September 18. 2013 12:05PM

Republican Rubens announces US Senate challenge to Shaheen

Senior Political Reporter

CONCORD -- Businessman, former state Senator, former candidate for governor and legislative ombudsman Jim Rubens is officially back in elective politics after a 13-year hiatus.

The unorthodox 63-year-old Hanover Republican, who successfully led a grassroots coalition's efforts against casino gambling in recent years, who has built a fortune as an "angel investor" and who long ago spent 18 months living in a commune, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at a news conference Wednesday.

Calling himself "not your typical candidate," Rubens, accompanied by his wife, Susan, and a group of supporters, wasted no time before engaging in a traditional political attack on his would-be Democratic opponent.

Incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he charged, is a Democratic Party "rubber stamp, who is wrong in so many ways."

"During her four-and-a-half years in office, national debt has exploded by $6 trillion" and the "total national debt stands at a staggering $1 million per American household," Rubens said.

Shaheen and President Barack Obama, he said, "have told us that this tidal wave of printed money would stimulate the economy. They have failed."

Rubens said the Affordable Care Act -- or Obamacare - has added to the nation's woes, but said Republicans "should not ask to repeal Obamacare without offering a better plan that will lower health care costs, improve health care quality and give us more control and choice in our own health care decisions." He said he has such a plan.

He said if he were in the Senate, he would try to build consensus on how to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, rather than voting to shut down the government if the health care program is not de-funded.

Rubens promised that if elected, "I will not toe the party line" and "will not be beholden to Beltway go along-get along. I will not get sucked in by business as usual politics."

He said he opposed the immigration bill championed by the so-called "Gang of Eight" in the U.S. Senate. And he said he, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte, would have opposed a provision called "Manchin-Toomey" to require universal background checks for gun purchases, including at gun shows and in Internet sales.

"There are problems with mass violence and guns that need to be resolved," he said. "But that bill was not the solution."

Rubens, a former consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, "There is no conspiracy to fabricate the fact that humans are causing warming of the earth. I am unabashed in saying that as a Republican."

He said he would end the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. He called for reducing the payroll tax, reducing and streamlining corporate taxes, and replacing the revenue "dollar for dollar" with a carbon tax.

"We would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce measurable pollution, reduce asthma, reduce imports from countries that despise us and we would create more jobs in New Hampshire," Rubens said.

His position on taxing polluters puts him at odds with some conservatives in his party, including the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, whose director has openly criticized him on the issue.

This mark the second time in 15 years that Rubens is trying to take on Shaheen. In 1998, he ran for governor but lost in a Republican primary to businessman Jay Lucas, who heavily outspent Rubens.

"Lesson learned," Rubens says on his campaign web site.

Lucas then went on to lose to Shaheen.

Rubens was a state senator for two terms, from 1995 through 1998, defeating the sitting Senate President at the time, Ralph Hough, to win the seat. After his bid for governor, Rubens tried again to become a state senator, in 2000, losing to Democrat Cliff Below.

In 2002, Rubens was the chief spokesman and policy adviser to candidate for governor and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, who lost that state primary to one-term Gov. Craig Benson.

A social liberal who is pro-choice on abortion, Rubens in the late 1990s was an opponent of the plan that led to the deregulation of the state's electric utility industry and led a consumer group that fought for larger rate cuts for ratepayers.

He opposed teacher tenure and fought unsuccessfully for making prospective teachers pass basic competency tests.

He promoted targeted school aid as a candidate for governor, a position he said Wednesday was later "adopted" by Democratic Gov. John Lynch.

Rubens called Shaheen "wrong when it comes to our constitutional liberties" and "an apologist for warrantless spying on the phone calls and emails of hundreds of millions of perfectly innocent American citizens.

"She sicked the IRS on political groups that are saying unpopular things, breaching our First Amendment privileges," he said.

Rubens said Shaheen "is the only member of our New Hampshire delegation supporting a bombing war with Syria" and charged she is "out of touch" with Granite Stares because she has "rarely held an open town meeting."

Even before Rubens announced his candidacy Wednesday, the state and national Democratic Party tried to portray him as anti-woman and out of touch with Granite Staters.

The political website "" carried a story contending that Rubens, in his 2008 "OverSuccess," wrote that the rise of women into more managerial positions in the workplace has led to men "falling over the edge in increasing numbers" and increased violence.

"They use this 'war on women' playbook," responded Rubens. "If there's a war on women in the United States, first of all it's Jeanne Shaheen's Syria bombing war, which will kill in collateral damage innocent women and children."

He said Obamacare is a "trainwreck" for the economy, which hurts women as well as men.

Democrats also pointed out that on a web site related to his book, Rubens called himself "not quite a hedge fund billionaire or rock-star politician, but comfortably in the first percentile," taking extravagant vacations.

In another passage cited by the Democrats, Rubens wrote, "I have bathed in camera light during press conferences, political opponents skulking in the rear of ballrooms, forced to tolerate my applause lines, sycophants and well-wishers beaming and waiting in line to shake my hand or offer their help."

"Rubens simply doesn't get it and doesn't understand the challenges facing New Hampshire's working families," said state Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein.

Rubens, however, said that he has "lived off the land, milking cows, growing food and building stone walls" before he began his business endeavors by establishing a recycling center in Lebanon in 1970.

He said he has always listened to Granite Staters and would continue to do that as a U.S. senator.

Rubens, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who attended high school in Connecticut, attended Dartmouth College.

Often frustrated with the Republican Party over the years, Rubens once acknowledged that he voted for third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot in 1992 and authored a manifesto for "The New Majority," a third party.

Rubens is the first prominent Republican to officially announce for the Senate seat. Others considering a run are activist Karen Testerman and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith.

Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has done nothing to squelch speculation that he may cross the border to run for Shaheen's seat. Brown's family owns a vacation home in Rye.

Andy Martin of Manchester, a perennial candidate who has previously run for President , for the U.S. Senate from several states and for governor of several states, became a candidate in June when he filed a statement of organization for a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission.

Rubens said that while he does not expect to raise as much money as Shaheen, he will "have enough" to compete and to win the election.