August 31. 2013 11:35PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: More people joining push for Bradley to run for governor

Senior Political Reporter

GOV. JEB? More Republican leaders and operatives are talking up the idea of state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, running for governor instead of the U.S. Senate next year.

"Jeb should run for governor" was a top subject of conversation at last weekend's wedding reception for strategist Jim Merrill and state Senate staffer Kristy Roney. It has been more broadly under discussion for several weeks.

Bradley isn't talking, but we're told he is listening and considering.

He is in a holding pattern now, again focusing on what he calls his "day job" in the state Senate, working on a "seamless transition" as colleague Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, takes over from Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, as Senate president this Tuesday.

After that, we're told, there will be a stronger push to get Bradley to challenge Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Although it's difficult to unseat a first-term governor who has no glaring flaws, top Republicans believe it's a more winnable race for Bradley than unseating U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

They say he has intimate knowledge of state issues and that he is a consensus builder.

The thinking is that Bradley would likely get strong support from the Republican Governors Association, now headed by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and next year led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Both are in the presidential mix, and the thought is that they would see to the RGA helping Bradley financially and would also campaign for him, much like then-Miss. Gov. and RGA Chairman Haley Barbour helped John Stephen against John Lynch in 2010.

In last month's University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll conducted for WMUR, 58 percent approved of Hassan's job performance. Just 18 percent disapproved and 24 percent were neutral or did not know enough to say.

Some Republicans believe these numbers are soft. They note the poll finding that 45 percent believe she should be reelected and a combined 55 percent think someone else should be elected or are unsure.

State Republican Chairman Jennifer Horn said, "If this is what (Bradley) decides to do, I think he'll make a very strong candidate.

"I'd compare his experience and qualifications to Gov. Hassan's any day. His experience compared to Governor Hassan's experience is an argument I think we can win," Horn said.

Others say that if Bradley were to lose a close race to Hassan in '14, he'd be in a prime position to run again in '16, when Hassan might be moving on to take on Kelly Ayotte in a U.S. Senate battle royale.

Bradley would not hint as to his thoughts, or perhaps he did."I'm flattered by all the people talking to me. We are trying to get around the state and talk about the (state) budget, which essentially was our (Senate Republican) budget," Bradley said.

- - - - - -

INNIS FOR SENATE? If Bradley shifted to the governor's race, we hear there is a lot of talk about Daniel Innis, dean of the University of New Hampshire business school.

Innis last month said he was looking at Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's 1st District seat in Congress.

But with former Rep. Frank Guinta leaning that way, Republicans believe Innis would have an uphill climb in a primary.

Guinta told us in July that he will announce his plans in September, and his former chief of staff, Ethan Zorfas, said Guinta will, in fact, run.

Republicans believe Innis would have a much better chance of defeating conservative Karen Testerman and former state Sen. Jim Rubens in a Senate primary.

But what about taking on Shaheen?

That's a tall order, but with his strong background in business and as business school dean - and the fact that he is a gay married man - Innis would be an interesting national media story and possibly draw strong fundraising.

If the National Republican Senatorial Committee saw him emerge as a strong challenger to Shaheen, it would presumably add New Hampshire to its list of targeted races.

State GOP leaders say Innis has the potential to broaden the appeal of the party and signal that it is time to move past the same-sex marriage issue.

- - - - - -

RUBENS REVS UP. Rubens, meanwhile, continues movement from exploratory to full-fledged candidacy.

He's hired a general consultant, James Basbas of Altos Political of Bedford.

That is a division of Altos Marketing, a digital agency with a diverse portfolio. The company worked with Ovide Lamontagne's campaign for governor, the Republican State Committee and the conservative issues group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire.

Basbas has 15 years' experience with political campaigns in New Hampshire. He was director of online communications for John Stephen's 2010 campaign for governor.Rubens continues speaking statewide. He will be at the Salem Republican Committee Labor Day Picnic on Monday and will be at the Rockingham County Republican Committee on Wednesday. Next Saturday, Sept. 7, he will speak at the Carroll County Republican Lobster Bake in Wentworth and the Seacoast Republican Women's Chili Fest in Stratham.

- - - - - -

POLITICAL WEDDING. Dozens of prominent Republicans were at Squam Lake last weekend for the Merrill-Roney wedding.

Among those on hand were Bradley, Bragdon and Morse, RNC Committeeman Steve Duprey and former House Speaker Douglas Scamman Jr. and his wife, Stella.

The wedding planner for the event was state Sen. Jeanie Forrester.

- - - - - -

MORE SCOTT BROWN. Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown, on stage with rock band Cheap Trick at the Hampton Beach Casino a week ago, will appear at the Nashua Lion's Club anniversary dinner on Sept. 14, and on Oct. 6, he will be featured at a fundraiser for the conservative advocacy group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire in Portsmouth.

The event will precede the New England Patriots' game and is being called "A Patriots Tailgate with Scott Brown."

Hosts are Portsmouth business executive Dan and Renee Plummer (she is a GOP activist who served on the Republican National Convention rules committee a year ago) at their home at Harbour Place. Tickets are expected to be priced at $75.

Brown has ruled out a run for Mass. governor, but continues to draw interest about a possible run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire next year, which he has not ruled out.

He has a vacation home in Rye, but would have to establish residence to try to unseat incumbent Shaheen.

Republican insiders have no idea what Brown's plans are.

"He is out on his own doing his own thing," said one activist. "He enjoys the attention and likes to go to events. He's making lots of money at the (Nixon Peabody) law firm and from his Fox News contract."

This will be the "Citizens" group's first of two fundraisers in a week. It has one Oct. 12 in Manchester featuring Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory and, tentatively, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

- - - - - -

POIGNANT REMINDER. On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte cheerfully Tweeted out:

"First day of school for Kate and Jake. Exciting day! Wishing all NH kids and their parents a great school year."

It was accompanied by a photo of her kids in their best school clothes.

"Aww. Your kids are too cute," came one reply.

"Awesome," was another.

But then came one from Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung.

"@Kelly Ayotte: my mom doesn't have a first day of school this year. Let's have dinner & talk about how to reduce #GunViolence."

Lafferty last April confronted Ayotte at an Ayotte town hall meeting over her vote against expanded background checks for firearms purchases and has become an advocate on the issue.

Ayotte spokesman Liz Johnson said, "Senator Ayotte has met with Ms. Lafferty and other family members of Newtown victims, and she has personally expressed her deep sympathy for their loss."

Ayotte met with Lafferty and other Newtown family members in Washington and recognized her at the Warren event and took her question.

- - - - - -

KEY COMMITTEE. RNC member Duprey has been named to a special rules subcommittee reviewing the presidential delegate selection calendar and debate schedule.

Duprey sees no controversy on the horizon regarding the state's 2016 first-in-the-nation primary, already provided early voting status in an RNC rule. He says that if there is any sentiment toward making changes, it is more likely directed at Iowa, which has become less reflective of GOP sentiment.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His Granite Status column, which he began writing in 1982, is updated regularly on He can be reached at He can be followed on Twitter: @jdistaso.