse for the people of the Second District and I’ll never stop fighting for a freer and more just Granite State.”

While not as well known nationally as her high-profile husband, Goodlander hails from a prominent New Hampshire family.

Her grandfather, Sam Tamposi, was a major player in state Republican politics. Her mother, Betty Tamposi, ran for the House in 1988 in the Second Congressional District but lost in the GOP primary.

The announcement is likely to elevate an already high-profile race to succeed longtime Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in a blue-leaning, but competitive, district in a key general election battleground state.

Goodlander joins a burgeoning field of candidates aiming to succeed the six-term Kuster, who announced in late March that she would retire from Congress rather than seek re-election.

She could face plenty of scrutiny over Biden administration policies — both domestic and international — over her ties to Republicans, and over her residency. Goodlander’s congressional campaign will also likely draw national attention to the New Hampshire race and possibly garner high-profile endorsements.

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Goodlander joins a Democratic primary field that includes Colin Van Ostern, of Concord, and state Sen. Becky Whitley, of Hopkinton.

Whitley, a progressive Democrat who represents the Concord area in the State House, has served in the state Senate since 2020 and has pushed back on attempts to limit abortion rights in the state.

Van Ostern, who worked as Kuster’s campaign manager in 2010 during her first run for Congress, and who later won two terms as a New Hampshire executive councilor before losing in 2016 to Republican Chris Sununu in a race for governor.

Van Ostern launched his bid the day after Kuster’s retirement announcement and was endorsed by the incumbent a couple of weeks later.

Goodlander’s entry into the race could potentially shift the landscape.

Eight Republicans, including 2022 Senate candidate Vikram Mansharamani and Lily Tang Williams, who’s making her second straight bid for the congressional nomination, are running.

Goodlander’s campaign announcement highlighted her roots in Nashua, “the city her family has called home for over 100 years.”

A video announcing her campaign also spotlights those roots, with Goodlanders’ mother explaining that she gave birth to Maggie after voting in Nashua on Election Day.

But for years, Goodlander and Sullivan have spent much of their time in the nation’s capital because of work.

The couple owns a home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. While the port city on the New Hampshire Seacoast is located in the state’s First Congressional District, the geography won’t prevent Goodlander from running in the Second District. The U.S. Constitution only mandates that a candidate must reside in the state in which they are running in, not the specific congressional district.

The most recent high-profile example of a Democratic congressional candidate in New Hampshire campaigning in a district outside their residence was six years ago, when Levi Sanders — the son of Sen. Bernie Sanders — ran in the First District even though he lived in the Second District.

Goodlander’s campaign confirmed that the candidate is currently renting a home in Nashua.

In some ways, Goodlander’s story mirrors that of Kuster, the woman she’s trying to succeed in Congress. Kuster’s parents were prominent Republicans in New Hampshire, but she ran as a Democrat.

Goodlander, a Yale University and Yale Law School graduate, served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and worked as an adviser to late Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

She also served as a law clerk to Attorney General Merrick Garland during his tenure as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Goodlander married Sullivan nearly nine years ago when he was working as a foreign policy advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign. The couple’s wedding, attended by prominent political figures including Clinton, now-Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, was a snapshot of the couple’s long history in Democratic politics.

Sullivan worked as Klobuchar’s chief counsel before serving as an adviser on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign and later on former President Barack Obama’s general election presidential campaign.

He served as deputy chief of staff to Clinton during her years as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. After Clinton departed the administration, Sullivan became then-Vice President Biden’s top security aide.

Sullivan then served as a top adviser on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Four years later, he was one of Biden’s first appointments following the 2020 presidential election.