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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Political comeback? Republican Charlie Bass considering 2014 Senate run against Jeanne Shaheen

By John DiStaso, Senior Political Reporter
September 05. 2013 1:16PM

THURSDAY, SEPT. 5: RUBEN'S ANNOUNCEMENT. Within a few hours of our exclusive report on former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass's interest in the 2014 U.S. Senate race (see item below), we also learned that former state Sen. Jim Rubens will make a formal announcement about his own plans in less than two weeks.

James Basbas, Rubens' general campaign consultant, told the Granite Status Thursday afternoon Rubens will make his announcement on Sept. 18 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

Basbas did not hint what Rubens will say, but it is fully expected that the Hanover Republican will become a candidate, setting up the possibility of a GOP primary among him, Bass and possibly other Republicans, including conservative Karen Testerman.

Rubens has been in an exploratory mode late May and has received a "very positive response," Basbas said.

Rubens, he said, has focused on balancing the federal deficit and a maintaining a strong national defense.

Earlier Thursday, Rubens blasted incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday in favor of launching a limited attack on Syria.

His campaign email, seeking contributions, was entitled "Jeanne Shaheen's Bombing War."

(An earlier Granite Status report follows.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 5: COMEBACK FOR CHARLIE? Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass has told New Hampshire Republicans he is seriously considering making a political comeback and running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

He confirmed his interest in an interview with the Granite Status on Thursday.

Republicans began urging the former seven-term U.S. House member to consider a U.S. Senate run after state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley's announcement earlier this week not to run for the U.S. Senate or governor. Bradley cited illnesses in his family.

"If you had asked me a week ago about politics, I'd have said that I'm in business," Bass, 61, told the Granite Status.

"But I'm not ruling out the possibility of running for the Senate. I'm thinking about it, but I haven't made up my mind."

Bass said he "will be talking to my friends and advisers over the next few weeks to try to figure out whether this is in the cards for me."

Other Republicans said Bass has expressed to them increasing concern over the effect the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have on New Hampshire and the nation. A recently as today, he privately expressed concern to Republicans about Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's decision to narrow to 14 the number of hospitals for Affordable Care Act plans that will be offered beginning Oct. 1.

Bass has long warned that "Obamacare" would negatively affect New Hampshire businesses and employees.

Bass, of Peterborough, served seven terms in two separate stints in the U.S. House, representing the state's 2nd District from 1995 through 2006 and again in 2011 and 2012.

He was believed to be out of politics after losing in November 2012 to Democratic challenger and current Rep. Ann Kuster, 50.2 to 45.3 percent, with a Libertarian candidate receiving 4.4 percent.

But Republicans say Bass became motivated to consider a Senate run by the issues facing the country and by Bradley's announcement.

His interest level surprised several key Republicans who have had private conversations with him.

"Everybody thought Charlie really was out of politics," said one Republican. "But when Charlie saw that Jeb wasn't going to be running against Jeanne Shaheen, it got his juices flowing again."

Republicans say that during a mid-term election, and with growing concern over "Obamacare," as well as the IRS scandal, Shaheen may be more vulnerable than conventional wisdom currently suggests.

That, at least, is the GOP thinking.

But Shaheen is viewed as a strong incumbent. She is already gearing up a reelection campaign and so far has raised more than $3.5 million for a reelection bid. The Friends of Jeanne Shaheen committee reported more than $2 million on hand as of June 30.

Bass would presumably have to begin from scratch on the fund-raising front. His congressional campaign committee reported only $24,000 on hand as of June 30.

The state Democratic Party wasted no time blasting Bass, reviving charges it leveled in the 2012 campaign.

"Charlie Bass spent his time in Washington trying to game the system to benefit his family, which resulted in an independent watchdog group calling him one of the most corrupt in Congress," said party spokesman Harrell Kirstein, referring to a 2011 report by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

"He also voted for reckless plans to cut veterans benefits and gut Medicare in order to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, all while repeatedly voting to raise his own pay," said Kirstein. "Charlie Bass puts his personal profit and wealthy special interests before New Hampshire's veterans and middle-class."

State Republican Chair Jennifer Horn responded, "Charlie Bass served the people of the Second District with integrity and he would be a strong addition to our field of candidates if he decides to run in 2014. Jeanne Shaheen lied to New Hampshire when she said that Obamacare wouldn't limit access to health care or force patients to give up their doctors. Senator Shaheen should apologize for her dishonest statements and for imposing this disastrous law on working families."

Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover has been actively exploring a run for the U.S. Senate for several months and is expected to announce his plans later this month.

Republicans have also spoken to University of New Hampshire business school dean Dan Innis about the possibility of running for the Senate. Innis at the moment is focusing more on a potential run for the 1st District U.S. House seat.

Conservative Republican activist Karen Testerman is also exploring a Senate candidacy.

(See earlier Granite Status reports elsewhere on this page and by clicking on "Granite Status" above.)

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