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Dan Tuohy has covered politics in the Granite State since 1993 and has reported from the Statehouse. A New Hampshire native, Tuohy is a past president of the New Hampshire Press Association.
June 22. 2011 11:25PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Jennifer Horn to begin pitching for Pawlenty over morning coffee


 

TUESDAY UPDATE: TALKING UP TIM. Conservative activist and former two-time GOP congressional candidate Jennifer Horn on Wednesday morning will host a group of state lawmakers and other officials from the Nashua area at her home to begin her pitch for her presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty.

Horn, as UnionLeader.com first reported, announced her endorsement of the former Minnesota governor last week. At that time, she told us that she intends to be “very engaged” during the summer and beyond helping to build a Pawlenty organization in New Hampshire. Pawlenty has lagged in polling here despite spending much time hear earlier in the year, although not lately.

Horn wrote in an email invitation that she is holding the “coffee and politics” meeting to thank lawmakers for their service during a “difficult but very successful” legislative session.

She also wrote, “I would also like to talk to you about why I have endorsed Gov. Tim Pawlenty for President and answer any outstanding questions you may have about him and his record.”

(Earlier updates and the full June 23 Granite Status follow. A new Granite Status will appear on Thursday in the New Hampshire Union Leader with a full, unabridged version here on UnionLeader.com.)

MONDAY UPDATE: MURPHY STEPS DOWN. Herman Cain's state director and lone New Hampshire staffer has resigned, leaving the campaign without a New Hampshire presence at least for the time being, the Granite Status has learned.

Veteran GOP organizer Matt Murphy confirmed today that he stepped down last Friday as director of Cain's campaign in the first-in-the-nation primary state. He said the campaign refused to invest in a serious effort here.

“There is no ill will toward Herman Cain,” Murphy said. “There was a strategic difference and I left the campaign because of those differences. The differences involved the New Hampshire strategy and how much investment the campaign should put into New Hampshire.”

The Cain campaign also lost its regional field director. Jim Zeiler confirmed this afternoon that he “resigned last week to return to my home in Wisconsin.”

It's a problem that crops up often in presidential primary politics. The local strategist, in this case Murphy, recognizes the importance of the first-primary state, while the national campaign plots a broader course and places less emphasis on New Hampshire.

Murphy said New Hampshire was the perfect fit for a candidate like Cain, who is not as well-financed as some of the other candidates and does not have the same level of name recognition.

Cain has drawn 4 percent in the two most recent polls in New Hampshire but has been well-received in gatherings of conservative Republicans and is viewed as having potential in the state if he were to spend more time here and organize a serious effort.

Murphy pushed to have the candidate spend more time in the Granite State. As the lone New Hampshire staffer, he asked the national campaign for funding for staff hires and office space. But, Murphy said, his request was denied.

Murphy was reluctant to talk about details of the separation because he said he has no hard feelings toward Cain or others on the campaign staff.

He reiterated, “There was definitely some strategic differences as far as the importance and priority that New Hampshire should have in the campaign.”

Mark Jon Block, the Cain campaign's chief of staff, said he feels the campaign is devoting adequate time and resources to New Hampshire, “and you'll see more and more of us as the weeks and months get closer to the primary.

“We will be announcing new staff in New Hampshire shortly,” Block said.

Murphy is former organizer for the National Rifle Association and a former executive director of the former New Hampshire Advantage Coalition. He also was a member of the board of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers.

Murphy was a field representative with Rudy Giuliani's campaign in 2008. Murphy said he was with Giuliani throughout the New Hampshire primary campaign and “stayed with Rudy right up until the morning” he dropped out of contention.

He said he is now moving on to a job with a grassroots development company.

(The full June 16 Granite Status follows.)


THE THOMSON PLEDGE. Tom Thomson knows pledges. The Orford tree farmer and anti-tax advocates' father, the late “ax the tax” Gov. Meldrim Thomson Jr., was a champion of the well-known New Hampshire Pledge that most candidates for governor have long taken to veto any state sales or income tax legislation.

Tom Thomson has now formulated his own federal pledge for any presidential candidate who cares to take it.

Simply named “My Pledge to the American People,” it commits those who sign it to “work tirelessly” to:

-- “Cut taxes, fees and regulations, which are destroying our small businesses and jobs.

-- “Cut spending and reduce the national debt.

-- “Cut the size of government at all levels.

-- “Secure our borders by using whatever means are necessary.

-- “Become energy independent within eight years.

-- “Faithfully and forcefully uphold, follow and protect the United States Constitution.”

Thomson, who was a “Tea Party” leader long before there was a Tea Party, endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008. He said he has nothing against Romney and may back him again, but for now, he's keeping his options open.

“I thought it was appropriate for me to put a pledge together, with my father having been instrumental in the New Hampshire Pledge, and I'd like to carry that forward,” he said.

“This is the most important election of my lifetime and I want those who are running to stand before us in New Hampshire and take this pledge and follow through.”

Thomson said he won't run around the state chasing candidates with pledge and pen in hand.

His family tree farm “is open to any of them and this will be a great time for them to get into the more rural area of the state, and let's talk,” he said. “I want to see and talk to them. And one of the questions I'm going to ask is, ‘Are you willing to sign my pledge?'”

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CHRISTO MOVES ON. We reported last week that Ellen Christo was leaving her full-time post as director of development and business relations with the state Republican Party for a job in the private sector.

Yesterday, we learned that it will be announced today that Christo will be vice president of government relations for Brandon Associates, LLC, a Boston-based government affairs firm that also has offices in Washington, D.C. and Dubai of the United Arab Emirates.

Christo told the Granite Status she will remain a member active in the party as a member of its finance committee, at the request of the finance committee's new chairman, Bill Binnie.

(More about the Binnie appointment and the financial issues facing the GOP below.)

According to a Brandon Associates' news release to be released today, the firm “provides state, federal and international government relations, business development and strategic planning, and assistance with government contracts to a broad base of clients in the areas of transportation, biotech, homeland security, defense,and law enforcement.”

Christo, an attorney, during her career has provided political and legal counsel to corporations, associations and foreign governments on state, national and international levels. She has represented clients in China, Jordan, and Albania as well as the United States, specializing in high-tech, defense and environmental areas.

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BINNIE TO THE RESCUE? As we first reported on UnionLeader.com on Tuesday, the state Republican Party's executive committee, after learning on Monday night that the party has significant financial problems, unanimously ratified businessman and 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie chairman of its finance committee.

Binnie and fellow 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Bender had been informally heading fundraising operations since the beginning of the year, when Jack Kimball took over as chairman.

Bender remains on the finance committee, but due to business commitments, will step back from the leadership role, with Binnie now officially the finance chairman.

A GOP executive committee source told the Granite Status that at the closed-door meeting, it was disclosed that the party has only about $1,300 in its federal account, which is the account from which it pays its staff and other expenses that support its efforts in federal elections or efforts that cover both state and federal elections.

The party has about $30,000 in its state account, which can be used only for activities related to state elections, but it's unclear what bills it has outstanding.

Binnie had no comment on the status of party finances.

Party spokesman Christine Baratta also refused to comment on what occurred at the non-public meeting.

When former Gov. John H. Sununu exited the chairmanship of the state party in late January, he reported it had closed its books with $45,197 in its federal account and $14,300 in its state account. He said he had received commitments for $46,500 in the final week of his tenure.

Binnie said his goal is to raise enough money “so that our staff is comparable to what the Democrats have been able to do.

“They have six or eight full time paid staffers. We have two or three,” he said.

“We really want to focus and make ourselves as competitive as any state committee in the country. And that means to raise more resources, to fundraise more aggressively and to take advantage of what we are and who we are in the state.”

A source on the executive committee said while there were no calls for Kimball's resignation by committee members, he was told he needs to spend more time on fundraising and focus on the nuts-and-bolts of winning upcoming special House elections.

Although he ran his own campaign for governor in 2010, Kimball is relatively inexperienced in fundraising and campaign experience, the source noted.

“The chairman can't delegate fundraising,” said the source. “The chairman has to spend time asking for the money.”

Party leaders, the source said, were especially upset that the Democrats won the special House election in the backyard of House speaker Bill O'Brien several weeks ago.

“He's a great guy,” the source said of Kimball, “and is putting his heart and soul into it and embracing all factions. But he's got to pay more attention to blocking and tackling.”

The source said Kimball promised to present a budget and a detailed finance plan in two weeks.

Even though the party has held several fundraisers, most have been sparsely attended “with the same 100 or 400 people,” which netted little for party, said the source.

“Just because there are a lot of presidential candidates around doesn't mean you're going to be able to raise a lot of money,” said the source.

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HORN BACKS PAWLENTY. Nashua conservative activist Jennifer Horn yesterday backed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for President and will join his state steering committee.

Horn will provide a much-needed boost to Pawlenty's effort in the Granite State.

Although Pawlenty has made multiple visits to the state over the past year, he remains in the low- to mid-single digits in recent polling. Pawlenty has spent much of his time in first-caucus state Iowa recently.

“I've looked at all the candidates very closely and I'm excited to become part of Tim Pawlenty's team,” Horn told the Granite Status.

“I'll be as active as they want me to be and be out there on his behalf as often as they would like.”

Horn said she considered backing frontrunner Romney, “but we can't have a nominee who is going to have to spend part of every day of the campaign explaining away his position on one of the most important issues of the day.

“We need market-based health care reform without government mandates and Tim Pawlenty has proven it can be done,” Horn said.

She said the “We the People,” the conservative non-profit issues advocacy group she founded, will continue to be active. It will not, as an organization, make an endorsement, but, she said, individuals involved in the group may make individual endorsements.

In a press release, an “honored” Pawlenty called Horn “an articulate and strong conservative voice calling for much-needed reform in Washington.”

Horn called Pawlenty “a strong, principled, experienced leader” and “the only candidate who has already solved the most critical problems we face today.”

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DEVAL HEADING NORTH. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will be in New Hampshire next month.

Patrick will headline a July 19 state Democratic Party fundraiser honoring House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli and Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, according to a party email.

The event will be held at party headquarters on North State Street in Concord with single tickets at $30; $50 for two.

“Time and again, we have seen that New Hampshire citizens have had enough with proposals that would hurt working families, damage our public schools and safety, and leave our children and seniors out in the cold. But there is still much more to do, and we must keep the pressure on,” wrote state party chairman Ray Buckley.

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BERGERON BACKS MITT. With Romney set to return to the state on June 27, with specifics yet to be announced, this week he picked up the key endorsement of former Cheshire County Republican Chairman Juliana Bergeron.

Bergeron was a candidate for state Republican chairman earlier this year, but lost to Kimball. She has remained active and currently serves on the state party's executive committee as the designee of current county chairman Bill Hutwelker.

“I think we need somebody who is going to key in on the economy and jobs and business issues,” Bergeron said.

A Keene-based financial planner, Bergeron said that as someone who deals in health insurance, she believes that Romney has received unfair criticism over the Massachusetts health care reform plan he signed into law in 2006.

She said the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama is a federal intrusion into an area that “the states should take care of.

“When Mitt Romney was governor, they were having problems with insurance, and he took the bull by the horns and made a good effort to fix it,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron hosted Jon Huntsman at a house party at her home in May during his first visit to the state as a potential candidate. She said she has also hosted events for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Bergeron has been a Republican grassroots activist in New Hampshire for more than 40 years and in 2008, she received the party's Norris Cotton award for outstanding Republican activism.

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PERRY BOOKS OCTOBER VISIT. The hottest non-candidate on the GOP presidential scene has booked a trip to first-primary state New Hampshire, but not until late October.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will likely visit New Hampshire often before then, if he decides to run for President. But even before the recent buzz picked up, the conservative issues group Cornerstone Action had been working on getting him to the state for its annual dinner on Oct. 28.

Cornerstone yesterday announced the Perry appearance at the dinner, set for the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester.

Cornerstone Executive Director Kevin Smith called Perry “a model example of both fiscal and social conservative leadership for the rest of the nation.”

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BACHMANN, PAUL TO RETURN. Presidential candidates and Tea Party leaders and presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are also headed back to New Hampshire next week.

Bachmann plans to return next Tuesday, June 28, the day after she formally announces her candidacy in her native Waterloo, Iowa. Here, she will attend a “meet-and-greet' at the home of Tom and Tracy Hoenig in Raymond.

She also plans private meetings that day.

Paul is scheduled to be in the state next Thursday and Friday, June 30 and July 1, with his trip focused on stops in Berlin, Carroll County and the Lakes Region.

His campaign says he will talk about the economy.

On June 30 at 4:15 p.m., Paul will visit the Northland Dairy Bar in Berlin.

On Friday, July 1, he's scheduled for an 8 a.m. breakfast and “business visit” at the Conway Cafe/Majestic Theater in Conway; a 10:35 a.m. stop at the Eaton Village Store; an 11:10 a.m. stop at the Freedom Village Store; a 2:15 p.m. stop at Evergrain in Wolfeboro; a 3 p.m. stop at the Mobil station at 1400 Lake Shore Road, Gilford; a 3:35 p.m. stop at Five Star Golf Cars in Laconia and a 5:30 p.m. private house party at an undisclosed location in the Lakes Region.

Meanwhile, Bachmann received a strong positive review from Manchester attorney and conservative GOP activist Ovide Lamontagne.

In an recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's chief political correspondent, David Brody, Lamontagne said he met Bachmann and called her “bright,” saying she has “charisma.”

“She's a conservative movement activist and leader,” Lamontagne said. “She's been at the grassroots when she wasn't an office holder so she knows how to connect with people. I think she actually could catch fire here in New Hampshire.”

Lamontagne also said, “It's a wide open race” for the GOP presidential nomination.

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IOWA GOP CHAIR VISITS. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn will be in New Hampshire today to meet with top local Republican officials and hold a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

Strawn will meet with New Hampshire GOP chair Kimball and the two will hold a joint media availability after Strawn speaks at the LOB.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.


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