DSCC - Union Leader on NH GOP Primary: Focus On Most Conservative Candidate

If all three Republicans become candidates, a primary race would most likely focus on who is the most conservative candidate and who is best-positioned to defeat Hodes in the general election.



New Hampshire Union Leader: 3 GOP hopefuls explore runs for Gregg seat




All claiming conservative credentials, three major Republicans are now either running, or looking seriously into running, for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg next year.

Sean Mahoney, publisher of Business New Hampshire magazine and one of the state’s three representatives on the Republican National Committee, said yesterday he is “taking the next step in exploring” a candidacy for the open seat.

The 43-year-old Portsmouth native and resident had been informally weighing running for the Senate seat or governor for several months. In an interview, he noted that his wife delivered a boy in June and said that in recent weeks, he has stepped up his active consideration.

He said a Senate run, rather than governor, is where he believes “my skill set and interest and ability to serve the people is best reflected.”

Mahoney said he has recently “had conversations with a number of serious campaign professionals who are New Hampshire-based,” including veteran consultant David Carney of Hancock-based Norway Hill Associates.

Carney confirmed that they have spoken “and discussed his options. Sean would be a formidable candidate were he to enter the race. Mahoney’s background, experience and his values would track nicely with the expectations voters have for their next U.S. senator.”“With the field in flux and other serious candidates exploring their options,” Carney said, “one thing is clear: New Hampshire has a number of top-tier candidates who may yet seek the open U.S. Senate seat.”

Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has said she is considering running and will make a formal announcement by the end of the year. But she has officially, at least, become a candidate by filing a statement of candidacy with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate and the Federal Election Commission. Ayotte has also hired staff and last week began renting campaign office space in Manchester.

Manchester attorney Ovide Lamontagne is seriously considering running and, like Ayotte, has been speaking to Republican groups throughout the state since mid-summer.

Mahoney said he has not yet filed a campaign committee or exploratory committee with the FEC or Senate secretary.

Two-term U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes is the only Democratic candidate. He had raised nearly $1 million by June 30 and has been actively campaigning while also working in the U.S. House. Mahoney, like Ayotte and Lamontagne, has a conservative message.

“We need to return to core Republican principles of limited government, lower government spending, personal freedom and supporting small businesses,” Mahoney said.

If all three Republicans become candidates, a primary race would most likely focus on who is the most conservative candidate and who is best-positioned to defeat Hodes in the general election.

Ayotte has hired a Washington-based consultant and fundraiser to help her campaign. She has also received informal backing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and its chairman, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex.

Lamontagne has hired a Washington attorney to, as he explained in July, “help me in the process of testing the waters.” Both Ayotte and Lamontagne also have New Hampshire-based advisers and supporters.

Mahoney said if he runs, his campaign will be “a grass-roots, neighbor-to-neighbor, town-by-town campaign run here in New Hampshire and directly between myself and the voters.”He cited the state’s “tradition of face-to-face and retail, grass-roots campaigning. Having interference and influence from the elites in Washington just isn’t in the best interest of our party and our state.”

Mahoney said Hodes “is very vulnerable. I believe I can beat him and keep that seat in Republican hands.”

He said business leaders and conservative activists have told him they are “fed up with out-of-control government spending, and Congressman Hodes has been in lockstep with the liberals in Congress and the Obama administration in trying to force government-run health care on us and running up massive debt. It is the wrong direction for our country.”

While Ayotte is expected to raise a large amount of money in part because of her ties to the NRSC and the endorsements of several high-profile local Republicans, Mahoney also has connections to campaign dollars through his business connections in the state and GOP connections nationally.

Mahoney has long been active in state GOP politics, including a stint as the state party’s finance chairman. The Republican State Committee elected him one of its representatives to the RNC by an overwhelming margin in January 2007, and he played a key role in the RNC’s decision that year to codify the New Hampshire presidential primary’s position as first-in-the-nation in a national party rule for the first time.

“I’m really proud of the work we were able to do to protect New Hampshire’s status,” Mahoney said.

He said that if he becomes a candidate for the Senate, he will resign the RNC post.

Mahoney has never held elective office, but ran for the 1st District U.S. House seat in 2002, finishing third in an eight-person Republican primary, and for the District 3 Executive Council seat in 2006, finishing second in a three-person primary.

Mahoney said he intends to made a final decision on whether to run by Thanksgiving.

Mahoney said that since his son was born, “I had the opportunity to think more seriously about” running for office. “I will be talking with close supporters and reaching the decision with my family. Family considerations are first and foremost in my mind.”

He said he has been “humbled by the encouragement I’ve received from state business leaders and conservative grass-roots activists to really consider running, and I have told them I will seriously consider it.”