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Free Stater Aaron Day says he played outsized role in Ayotte loss

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 26. 2016 9:45PM
Free Stater Aaron Day, a Bedford man who ran as an independent, had a shoestring campaign that mostly centered on social media. 

MANCHESTER - A little-known candidate who claims some credit for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, losing her re-election bid may not be on a ballot again anytime soon, but he promises to stir up trouble as he sees fit.

Free Stater Aaron Day, a Bedford man who ran as an independent, had a shoestring campaign that mostly centered on social media.

"I was a clear protest vote for Republicans who didn't want to vote for Ayotte," he said in an interview last week.

Day said he did not set out with an intent to play a spoiler for Ayotte, who lost the seat to Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-Newfields, by 1,017 votes.

He received 17,742 votes, and estimates he cost the Republican incumbent about 10,000 votes. Hassan won 354,649 to Ayotte's 353,632. Libertarian Brian Chabot received 12,597 in the general election Nov. 8.

"When I went through this nuclear strategy, I assumed it was political suicide," Day said.

Day has made some grandiose statements on Facebook since the election. He has called for the resignation of Jennifer Horn as chairwoman of the Republican State Committee, even as he was reminded online that he has no standing to do so.

"Next goal: remove Senator Jeanne Shaheen in 2020 or before," Day posted on Nov. 10. Shaheen, a two-term Democrat, is up for re-election in four years.

Paul Mirski, a former GOP state legislator, told him, "You're not a Republican any longer, Aaron."

"Nope, I'm back," he responded.

In the interview, Day the instigator did strike a conciliatory note. He spoke of effecting constructive change in 2018. He is keen on repealing the Affordable Care Act, for example.

"There's a general opportunity with the Republican Party in majority control in Concord to get things done," he said.

Day, 40, an entrepreneur and activist, said he has lived in Bedford for seven and a half years. He is married with two children. He is a liberty Republican, though not in name at this point - he refers to himself as a small "l" libertarian. He is a former director of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, and former chairman of the Free State Project.

He is familiar with controversy. He is a friend of Michael Gill's, the Mortgage Specialists business owner who has posted billboard signage alleging that prominent business leaders Dick Anagnost, Andy Crews, and William Greiner are "drug dealers," which has led the three to file a defamation lawsuit against both Gill and Day. The case is pending.

Day maintains he will fight corruption and political cronies, and not just in court. "I want to start focusing on local government in the state of New Hampshire," he said.

He is advocating for new leadership at the state GOP and the Republican National Committee. In an interesting twist, the RNC will be getting a new chairman, with Reince Priebus becoming chief of staff for President-elect Donald Trump. The current co-chairman is Sharon Day, who happens to be Aaron Day's stepmother.

Day said he has not talked to his stepmother in about two years. When asked why, he replied that it had to do with his opposition to Kelly Ayotte.

Day said he has never even met Ayotte. He first started talking about a challenge to her in late 2014, critical of her weighing in on the GOP caucus vote for speaker of the state House of Representatives.

If Ayotte had not broken away from Trump, she would have won re-election, according to Day, who would not disclose if he voted for Trump, or Libertarian Gary Johnson or another candidate. He did not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, he allowed.

His claim that he contributed to Ayotte's loss was contested by Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic National Committeewoman from Manchester. In a commentary for the Union Leader after the election, she called it "hogwash." When looking at the other statewide races, for President and for governor, the libertarian candidates garnered about 30,000 votes each. Johnson received 30,777, while libertarian Max Abramson won 31,243. In the U.S. Senate race, Day and Chabot, the libertarian, combined for 29,299, Sullivan pointed out.

Good luck trying to convince Day that his role in one of the big upsets of 2016 was anything less than spectacular. Day notes that only two incumbent senators lost their seats; Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., was the other senator.

"To me this is a model," he said. "This is an interesting model to disseminate more widely, not just New Hampshire."

Don't count on Day trying to replicate his third-party bid. "I'm not planning to run for anything - at all - in the future," he said.

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