(CNN) – The first woman to serve as New Hampshire attorney general announced Tuesday that she's stepping down in order to explore a run for the U.S. Senate.
"Recently, many New Hampshire citizens have urged me to run for United States Senate," Republican Kelly Ayotte said in a statement. "I appreciate their confidence in me. After discussing this matter with my husband, Joe, and our family, I have decided to resign as Attorney General in order to explore a campaign for the United States Senate."
Ayotte has served as New Hampshire's attorney general for five years. She was first appointed to the post by Republican Gov. Craig Benson, and later re-appointed by Democrat and current Gov. John Lynch.
The seat she may run for is currently held by Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who is not running for re-election next year. Last week, former Republican Sen. John Sununu announced he would not run for Gregg's seat.
Ayotte says her resignation takes effect on Friday July 17, and that she'll discuss her future political plans after she leaves the Attorney General's office.
"Kelly Ayotte has been an effective Attorney General on behalf of the people of New Hampshire, and we are pleased that she is considering opportunities that many could not have anticipated even months ago. Clearly Kelly Ayotte will be a formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate if she decides to run," said Amber Wilkerson, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
According to a University of New Hampshire Granite State poll conducted over the past two weeks, 45 percent of voters in the state have a favorable view of Ayotte, with 8 percent holding an unfavorable opinion, and four out of 10 unsure. The same survey suggests that in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with a probable Democratic candidate, Rep. Paul Hodes, Ayotte leads 39 percent to 35 percent - which is within the poll's 4.4 percent samping error - with 24 percent unsure.