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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Seacoast state Sen. Nancy Stiles endorses Jon Huntsman for President

Senior Political Reprot

October 19. 2011 7:57PM

TUESDAY, OCT. 25, UPDATE: STILES FOR HUNTSMAN. Seacoast freshman Nancy Stiles is the first state senator to back Jon Huntsman for President.

The campaign is expected to announce her endorsement of the former Utah governor later today.

Stiles, R-Portsmouth, cites Huntsman's foreign policy experience as former U.S. Ambassador to China and says his economic plan "will help restore our manufacturing and production capabilities - make 'Made in America' mean something again."

She said he is a "man of integrity and principle," and understands New Hampshire, having focused his campaign in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 20 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, OCT. 25, UPDATE: HASSAN MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Former state Sen. Maggie Hassan today has made it official: she is a candidate for governor.

Hassan made the announcement at the Manchester Community College.

In a statement, she said:

'We must ensure that New Hampshire families have the opportunities they need to solve the problems we face today. Together, I believe we can create right here in New Hampshire the best workforce in America, we can be innovative, both in the private sector and how we run state government, and we can be fiscally disciplined, balance the budget and keep taxes low.'

Hassan said she was inspired to become involved in public life, by her son Ben, who suffers from severe physical disabilities. Her statement said this "led to advocacy on the local and state level not only for Ben and for her family but also for other families facing similar challenges. Hassan was then appointed by then governor Jeanne Shaheen in 1999 to the Advisory Committee to the Adequacy in Education and Finance Commission, and in 2004 was elected to the New Hampshire state senate."

Hassan said, 'We can build an economy that will lead the nation and provide for our families. We will succeed in the years to come, not be going backwards alone, but by going forward together.'

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 20 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, OCT. 24, UPDATE: HASSAN TO ANNOUNCE. Former state Sen. Maggie Hassan of Exeter will become the first Democrat to formally announce a candidacy for governor on Tuesday, according to a source close to her fledgling campaign.

Her announcement is slated for an event at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Manchester Community College.

Hassan, a former three-term state senator who lost her seat to Russell Prescott in the GOP sweep of 2010, has been considering running for governor for most of this year and recently formed an exploratory committee. She has been working with veteran political consultant Nick Clemons, who will be a senior adviser to her campaign.

Since Gov. John Lynch announced last month that he will not seek a fifth term next year, Hassan has accelerated her organization of a campaign, recently, for instance, launching a web site.

On the Republican side, Manchester attorney Ovide Lamontagne has announced his candidacy for governor.

Several others on both sides of the political aisle are considering running to succeed Lynch.

(Earlier updates and the full Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, OCT. 19, UPDATE: DONE DEAL? Nevada Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith told the Granite Status this afternoon that all GOP county chairs in Nevada agree that the state's Republican presidential caucus date should be moved.

'Everyone has decided that for the good of the party and everyone, we are going to move,' Smith said. She said she based her assessment on a discussion at a party executive committee meeting last night.

She said that at a meeting of the full Nevada GOP Central Committee tomorrow, three dates will be discussed _ the current Jan. 14, Feb. 4 and Feb. 18. But she predicted the Feb. 4 date will pass, saying that most central committee members were not happy with the dispute that was prompted by the Nevada move to Jan. 14.

Her comments came after Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus publicly asked the Nevada Republicans to move the date to Feb. 4. (See item below.)

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 20 Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, OCT. 21, UPDATE: MOVING TOWARD FEBRUARY? The Nevada Republican Central Committee will have the final say tomorrow, but it appears the leadership of that party is prepared to move the date of that state's caucus back from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4.

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus wrote state chair Amy Tarkanian a three-page letter laying out reasons he believes it would be beneficial to the state party to move the caucus.

'I hope the Nevada Republican Party will give serious consideration to holding its caucus on February 4,' Priebus wrote it the letter, which was first reported by the Las Vegas Sun.

'If this happens, you will rightly be seen as having taken an important action for the betterment of the Party, and I, as well as many other Republican leaders, will have a great sense of gratitude.'

Tarkanian issued a statement saying that 'no decision has been made,' but 'productive discussions with state Republican leaders have made one thing clear, our Party will take the steps necessary to ensure Nevada's voice remains prominent in the Presidential selection process. It's also clear that our Party leaders will not let the influence of Nevada voters be weakened because of the actions of a few other states and zealous individuals.'

She added, 'My goals throughout the process have been consistent, remain the first state in the West, draw national attention to the hardships facing Nevadans due to President Obama's failed leadership, and to preserve Nevada's carve out status for the future. Tonight I once again laid out these goals for preserving Nevada's prominent status and now our committee will collectively vote this weekend to determine a final date. Ultimately, no matter when the caucus will be held, I will fight to make sure Nevada voters will continue to have an influential role in determining our Party's nominee and in making Barack Obama a one-term president.'

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 20 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 20, UPDATE: 'PROBABLY WILL PASS.' A leading Nevada Republican told the Granite Status this afternoon her party will 'probably' approve a move of the state's GOP presidential caucus from Jan. 14 back to Feb. 4.

'It probably will pass,' said Heidi Smith, a Republican National Committeewoman from Nevada. 'I can't tell you for sure, but it probably will pass.'

She said a vote on the date change will be taken on Saturday at a Nevada Republican Central Committee meeting.

Smith said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's change of position on the issue today was significant.

Last week, Sandoval was firm on keeping the Nevada caucus on Jan. 14.

Today, however, he told the Las Vegas Sun he was supportive of efforts underway by the Republican National Committee and GOP officials in Nevada, New Hampshire and Iowa to resolve the issue.

According to the Las Vegas newspaper:

'I don't think it's caving at all,' Sandoval said of the idea of moving Nevada's caucuses from Jan. 14, when currently scheduled, to Feb. 4. 'I don't call it caving when you're trying to work for the good of all.'

The story was headlined, 'Sandoval Ready to Move Nevada's GOP Caucuses Back to February.'

Top New Hampshire Republicans welcomed Sandoval's comments, while realizing his is not the final word. (See item below.)

Smith told the Granite Status, 'I think everybody realizes that there was a mix-up and this was the first time for Nevada. There have been a lot of phone calls back and forth, and we think that it will probably be changed to accommodate everybody.'

Smith said that while the full central committee will not meet until Saturday, the party's smaller executive committee will take up the proposal at a meeting tonight.

'The thing to vote on will be whether to move it back for February,' she said. 'It will be brought up tonight and then brought up again on Saturday.

'I think there are a lot of people who would like to see the date changed, and we can make life easier for everybody,' said Smith.

Smith said that when Nevada Republicans originally set the Jan. 14 date, 'We didn't consider a caucus similar to a primary because a primary is paid for by the state and a caucus is paid for by the party.'

New Hampshire law says the first-in-the-nation primary must be scheduled at least seven days ahead of any 'similar election,' and Secretary of State William Gardner has said that the Nevada caucus is similar under the law. Since a primary on Jan. 10 would be only four days ahead of Nevada, Gardner said it is possible that the primary will have to be scheduled for sometime in December, unless Nevada moves.

'In our mind the two were extremely different,' Smith said. 'It probably would have been a lot easier if there had been some understanding" that they were viewed as "similar" by Gardner.

She also said, 'We have to vote on a Saturday and New Hampshire has to vote on a Tuesday. That wasn't brought up in the beginning. But since then it has been.'

She said, however, that ultimately, being first in the West 'is the most important part' to Nevada Republicans, 'and it's now 'up to what the people feel.'

Nevada Democrats, who also scheduled their caucus for Jan. 14, reportedly sent a person dressed in a chicken costume to mock the Republicans outside the Western Republican Leadership Conference at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

'You have to understand that it's Halloween, and it's Las Vegas,' Smith said.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 20 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 20, UPDATE: 'WIN FOR EVERYONE.' With Nevada's Republican governor now publicly supporting a move of that state's GOP presidential caucus from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4, it appears the standoff between Nevada and New Hampshire may be nearing an end.

It's not a sure thing, though. It won't be final until and unless Nevada's Republican State Committee approves what appears to be a tentative deal reached between Nevada Republicans and the Republican National Committee that would have Nevada moving back.

The Nevada Republicans are scheduled to meet on Saturday and may take up a proposed date change.

Approval by that committee is not assured, we're told. There are forces on the committee that want to stick to the Jan. 14 date.

Still, Gov. Brian Sandoval's backing of the date change is significant since he is the de facto leader of the Nevada GOP.

Since word of a possible deal emerged on Wednesday, the Nevada media has been accusing top Republicans there of 'caving' to New Hampshire.

'I don't think it's caving at all,' Sandoval told the Las Vegas Sun today. 'I don't call it caving when you're trying to work for the good of all.'

New Hampshire officials were cautious about over-reacting to the Sandoval announcement, realizing that while he is influential, he is not the final word on a date shift. They also realize that there are apparently many on the Nevada Republican committee who do not want to move the date back to accommodate the RNC or New Hampshire.

There is also another unknown factor. Nevada Democratic Party Chairwoman Roberta Lange earlier this week set her party's caucus for Jan. 14 as well.

Today, Nevada Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson said his party won't consider moving the date or commenting on any moves by the Republicans in Nevada until the date of the Republican caucus is officially changed.

'We don't want to comment on something that hasn't happened, yet,' Hudson said.

But New Hampshire GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald said that if the Nevada caucus is moved, 'It's a win for everyone. Everything I've been working on in the past week was to try to see us maintain having our primary in January.'

He said Nevada having a caucus on Feb. 4 would still be first in the West and would assure that state of having an influential role in helping to choose the GOP presidential nominee.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said that if Nevada sticks to the Jan. 14 date, it is possible he would be forced to schedule the New Hampshire Primary for December. He had called Dec. 6 or 13 'realistic options.'

If the Nevada date is moved back to Jan. 17 or later, it would allow Gardner, if he chooses, to schedule the primary for Jan. 10.

MacDonald said he appreciated Sandoval's position and is 'delighted to see that this may work out now. I realize it's still tentative.'

New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O'Brien, who led calls for candidate boycotts of Nevada, said, 'Most of all, it's good news for the country. We all need that extra month for the country to heard the candidates and have them campaign in the early states.'

O'Brien said Gardner should be credited with being prepared 'to go the length to make sure that New Hampshire would have the first in the nation primary,' and would be first by seven days, as state law requires.

'The lesson ought to be taken from this whole episode is that if this date does change is that New Hampshire will do what is necessary to make sure that it has the first-in-the-nation primary and it's in a meaningful day in the schedule,' O'Brien said.

'We're not going to have other contests crowding us out,' O'Brien said. 'We're going to make sure our tradition is maintained.'

(The full Oct. 20 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY MORNING, OCT. 20: WORKING ON A RESOLUTION. Top New Hampshire Republican Party officials yesterday were deeply involved in discussions that would end the dispute between the New Hampshire and Nevada over their caucus and primary dates.

> Las Vegas Sun: Sandoval ready to move Nevada caucus

New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey told the Granite Status the deal being worked on could result in Nevada Republicans agreeing to move their caucus from Jan. 14 all the way back to Feb. 4.

At the center of the talks was Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who was in Las Vegas for the Tuesday night GOP presidential debate and stayed Wednesday for a conference of Western state Republicans. Also involved were GOP leaders from New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa.

Any deal that involves a change in the Nevada GOP caucus date would have to be approved by the Nevada GOP State Committee, which is scheduled to meet Saturday.

Duprey said he had been on the telephone at least three times Wednesday with Priebus.

'I don't want to offer any predictions,' Duprey said. 'But I can confirm that there are discussions about finding a way to make sure all four early carve-out states play an important role.'

Also involved in the talks were NHGOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald and national committeewoman Phyllis Woods, said Duprey.

The Granite Status also learned that Mitt Romney's campaign has had a role in trying to broker a deal.

While no one would comment on behalf of the Romney campaign, people close to the developing situation confirmed that 'Romney allies' are supporting efforts to achieve a resolution and avoid conflict between the states.

The Las Vegas Sun reported yesterday that in exchange for moving to Feb. 4, Nevada would receive a guarantee of early state status in the long term.

Nevada Republican National Committeeman Bob List, a former governor, told the Las Vegas newspaper that Nevada would be 'assured of early status going forward' if it gives up its number three position and goes fifth, behind Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

The deal would allow New Hampshire to set its primary date for early to mid-January. Secretary of State Bill Gardner has said if Nevada did not move, he could be forced set the primary for December of this year.

Duprey said, 'We think a move of Nevada to at least a week after New Hampshire would enhance, rather than diminish, Nevada's importance.'

Duprey also pointed out that the RNC rule setting up early 'carve-out' states places Nevada fourth, behind Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

'We appreciate the efforts of Chairman Priebus and officials in Nevada to ensure that Nevada preserves its significance but New Hampshire's traditions are followed,' Duprey said.

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PRESSURE ON ROMNEY. Romney has been under pressure to join what's currently a five-candidate boycott of Nevada, along with Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

Strange that no such pressure has been directed at Rick Perry, although he, like Ron Paul, has refused to boycott.

Word of the possible deal came after a group of New Hampshire Republicans held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building to call on all candidates to boycott (See related story).

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, both R-NH, also called on the candidates to 'suspend campaign activities in Nevada until officials there move back their caucuses.'

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald has changed his position from last week and backed Secretary of State Gardner's position on Nevada.

MacDonald last week called on Gardner to determine that Nevada's caucus is not a 'similar election' under the state's primary law and to schedule the primary for Jan. 10.

Yesterday, MacDonald said that he had been involved in discussions with party leaders 'to work this out to everyone's satisfaction in a way that complies with New Hampshire law and tradition.

'Ultimately,' MacDonald said, 'the NHGOP supports whatever steps Secretary Gardner takes to enforce our laws to ensure that New Hampshire's primary is first by a week.'

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MORE SUPPORTERS FOR OVIDE. On the State House front, Republican Ovide Lamontagne is continuing to build support for his run for governor.

Today, he will announce more than 100 additional members of his statewide steering committee, bringing his total to more than 325.

A sampling of the group shows a cross-section of conservatives, fund-raisers and grassroots leaders and key establishment Republicans.

Lawmakers include state Sens. David Boutin and Fenton Groen and state Reps. John Cebrowski (and his wife, Amanda), Steve Cunningham (and his wife, Judy) and Ken Hawkins.

Other members are Amherst businessman and longtime state GOP fund-raiser Robert Cruess, Nashua activist and veterans leader Griffin Dalianis, Riley's Gun Shop owner Ralph Demicco, GOP fund-raiser Norm Gavin of Sunapee, Randolph storeowner Alan Lowe; and long-time activists former Rep. Henry Mock of Jackson, Claira Monier of Goffstown, former Ambassador Joseph Petrone and his wife, Augusta, of Dublin and Brady Sullivan principal Arthur Sullivan of Manchester.

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THE SMITH DECISION. As first reported in the New Hampshire Union Leader yesterday, conservative leader Kevin Smith is stepping down as executive director of Cornerstone Action and Cornerstone Policy Research.

He'll pursue 'other options,' one of which could be a run for governor.

Smith's direction of Cornerstone activities will be missed, said board chair Shannon McGinley. She said Smith will be honored at the group's big Oct. 26 fund-raising dinner, featuring Rick Perry.

McGinley said a search is now underway for a successor to Smith.

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KEY HIRING FOR NEWT. Rising star conservative and Tea Party activist Andrew Hemingway has been hired by Newt Gingrich's campaign to direct his ground game in New Hampshire.

Hemingway, who chairs the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, is the first paid Gingrich staffer on the ground in the state. Others are expected to follow.

Under Hemingway's direction, the liberty caucus helped elect more than 100 new House members last year.

He is also the founder and CEO of Digital Acumen, a digital consulting firm, which had a leading role in the first-ever Twitter presidential debate earlier this year.

Hemingway and Gingrich met last spring when Gingrich hosted Tea Party activists in Dover.

He'll work with Michelle McManus of Bow, a volunteer grass-roots leader heading Gingrich's 'Team 10' project.

We've also learned Gingrich will return to the state Oct. 25 and 26. One of his stops will be to file his candidacy in the New Hampshire Primary at the secretary of state's office.

The Gingrich camp says the Hemingway hiring comes as Gingrich gains momentum.

'We have raised more money in the past four days than we did in all of July,' said spokesman R.C. Hammond.

Prior to the announcement yesterday, Hemingway participated in the aforementioned press conference on the Nevada caucus and New Hampshire primary, sharply criticizing Romney.

Last night, after we reported on that Hemingway had been hired by Gingrich, some Republicans who attended the press conference were unhappy that he did not disclose that he was on another candidate's payroll when he made the comments.

We the People founder Jennifer Horn, who also spoke at he conference, said, 'When he was invited to speak, we did not know that Andrew was affiliated with a campaign. I am disappointed that he would exploit what was supposed to be a unifying event and show such a lack of judgement and professional integrity.'

Hemingway said he wasn't on the Gingrich payroll at the time.

'I haven't even started working with Newt Gingrich yet,' and will begin on Monday, he said.

Hemingway said he was speaking for himself, the RLCNH, and not as a Gingrich staffer, at the news conference.

Meanwhile, Andrew Manuse, a spokesman for the Republican Liberty Caucus, said Hemingway's new post does not reflect the position of the RLCNH, which, he said, will not endorse in the presidential primary.

Manuse said Carolyn McKinney has been named acting chair of the group while Hemingway works on the Gingrich campaign.

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SENATORS ENDORSE. In addition to backing Ovide Lamontagne for governor today, state Sen. Fenton Groen has chosen his presidential candidate, becoming the first state senator to back Rick Santorum.

Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, became the seventh senator to back Romney. Earlier this week, Manchester Sen. Tom DeBlois signed on with the former Massachusetts governor.

Also backing Santorum yesterday were state Reps. John McDonnell of Pembroke and John Sedensky of Hampstead.

And earlier this week, Romney was backed by 15 more state representatives, including Assistant Majority Leader David Hess.

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JOB CREATORS FOR PERRY. Today, Perry's campaign will roll out the names of 32 business owners and entrepreneurs backing his campaign as 'Job Creators for Perry.'

New Perry backers on the list are Dr. Julianne Cooper, Liberty Harbor Academy; Cathi Remington, Bead Creative; Phil Baker, Hampshire Capital Corp.; Dick Wentzell, Wentzell Sunshine Paving; Tom Howard, Serenity Carpets; Phil Abirached, Metro Market; Robert Fitzmaurice, Fitzmaurice Companies; Sharon Therriault, SMP Consulting; Heidi Mason, Northwinds Farm; John Ela, Epoch Homes; Kevin Waterhouse, Waterhouse's Country Store; Phil and Lorraine Davidson, Ewing Electric; Bruce Reeves, Assuretec; Keith Forrester, FESI; Tony Hashem, Hanoush Jewelers; Stephen Kniaz, Adaptations Unlimited; Aziz Saba, AGR Foodmart Inc.; Michael Galante, Galante's Auto Sales; Romeo Danais, General Butler Farm; John Reuter, Jack the Liquidator & NewVo Interiors; Chuck Stephen, Glenwood Investment Group LLC; Eric Kraus, Smith and Kraus Publishing; and Eli and Lina Merheb, Tobacco Empire.

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-- The pro-Democratic House Majority PAC has again targeted Bass and a group of other 'vulnerable' House members in a six-figure radio advertising program that began on Monday.

-- Ayotte will told town hall meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 25 and 26. The Tuesday event will be held in Nashua at the Bicentennial Elementary School at 6:30 p.m., while the Wednesday event will be held in Derry at the West Running Brook Middle School at 6 p.m.

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

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