DSCC - Union Leader: Ayotte Advisor Backing Tausch, Gov Affirms Pledge, Lamontagne Still In Mix

NOT MIKE. One long-time Ayotte friend who is certainly not advising her any longer is former John McCain top adviser Mike Dennehy, who is now working as a paid consultant for entrepreneur and potential Senate candidate Fred Tausch.

Dennehy signed on with Tausch last fall and has played a key role in the development of Tausch's STEWARD organization, which has been outspoken against the stimulus package.

And by the way, we're told to read nothing into Tausch's move from Nashua to Merrimack. He's focusing on Hodes, and Senate issues and intends to keep it that way.

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NICE FLOWERS, BUT... Lynch gave Ayotte flowers and kind words at her final Governor and Council meeting yesterday, but has not changed his tune on Ayotte and "The Promise."

Lynch spokesman Colin Manning reiterated yesterday after the meeting, "When the governor was reappointing her, it was his understanding she would serve a full term. She told him that. She said that was her intention."

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NOT GOING AWAY. Lamontagne, for one, is not being run out of town by the Kelly Ayotte tidal wave, at least not yet.

He told us yesterday he has retained veteran Washington-based Republican attorney-strategist Charles Speis "to help me in the process of testing the waters."

He said that if he does decide to run, "I plan to have Charlie serve as my D.C. counsel."

Speis, who is "of counsel" with the law firm of McKenna, Long and Aldridge, is an expert in federal election law. He was an election law attorney for the Republican National Committee, and general counsel and chief financial officer for the Republican Governors Association.

He also was chief financial officer and general counsel for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

Lamontagne said the move will help him get a read on how the public views his potential candidacy.

Lamontagne also said his own law partner, Jim Merrill, has formally signed on with him as a senior adviser.

New Hampshire Union Leader: John DiStaso's Granite Status: Ex-Gov. Merrill says he's in candidate Ayotte's corner


http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=John+DiStaso%27s+Granite+Status%3A+Ex-Gov.+Merrill+says+he%27s+in+candidate+Ayotte%27s+corner&articleId=c39b56f8-749a-49de-91d5-4794dc166787 <https://webmail.dscc.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=John%2BDiStaso%2527s%2BGranite%2BStatus%253A%2BEx-Gov.%2BMerrill%2Bsays%2Bhe%2527s%2Bin%2Bcandidate%2BAyotte%2527s%2Bcorner%26articleId=c39b56f8-749a-49de-91d5-4794dc166787>

Former Gov. Steve Merrill has been playing his political cards close in recent years, but now that he's decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, he's come out strongly in favor of outgoing Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.

Although Merrill's long-time friend and former state school board chief Ovide Lamontagne is still very much in the GOP Senate primary mix (more about that below), Merrill this week told the Status he is fully behind Ayotte.

He also takes part of the credit for convincing Ayotte to explore a run.

"I'm not a bashful supporter of Kelly Ayotte," Merrill said. "If she wants me to campaign for her, I'll campaign for her. She impresses me as a fresh voice for New Hampshire and the Republican Party. She has a fresh perspective and she's poised. She has qualities of leadership and she is going to be a first rate Senator."

Merrill, 63, said he seriously considered running for the post himself, but a minor medical issue made him re-think his priorities and he decided against it.

He said that he and his wife, Heather, went out to dinner with Ayotte and her husband more than a month ago, "and I told her I'm not going to run and said, 'I think you should give it serious consideration.'

"But I also wanted to tell them what they'd be getting into if they did it and yet what a great opportunity I thought it was. As a result of that, she and I have spoken since, but she came to her decision independently."

Although Ayotte officially will explore a candidacy for the Senate, Merrill, like everyone else, is convinced "she has every intention of being a candidate."

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KELLY'S FRIENDS. We hesitate to call it an "inner circle," but Ayotte has some powerful friends at her side as she prepares to leave office tomorrow and begin her Senate run.

We've learned from various sources that there has been at least one meeting and several Ayotte conversations with the likes Sen. Judd Gregg, who, as already reported, introduced her to some powerful Republican senators, Gregg's long-time friend and former chief of staff Joel Maiola, former Gov. Craig Benson (who is expected to raise money for his former legal counsel), state deputy labor commissioner David Wihby, lobbyist and long-time friend Elizabeth Murphy, GOP activist Pam Kocher and businessman/entrepreneur Jesse Devitte.

Gregg has already managed to get his friend Sen. John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to have the committee say nice things about Ayotte (while saying nothing about other potential candidates in the race).

One Republican referred to Ayotte as "Judd Gregg's creation."

Once out of the Attorney General's office, this Republican said, Ayotte "needs to sit down with someone who knows the nuts and bolts of politics. She has to decide if she wants to run as a conservative or a moderate, where she is on taxes and social issues."

Word has emerged that she may tap consultants who have worked with Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

While some of Ayotte's friends are hoping to clear the field, other Republicans argue that she actually needs a primary to get used to the rough-and-tumble of a general election against Democratic political pro Rep. Paul Hodes.

ON THE HUSTLE. Republican state chair John H. Sununu has been talking to many potential candidates for various offices this spring and early summer, including one Bruce Keough, who may be interested again in considering a run for governor.

The most serious Republican for that office at the moment is former state Sen. Chuck Morse, but it's early, very early. At the moment, state Sen. Jeb Bradley is less than enthusiastic about a run, but that could change.

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CASHING IN. Federal campaign finance reports were due yesterday, and two U.S. House contenders showed impressive figures.

In the 2nd District, Democrat Ann McLane Kuster reports that her campaign raised $163,097 between May 27, when she filed her committee, and June 30, only 34 days.

Kuster received all but $200 from individuals and her only PAC funding is $200 from Nelson for Assembly.

"He's the ex-boyfriend of one of my nieces who is in the Wisconsin Legislature," she said. "He sent me $200 from his campaign finance committee."

Kuster reports expenditures of $12,777 and has $147,825 on hand.

Republican 1st District House candidate Frank Guinta's campaign adviser, Mike Biundo, says Friends of Frank Guinta raised $110,115 in half a quarter of fund-raising and shows $92,000 on hand.

Buindo said the Manchester mayor's committee received contributions from 127 individuals, 78 percent of whom are from New Hampshire, and no PAC money.

"The Mayor is extremely encouraged and heartened" by the result, Biundo said.

Both candidates also report hundreds of supporters signing up on their web sites and Facebook pages.

Democratic 1st District incumbent Rep. Carol Shea-Porter reported raising $120,167 in the second quarter, for a total of $233,571 in the current election cycle. Shea-Porter in the quarter raised $51,395 from individuals but $68,575 from PACs, and reported $211,459 on hand as of June 30.

Democratic former state Sen. Mark Fernald says intends to be a candidate for the 2nd District seat, but isn't concerning himself with fund-raising at this early juncture. He says he's done "a little bit of fund-raising but intends to focus on that starting in the fall."

He said he is working on the "nuts and bolts" of organizing a campaign.

Fernald said his campaign will focus on talking about the values of the Democratic Party.

"Republicans have long held themselves out as the values party and I've been disappointed that the Democrats have not been willing to engage in that topic in the past," he said. "Democrats need to talk about values and that has frustrated me. I want to run a campaign in which we talk about those things because those are the things people want to hear about."

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PLAYING CATCH UP. Ayotte, Lamontagne and even Tausch, if they run for the Senate, will have some catching up to do in the fund-raising department.

Hodes' Senate campaign had a good quarter, raising $740,946, including $511,319 from individuals and $187,026 from PACs. His campaign reports $859,412 on hand as of June 30.

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POLITICAL PRESSURE? Executive Councilor Beverly Hollingworth spoke up at yesterday's council meeting and suggested that the state extend it's freight railroad contract with state Rep. Peter Leishman's firm by six months while the Attorney General's Office probes potential political pressure in the award of a new 10-year contract.

The issue arose when Pan Am Systems chief David Fink charged that transportation commissioner George Campbell told him he was pressured by key lawmakers of both parties to renew a 10-year rail freight line contract with Leishman's company.

Hollingworth said if the council had tabled the item with no action a concrete firm served by the railroad would have refused to work with Fink Leishman and shut down, leaving about 50 people out of work.

"This allows them to keep going while the attorney general looks into it," Hollngworth said.

Hollingworth said Campbell told her "he did not feel he has done anything wrong and didn't bow to anyone's pressure."

But Hollingworth said she remains concerned about what she called "pretty strong charges."

State GOP chair Sununu weighed in with a statement saying, "It is very disappointing to see these actions raise concerns about the integrity of our contract awarding process."

Sununu said he was also disappointed "to see Commissioner Campbell concerned about recriminations from the Democrats that control budget allocations if he followed procedures required under the normal contracting process. I hope the investigation by the Attorney General's Office is able to confirm that there was no impropriety on the part of the Democratic chairperson of the House Finance Committee, Marjorie Smith, nor any improper involvement of Governor Lynch's office."

McGOVERN RETURNS. Merrimack attorney and long-time Democratic activist Nancy Richards-Stower is trying to round up the old George McGovern "troops" from 1968, 1971-72 and 1984 to ensure a big "welcome back" for the former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator next Monday, July 20.

McGovern was the party's nominee in 1972 and ran again in the New Hampshire primary in 1984.

The day after he turns 87, McGovern will host signing events for his new book, "Abraham Lincoln," at the RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth at 11 a.m. and Gibson's Bookstore in Concord at 5:15 p.m.