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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Self-financed 1st CD GOP hopeful suddenly drops out

July 19. 2018 4:40AM

The already frantic race in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District received another major shockwave Wednesday with the sudden pullout of self-financed Hampton Falls businessman Bruce Crochetiere from the Republican primary.

Without warning even to leaders in the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee who recruited him, Crochetiere dropped his plans in a personal message to supporters.

“While I know that we are in a strong financial and political position looking ahead to the final two months of the primary, recent developments with both my family and business have caused me to arrive at this difficult — but appropriate — decision,” Crochetiere said.

When we first reported on him it looked like this self-made, high-tech success was a candidate out of central casting. As he exited, he listed the positives.

“I believe that my perspective as an entrepreneur who grew a small startup into a thriving technology company; as a coach for our local youth soccer and softball teams; as a cancer survivor; and as a lifelong Reagan Republican who is completely new to politics, might have been an antidote for some of the gridlock we see too often in Congress, but it is not to be this year,” Crochetiere said.

But we also chronicled big chinks in the armor. He had in Jim Merrill one of the best GOP operatives one could have, but he was unsteady on the stump. Crochetiere refused to confirm it upon his announcement, but later stumbled into confessing that he did support abortion rights.

And while the campaign cleaned it up later that he backed Right-to-Work, he told someone pressing him that he hadn’t worked out his position.

His own personal wealth wasn’t attracting a whole lot of contributors. He had raised less than $100,000 from others to go with the $250,000 stake he initially put into the race, according to last week’s second-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Even admirers noticed a reluctant candidate, someone who seemed as if his heart wasn’t all in it and perhaps the aforementioned “family and business” issues were holding him back.

The first-time candidate showed little prowess in building a field organization as he got smoked in the most recent straw poll at the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers picnic earlier this month.

Now it looks like a two-month sprint to the Sept. 11 primary between best-known contenders state Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, and former state liquor law enforcement chief Eddie Edwards of Dover.

And if their “thanks for the memories, Bruce” statements are any indication, this race is going to get rough.

“Now that this is a two-man race, the choice could not be more clear. My proven conservative track record puts me head and shoulders above my opponent, a lifelong government bureaucrat turned lobbyist,” Sanborn said, firing a right cross at Edwards.

“It is time New Hampshire sent a proven reformer to DC, someone who is not afraid to battle the establishment and someone who will not bend to political pressures and threats. I am the only candidate running who has been proven to cut taxes, battle illegal immigration, and decrease the size of government.”

Edwards shot back, alluding to Sanborn’s investigation by the Attorney General’s office regarding colorful comments he had made to a former intern who later was given expense cash from the former state Senate chief of staff. The AG found no wrongdoing but you don’t need to read Morse Code to know where Edwards was going.

“As the only conservative outsider with a lifetime of service in this race, I look forward to continuing to work hard on the campaign trail to earn every vote. In less than two months, I am confident that the voters of NH-01 will make their voices loud and clear,” Edwards said.

“They are ready for a true conservative who understands the values of honesty and integrity, which is why I am so confident that we will be victorious in September and again in November.”

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You can argue Crochetiere was a nominal player, but the timing was significant because it is too late for someone else to get into this race.

It’s also too late to pull out and have Crochetiere avoid the embarrassment of having his name on the primary ballot, even though he’s not a candidate. Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office confirmed it’s past the deadline for that.

This second-quarter fundraising is pivotal because it is the last one before the primary so it leaves the final impression for those base voters.

There’s a striking contrast between Edwards and Sanborn on that score.

Sanborn has far more money than Edwards does on hand, $714,550 as of the end of June compared to $215,163 for Edwards.

But that’s only because Sanborn has loaned his campaign nearly 70 percent of his cash, more than $510,000 since this race began and $200,000 on the final day of the quarter to prop up his war chest.

During the past three months, Edwards raised $206,558 — more than three times the $66,000 in donations Sanborn took in. During the most recent report, Edwards went over the $500,000 mark from more than 3,000 individual donors.

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Edwards got another boost from former Republican state chair Jeanie Forrester.

The Meredith lady could not choose sides during the primary as chair, but within weeks of stepping down to take a “new opportunity” post in local government, she got on the Edwards’ bandwagon.

“Eddie Edwards is the only conservative in this race who has demonstrated a lifetime of service to our nation. He has sacrificed for our country by serving in the U.S. Navy and has served our state in law enforcement,” Forrester said. “He is unafraid of tough questions, which is evident by the many town hall meetings he has hosted across the district.”

And Forrester offered her own dismissal of Sanborn, preferring Edwards as the GOP nominee.

“New Hampshire Republicans need to nominate a candidate that can win the general election in November,” Forrester said. “Eddie Edwards is that candidate.”

What’s telling about this move is Forrester served with Sanborn in the Senate and all but one of his current 13 GOP colleagues in the upper chamber has yet to endorse Sanborn.

But we’ve seen Sanborn prevail over the conventional wisdom. Party establishment figures thought his quixotic bid to eliminate the LLC tax would not succeed; it did.

Sanborn was out in front of the what later became mainstream — to significantly cut state business taxes.

He’s got Rand Paul and the federal Gun Owners of America. 

(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported that Sanborn had the support of the leader of political website GraniteGrok in this race.

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The financial war in the Democratic primary in the 1st CD continues not to be a fair fight.

Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth hasn’t lived in the state long enough to run for the state Senate, but she’s absolutely obliterating this nine-person primary field — including current favorite and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester.

Over the past three months she raised $604,000 and that brought her over the $1.5 million mark.

That’s more than her eight opponents have all raised combined and by a lot.

She’s kept her rate of spending low and has more than $1 million in cash for the seat that Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, is resigning at year’s end.

Pappas and his campaign are getting around to trying to turn Sullivan’s big cash with nearly all of it from outside New Hampshire into a liability.

“I’m proud of the way we’re running this campaign,” Pappas said in a statement. “Big outside special interests may want to try to buy this seat, but I know the voters of New Hampshire will have the final say, which is why I proposed the ‘Homegrown Campaign Pledge’ to commit to a majority of my donors living right here in the Granite State.”

Now here’s why.

In the last quarter, less than 5 percent of Sullivan’s campaign contributions came from New Hampshire. That’s only 38 checks out of 781 receipts, according to FEC records.

The money from New Hampshire to Sullivan, $17,050, was even less, not 3 percent of all the cash she had gotten.
Compare those 38 NH checks with 249 from those with a Massachusetts address, 221 from New York, 113 from Illinois, 84 from Washington, D.C. and 59 from California.

While Pappas was out-raised more than 2-to-1 by Sullivan, he had more than twice her donors, 1,959 for Pappas to 781 for Sullivan; 70 percent of his donors live in New Hampshire.

There’s no arguing Sullivan has Democratic friends in powerful places as a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Iraq War veteran and Obama appointee serving as both assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs and as a senior Pentagon official.

Her most recent donors include former Director of National Intelligence and Ambassador to Iraq John Negraponte, Clinton confidante and D.C. lobbyist Michael Berman, the wife of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and Thomas Strickland, the former U.S. attorney and 1996 nominee for U.S. Senate in Colorado.

Massachusetts Congressman and fellow Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton campaigns for Sullivan at two stops in Manchester on Friday.

Pappas starts a series of six ice cream socials this Sunday and includes one at his Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester next Thursday.

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Here’s a thumbnail on how some of the other Democratic 1st District candidates have struggled to raise cash.

• State Rep. Mindi Messner of Rye: She’s raised a total of less than $90,000 but in the second quarter attracted from a wide donor base of more than 570 individuals.

• Rep. Mark MacKenzie of Manchester: He continues to exist on his own wallet, having now loaned $200,000 of a total $260,000 in cash. He continues to attract labor support as the former AFL-CIO president has gotten nearly $40,000 from labor political action committees.

• Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth: He raised $80,000 most recently had under $70,000 in the bank.

• Former Shea-Porter Chief of Staff Naomi Andrews raised just under $65,000 in her first quarter as a candidate.

• Levi Sanders of Claremont: The son of 2016 New Hampshire primary winner Bernie Sanders only took in $16,000 recently and had less than $20,000 in cash.

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Gov. Chris Sununu looks strong in the polls but the Republican Governors Association continues to take the challenge to him very seriously.

The latest illustration came from digital advertising from the RGA’s Live Free or Die PAC, which includes clips in which Democratic hopefuls Molly Kelly of Keene and Steve Marchand of Portsmouth advocate tax increases.

Kelly says she would repeal all the business tax cuts while Marchand favors getting rid of the tax cut for corporate profits and is open to a gas tax hike.

“Both Steve Marchand and Molly Kelly have made it clear that they intend to raise taxes on Granite State families if elected this November,” RGA spokesman John Burke said. “No matter which candidate Democrats choose as their nominee, they will not be able to escape their record of supporting job-killing tax hikes that would take New Hampshire backward.”

Marchand responded on Twitter with a slam of the “Siberian candidate,” a reference to Trump.

“This is nothing short of remarkable. The next time a Republican questions my candidacy b/c I will reverse a big corporate tax cut that sends money out of state at the expense of funding our schools, ask them why they sit silently while the #SiberianCandidate...” Marchand said.

Chris Moyer with the Kelly campaign doubled down on the RGA assault.

“If by “working NH families” you mean “wealthy corporations” then yes, Molly would repeal @ChrisSununu’s corporate tax breaks and instead invest in working families thru edu & job training,” Moyer tweeted. “Thanks for highlighting.”

Greg Moore, state director of the fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity, said Sununu must salivate that the fall race comes down to taxes rather than abortion, the environment, health care or other staple issues the left likes to deploy.

“At the same time our business tax revenues are vaporizing all prior records, even with substantially lower tax rates,” Moore said.

“Proposing a massive tax increase isn’t just destructive of what is making our economy boom, it’s sending a clear signal to employers that the state doesn’t want them to grow or come here.”

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The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee highlighted the 17 seats it needs to flip eight legislative chambers, and three of them are in New Hampshire.

Those seats are Democrat Jenn Alford-Teaster running against Republican Sen. Ruth Ward in District 8, Jon Morgan opposing Sen. Bill Gannon in District 23 and former Rye Rep. Tom Sherman trying to take out Sen. Dan Innis in Dist. 24.

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The state’s two senators were celebrating big news for New Hampshire veterans.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, D-NH, secured $2.5 million to develop another 4.6 acres of the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

This will allow the memorial to offer the same benefits as veterans get at a national cemetery, including cement crypts.

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