Now that Republicans have lost almost every major office in New Hampshire, 2014 may well be the biggest election year that Republicans have seen in over a decade. Expect Republican primaries for Governor, Congress in both districts 1 and 2 and probably even the US Senate race against Jeanne Shaheen.
Here is the expected lineup:
Some of this will depend on how well Maggie Hassan does in her first term but regardless, Republicans will try to unseat her in 2014.
Smith ran a good campaign though many people expected a closer race with Ovide Lamontagne. Smith is thanking the election Gods because he probably wouldn’t have been able to beat Hassan either. Kevin will be the first candidate to run for the Republican nomination for Governor. He assembled a strong list of supporters and starts with a good foundation. He also has a unique ability to frame the conservative issues in a way that will not offend Independent voters in a general election.
Gatsas unwittingly made the right move to forgo running for Governor in 2012. Look for Gatsas to jump in 2014 because it will without a doubt be his last chance. The question remains, will Republican voters support a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights candidate who has no passion for the 2nd amendment or right to work issues. Gatsas will need several conservatives in the race to split up the vote in hopes of squeaking out a Primary victory. With a good record as Mayor and as a successful business owner, Gatsas will be a competitive candidate against Hassan if he gets through the Primary. Gatsas is smart and aggressive and will be a pitbull against Hassan in debates.
Lyons has been talking about running for Governor for several years and, like Gatsas, this will likely be Lyons last chance. Lyons has created hundreds of connections over the years as a strong candidate for state senate in 2004 in arguably one of the most liberal districts at the time, and as Bush 2000 leader, a McCain 2008 leader. And he’s made the most out of being an early Binnie for Senate supporter making financial contacts. Not to mention he would probably have the entire seacoast to himself giving him a solid base of both Republican voters and Republican donors. For those who remember the race for Governor in 2002, Lyons would be a Republican in the mold of Bruce Keough, a pro-gun, strong anti-tax Republican.
Since Tausch joined the political scene in 2009 starting a grassroots effort to stop Obama’s Stimulus and continued by organizing Steward of Prosperity, he has done nothing but create goodwill with leaders and grassroots organizers around the state. He has been one of the biggest donors to candidates and the Party and with his organization, created a base of about 10,000 activists he could call upon to help in a campaign. Most importantly, as a young wealthy entrepreneur Tausch is one of the only potential candidates who could self fund a campaign in New Hampshire. Tausch would be a competitive candidate in both the Primary and General elections if he does what he did in 2009 and 2010. But don’t be surprised if he runs for Congress in District 1 as well.
John E Sununu
Sununu would not even be challenged in the Republican Primary if he comes back to run for the seat he lost to Shaheen in 2008. He was one of the most serious legislators on Capitol Hill in his 12 years there and Republicans have missed him in New Hampshire. However, early word on the street is that he is very happy in the private sector and he would have to take a severe pay cut to serve in the Senate. He will be heavily lobbied but the odds are growing higher that he won’t run.
If Sununu decides against a run expect the former popular two term Governor to be pressured to enter back into elective politics. Merrill has made a good living in the public relations world since his exit from politics in 1997 and he just may be ready to jump back in. He hasn’t lost his touch either. Merrill has surfaced heavily in only two campaigns since 1997: Benson for Governor in 2002 which helped Benson eke out a victory over Bruce Keough, and Kelly Ayotte for Senate which helped her sneak by Ovide Lamontagne in that Primary. Merrill is universally well liked and he would have a clear path to Shaheen without a Primary. But is he truly ready for the rough and tumble of a campaign again where he needs to raise $10 million dollars? The stars will have to align for Merrill to jump in.
US CONGRESS DISTRICT 1
Guinta is obviously the 800 pound gorilla and the seat will be his if he wants it back. He may have a primary but it will only be token. But don’t be surprised if Guinta runs for Governor or Senate. Republicans know that Guinta didn’t lose his re-election campaign, Obama won it for Shea-Porter, and Guinta is in a good position to run for any office he wishes while essentially clearing the Republican field, at least of serious candidates.
If Guinta decides to run for another office, expect Bradley to run for Congress. He has been salivating at the chance to win his seat back. But if Bradley runs for his old seat he will not clear the field and he will have to fight hard to win a Republican Primary.
Again, if Guinta runs for another office look for Ashooh to run for the seat that he narrowly lost to Guinta in 2010. He is a Union Leader favorite, a hard worker and understands issues in Washington having lobbied for BAE Systems and as a staffer for former US Senator Warren Rudman. Also, don’t be surprised if Ashooh makes a run at Governor or Senate.
US CONGRESS DISTRICT 2
One term state senator Gary Lambert decided against running for re-election, which ended up being a smart move given the shellacking Republicans took in Nashua. Lambert made good contacts, voted conservatively, knows how to campaign, and can raise money. A future campaign is a certainty for Lambert but the only question is whether it is a congressional campaign or a campaign for governor. He is a close ally of US Senator Kelly Ayotte and he will have a strong base of support coming out of Nashua. Lambert does have good Republican credentials beating a Democrat and giving Republicans a state senator in District 13 for the first time in 94 years.
Another state senator, Chuck Morse has always wanted election to higher office. He ran unsuccessfully for Executive Council in 2006 losing big to Beverly Hollingworth but that was a big Democrat landslide year that gave Democrats huge victories. Morse comes from the Republican voter rich area of Salem and he is a prolific fundraiser. If he runs he will be formidable.
The former House Speaker is a favorite of conservative Republicans and if he runs, he would undoubtedly be the conservative’s choice in the Primary. He also is a strong fundraiser having raised over $200,000 for his House Republican Victory PAC. The question for O’Brien is, given the heavy criticism he received in his role as Speaker, could he win a General Election in the more moderate congressional district.
Wealthy entrepreneur Rob Finlay is another Republican who has wanted to run for office in the last decade. This may be the year that Finlay steps away from his money-making endeavors to take a stab at either Congress or Senate. He has a bottomless wallet and a good non-profit story to tell in The Finlay Foundation. Finlay’s trouble will be having no strong political or grassroots connections. Money will help solve that but he is untested in the political world and New Hampshire is littered with wealthy candidates who take grassroots politicking for granted.