Kevin Smith resigns from CornerstoneBy JOHN DiSTASO
Senior Political Reporter
October 19. 2011 11:40AM
CONCORD - After leading one of the state's most influential conservative issues groups for more than two years, Kevin Smith is resigning as executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research and Cornerstone Action effective Nov. 1.
Smith told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he and Cornerstone board chair Shannon McGinley expect to release a joint statement on Wednesday.
But Smith told the Union Leader it is 'the right time to step down and move on and pursue other opportunities.' Among those opportunities, he confirmed, is a possible run for governor.
Smith has been considering a candidacy for more than a month now, but has yet to decide. He said he will make his decision after the New Hampshire presidential primary 'at the latest,' and possibly before, depending on when the primary is held.
Fellow conservative and Manchester attorney Ovide Lamontagne announced his candidacy a month ago, while 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Stephen is also considering running.
Speculation about possible Republican candidacies has also focused on Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse.
Democrats considering running to succeed the retiring Gov. John Lynch include former state Sen. Maggie Hassan , who has set up an exploratory committee, former state Sen. Jackie Cilley, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, current Portsmouth Mayor Tom Ferrini and Mark Connolly, former director of the Bureau of Securities Regulation.
Smith, 34, stressed, however, that he has other opportunities he may pursue other than running for governor. He said that regardless of what he pursues, he will continue to work on behalf of conservative issues both of a fiscal and social nature.
During Smith's time as executive director, Cornerstone became a well-funded organization and rose to become an influential player in State House and elective politics. Smith has organized a major dinner scheduled for next week featuring presidential candidate Rick Perry.
'I'm very proud of the accomplishments we have had,' Smith said. 'I feel that Cornerstone is a very credible voice in the Legislature. We have been able to influence legislation and defeat certain pieces of legislation.'
He cited the defeat of a major health care bill, sponsored by Hassan, 'which would have dramatically changed how health care is delivered,' and, 'the infamous 'bathroom' bill,' a name opponents gave legislation that would have provided housing and employment rights to transgender citizens.
'I think we also beat the drum on many of the fiscal issues, including the taxes and fees that were raised in the 2009 session and repeated in the 2010 session, such as the LLC tax,' said Smith.
He also said that Cornerstone, together with the National Organization for Marriage, 'had a large impact on last year's state elections.'
'I'm still looking at running for governor,' Smith said. 'This will give me an opportunity to have greater focus and clarity on that decision and other decisions, but it is one of the options that are on the table.'
Smith, a former staffer for former Sen. Bob Smith and former Gov. Craig Benson, also formerly headed the state Division of Juvenile Justice. He is a University of New Hampshire graduate.