Suitors Court Pawlenty’s NH Team

It’s a moment calling for sensitivity. A smart, attractive, successful and likeable person has been widowed after a tragic accident. Life is short, time moves on. How long does a new suitor wait before asking for a date?

About five minutes, apparently. The demise of the Pawlenty campaign turned a number of key New Hampshire operatives and grassroots leaders into free agents – and the Romney, Huntsman, and Perry campaigns were placing sympathetic phone calls to Pawlenty campaign leaders all weekend.

The calls went something like this: “So sad about what happened to Tim. He was a great guy, deserved a far better fate. (Three second pause.) So…any chance you’d be open to supporting our guy?”

Here are some of the Pawlenty people other campaigns reached out to before the corpse was cold:

 Staff:

  • Sarah Crawford Stewart, state director
  • Peter Towey, political director
  • Rich Killion, consultant
  • Luke Kraus, Hillsborough County field rep
  • Erin Lamontagne, office manager / womens coalition director

 Pawlenty State Co-Chairs:

  • Cliff Hurst, former Manchester City GOP chairman with a knack for getting along with people and a pun at the ready for any situation
  • Bill Cahill, one time executive councilor and key figure in Lamar Alexander’s races
  • Bruce Burke, Concord lobbyist
  • Harold Turner, Concord businessman who goes all in for candidates lucky enough to earn his support

 Steering Committee members:

  • John Lyons: Respected McCain veteran with a big Seacoast Rolodex
  • Jay Levy: Stratham resident and NH fundraising chair hosted a large house party for Pawlenty in June – one of Pawlenty’s last public events in New Hampshire 
  • Jennifer Horn. The two-time congressional candidate’s endorsement of Pawlenty came at a critical time, in the wake of Pawlenty’s poor Saint Anselm debate performance in June. It was a risky move for Horn, and she did not waver even as Pawlenty’s campaign looked like it was in more and more trouble. Her steadfast support for Pawlenty in tough times earned praise and respect. Horn earned the votes of nearly 23,000 primary voters last fall.
  • George Chianis: Low key, hard working activist who would do anything to help his candidate.
  • Bruce Keough: Another late, conviction endorser who didn’t sign on just because Pawlenty was looking like a winner.
  • Judy Havenstein: Alton activist is a grassroots producer.

 Key Supporters:

  • Ryan Hansen: Former Amherst state rep and recovering political operative just can’t seem to shake the bug; David McLaughlin (Nashua); Al Sewell (Nashua); Norm Olsen (Portsmouth); Bill Modis; Carissa Means; Bert Tenhave; Benjamin Freidlin; State Rep. Jack Flanagan; State Rep. Ken Hawkins; State Rep. Bill Condra; State Rep. Dick Hinch; State Rep. Win Hutchison. 

Killion was stoic about the end of the Pawlenty campaign, emailing: “We obviously were surprised and disappointed with the Governor’s decision on this morning’s call but understand how he got to his conclusion. Like all first time candidates on national stage, they must deal with twin challenges of lack of identity and lack of existing national donor network. By pressing heavily the resources and focus of the campaign on the Iowa straw poll and not getting the desired outcome to lift and boost the campaign forward, the Governor decided to bring the campaign to its end. He was warmly received every time he came to NH which aided the NH team’s ability to build a great organization that deeply believes in him.”

Horn had nothing but praise for the entire campaign staff. “Sarah Stewart is fantastic and one of her staffers, Luke Kraus, is just about the best field staffer I have ever witnessed.  Honestly, he is a rock star and will be an enormous asset wherever he goes.  Same to Peter Towey, who came from out of NH but totally understood the retail politics of the state and very quickly built strong relationships in the state.”

Turner agreed. “Sarah Stewart assembled an awesome team of volunteers and paid staffers in NH….[T]he other campaigns should be fighting over them now to pick them up IMHO.”

Other sources did not want to be quoted for this story.

When California Gov. Pete Wilson dropped out of the 1996 presidential race in late September, 1995, Wilson’s announcement came one week after Steve Forbes entered the race. The timing was fortuitous for Wilson’s newly unemployed New Hampshire campaign team, several of whom were hired lock, stock, and barrel by Forbes. The Forbes campaign even took over Wilson’s Manchester office lease. It was the political equivalent of a corporate takeover.

Rick Perry could scarcely do better than to pick up Pawlenty’s team en masse. After all, the campaign’s staff and key supporters had already made the decision that they weren’t inclined to support any of the other existing candidates.

fergus@ferguscullen.com, August 14, 2011

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1791120546 Fred Leonard

    so much for a chance to bore our enemy’s to death…