James Pindell 8/24/09
CONCORD -- It was more than awkward at the National Rifle Association Foundation dinner Friday night where a former state Representative took the microphone and for nearly 10 minutes went on a tirade about why Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte was not "good on guns" while she sat nearby.
Former state Representative Richard "Stretch" Kennedy has been viewed as a leader on gun issues for at least a decade. When he was offered a chance to speak the room at the Concord Courtyard by Marriott was packed with over 300 people. When Kennedy began questioning Ayotte's credentials he didn't even know she was in the room. But spotted her easily enough. She sat only 30 yards away. A source who was there said it was very awkward especially given that it wasn't a very political dinner. The NRA Foundation is the education arm that sponsors gun safety programs among other events.
In an interview Kennedy his main complaint was that Ayotte, while attorney general, actively lobbied against the "Castle Doctrine" bill that had passed the state House and Senate and that Ayotte encouraged Democratic Gov. John Lynch to veto, which he did. The Castle Doctrine considers deadly force against an intruder on a person's own property to be justifiable homicide. (As in a person has the right to defend his or her castle.) Guns groups strongly favored the bill. Ayotte stood with the state's police chiefs in being against it.
After the event was over Ayotte sought out Kennedy. They discussed the issue for about 20 minutes and agreed to talk about it in a separate meeting with other gun leaders.
"She was upset, but didn't deny the facts. Look, she is a nice kid, but she has no legislative experience and it is clear she has a lot to learn," said Kennedy, who served six terms in the House. Kennedy also recalled a bad experience with Ayotte's potential primary rival Ovide Lamontange when he ran for governor in 1996.
"By the time he met with us guns guys he just gave us a lot of lawyer B.S.," he said.
While Kennedy has been known for his often pugnacious and colorful remarks, his words are taken seriously with the gun rights community. And the speech comes at a critical time as Ayotte tries to both define herself politically and head off a primary opponent from the right.