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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Shea-Porter far ahead in NH-01 Dem primary poll; Ayotte headed to Ohio for Romney

Senior Political Reporter

March 14. 2012 11:19AM

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, UPDATE: WHAT PRIMARY? If Joanne Dowdell has any hope of seriously challenging Carol Shea-Porter in the Democratic 1st District U.S. House primary, she had better get busy.

The Granite Status has learned that a poll of likely voters in that primary, commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week, showed former two-term Rep. Shea-Porter with a commanding (to put it mildly) lead of 87-5 percent over Portsmouth activist and at-large Democratic National Committee member Dowdell. Andrew Hosmer was not included in the polls.

Shea-Porter was swept out of office by Republican Frank Guinta in 2010, but if she wins this year's September primary, she is expected to give him a tough re-match battle in November.

While Dowdell's campaign has received little district-wide attention so far, there is still time for her to make a race of it. It is, after all, only March and the primary is still six months away.

Still, Shea-Porter has a deep and wide base among Democratic voting constituencies such as Seacoast liberals, blue collar workers and veterans from Manchester and the northern part of the district. It's a steep hill to climb.

(Earlier updates and the full March 8 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, UPDATE: AYOTTE IN OHIO. Even as the nomination battle wears on, Mitt Romney 's campaign is thinking ahead to a general election campaign. And it's thinking about Ohio.

And to that end, it is deploying New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as its first surrogate in the all-important battleground state next week.

Ayotte will appear at a Butler County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in West Chester, Ohio, on March 24, speaking on behalf of Romney. The invitation describes Ayotte as a 'rising star in the party.'

The event is in the district of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who is also expected to attend.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. After winning the state's GOP primary last week, the Romney campaign has kept a campaign structure in place there.

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams called Ayotte 'a principled conservative who has served as an outstanding surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-jobs message in New Hampshire and across the nation.

"We are grateful that she has agreed to campaign for Gov Romney in a key battleground state and help him build the support needed to defeat President Obama and turnaround our struggling economy,' Williams said.

(Earlier updates and the full March 8 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, UPDATE: JENNIFER FOR JULIANA. Juliana Bergeron has picked up the endorsement of a key conservative activist in her bid to become the next Republican National Committeewoman from New Hampshire.

Jennifer Horn, the 2008 Republican nominee for the 2nd District U.S. House seat and founder of the 'We the People' conservative issues advocacy group, will be announced later today as backing Bergeron.

Members of the Republican State Committee will vote on a successor to RNC member Phyllis Woods on April 14. Also running to succeed Woods in Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker.

Horn, in a letter to state committee members, writes that Bergeron has been a GOP activist for 40 years, volunteering for candidates and causes and raising 'tens of thousands of dollars' when she served as chair of the Cheshire County Republican Committee.

A financial adviser who has also raised money for community organizations, 'Her combined experience in the private, political and non-profit sectors has offered her the unique opportunity to develop strong, productive relationships throughout the state and the country,' Horn writes.

She wrote that Bergeron 'will be an unwavering advocate for our treasured First In The Nation primary,' one of the key roles of New Hampshire RNC members.

Bergeron, wrote Horn, is also 'an eloquent spokeswoman for our party's conservative principles and a strong community leader.'

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, UPDATE: MANCHESTER MAGGIE? Maggie Hassan for Governor has opened a new campaign headquarters on Manchester's west side. The campaign says the office will be "the hub for statewide operations for the campaign." The campaign previously opened a field office in Exeter in January.

'We are excited to have our Manchester office up and running,' said Hassan campaign manager Matt Burgess. 'This is the perfect location to stage our statewide campaign operations. It's also great to be so close to a Dunkin Donuts and a pizza place - fuel for every campaign.'

The office is located at 225 Eddy Road off of Exit 6 on 293. The campaign will hold an official open house in the coming weeks.

(Earlier updates and the full March 8 Granite Status follow. A new Granite Status will appear on Thursday, March 15 in the New Hampshire Union Leader and on Union

MONDAY, MARCH 12, UPDATE: Backing a plan co-sponsored by House speaker Bill O'Brien, a House committee today effectively sided with U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta over U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass in their redistricting feud.

The committee voted 14-1 to recommend that the full House make no drastic changes to the two congressional districts and instead simply move Waterville Valley and Sargent's Purchase from the 2nd District, represented by Bass, to the 1st District, represented by Guinta.

Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, vice chairman of the House Special Committee on Redistricting, said in an interview, 'We moved only about 250 people and it gets the deviation' in population between the two districts 'down to near zero.'

The goal of congressional redistricting is to make the two districts as close to equal as possible in population.

But, as the Granite Status reported on March, 1, Bass, hoping to shore up the Republican base in his very vulnerable district before what's expected to be a tough rematch against Democrat Ann McLane Kuster later this year, proposed that the highly Republican towns of Merrimack, Plaistow and Hampstead be moved from the 1st District to his 2nd District in exchange for a group of northern towns that would move to Guinta's district. Kingston, which is in Guinta's district, was also in the discussion.

Guinta, whose district is more Republican than the 2nd District but by no means a 'slam dunk' for the GOP, opposed the Bass proposal. The staffs of the two congressmen have been in a quiet tug-of-war behind the scenes as the House committee weighed the redistricting bill.

Bates said today a subcommittee last week approved a more drastic plan than would have involved a shift in district for about 25,000 people, including Merrimack.

But, Bates said, today, the full committee decided to take a different approach.

'We went very easily with the plan that included minimal change,' he said.

The plan was sponsored by the House leadership, primarily by Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, but also by House speaker O'Brien and majority leader D.J. Bettencourt.

'It's as close to perfect as possible,' Hess told the committee. 'According to information provided by House legal counsel, when it comes to federal offices, we don't have the same cushion' as for state offices. 'The standard for federal offices is as close as possible to standard deviation.'

Bates said afterward, 'We opted to go with the plan that made the least amount of change, with near perfect deviation and and with very little impact on the communities.'

Bates said he expects the bill to go before the full House next week. If it passes the House, the bill then goes to the Senate, where the quiet 'discussion' is expected to continue.

The move was welcomed by Democrats hoping for a Kuster win in November.

"Another sign that the Tea Staters are the new NH Republican establishment," former state Democratic Chair Kathy Sullivan posted on Twitter. "Do they want Bass loss in 012, run their own in 014?"

(Earlier updates and the full Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, MARCH 12, UPDATE: SWING STATE NH. Key players from each political party will be in Portsmouth over the next week. The appearances show the 'swing' nature of the 1st Congressional District and the state as a whole in the upcoming election.

On Thursday, March 15, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz will lead a panel discussion on women's health issues and President Barack Obama's health care law in Portsmouth. See our story elsewhere on on the Democrats here and nationally mounting a major effort to promote what they view as the benefits of the program.

The Granite Status has learned that three days later, on Sunday, March 18, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the number three Republican in the House , will appear at a fund-raiser for New Hampshire U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta at the home of Eric and Leticia Gregg, also in Portsmouth.

Eric Gregg is the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg.

Tickets for the Guinta fund-raiser are going for $500 per couple with roundtable tickets at $1,500 per person.

Wasserman-Schultz will join local health care experts and women supporters to 'discuss women's access to health care and the Affordable Care Act,'Obama campaign spokeswoman Holly Shulman said.

The event, scheduled for 9:15 a.m. at the Portsmouth Obama campaign office at 125 Brewery Lane, is open to members of the public who RSVP to

Appearing with Wasserman-Schultz will be Lindsay Hanson, who headed New Hampshire Women for Obama in 2008, long-time Obama supporter Mary Rauh and local health care professionals.

(Earlier updates and the full March 8 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 8, UPDATE: Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass has named young but experienced grassroots organizer Brad Blais his campaign manager as he mounts a bid for an eighth term representing the state's 2nd Congressional District. Last week, the Granite Status first reported that the Bass campaign hired veteran strategist B.J. Perry as a key consultant.

Blais, who is 25, was born in Rye and now lives in Manchester, will be a paid staffer for Bass, heading the campaign and working with Perry. Blais most recently was a consultant for Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign in the first-primary state.

Blais in that role worked with consulting partner Paul Collins, a long-time GOP strategist whose political career dates back to former Gov. John H. Sununu's administration in the early 1980s. Blais and Collins co-founded CB Strategies, LLC after the two had leading roles in former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu's unsuccessful 2008 reelection campaign.

In 2010, Blais was deputy campaign manager of Republican Sean Mahoney's 1st District congressional campaign, which was headed by Collins. After Mahoney lost to Frank Guinta in the September 2010 party primary, Blais moved to the Bass general election campaign as field director. Blais managed the campaign's day-to-day operations, focusing on building the field organization that helped Bass win his current term despite being heavily outspent by his Democratic opponent, Ann McLane Kuster.

Kuster is seeking a rematch with Bass this year and has also put together a full staff and another strong fund-raising effort. State and national Democrats view Bass, who defeated Kuster by only 3,550 votes in the big GOP sweep of 2010, as one of the nation's most GOP vulnerable incumbents.

Bass' recent hirings show he is gearing up for another tough battle.

Blais and Collins, as CB Strategies, briefly worked for Bass's current reelection effort a year ago, managing early grassroots organizing, before moving to the Huntsman campaign. Collins has not returned to the Bass campaign at this point, and it is unclear at the moment if he will do so.

He told the Status in an email, "I remains an enthusiastic supporter of Charlie Bass!"

In a statement, Bass said Blais' 'experience and leadership continue to be a tremendous asset to our team.'

(An earlier update and the full March 8 Granite Status follow).

THURSDAY, MARCH 8, UPDATE: JOINT APPEARANCE. Republican candidates for governor Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith will each appear at one of the key GOP events of the year this weekend.

Smith and Lamontagne are listed as speakers for the Carroll County Republican Committee Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. at the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett. Also scheduled to speak is U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.

Last year's event featured presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who unofficially kicked off his New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary campaign.

Meanwhile, state Democrats are gearing up for one of their major fundraisers of the year. The party's Shaheen-McIntyre 100 Club Dinner is set for next Friday, March 16, at the Executive Court in Manchester. Seven-term U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, is the featured speaker.

(The full March 8 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 8: PUSHING ON THE PUSH POLL LAW. A top national pollster says stepped-up enforcement by the New Hampshire Attorney General of the state law governing political push-polling is hindering pollsters' ability to do legitimate market research and 'persuasion' calls in the state.

The law, coupled with the way the attorney general's office has been enforcing it for the past two years, has become so onerous that it could hurt the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary in the future, said Whit Ayers, president of North Star Opinion Research and chairman of the American Association of Political Consultants.

'By continuing to harass professional public opinion research firms who work for political candidates, the attorney general's office is handing ammunition to those who would like to supplant New Hampshire's primary as first-in-the-nation,' Ayers told the Granite Status this week.

'It really makes it appear that New Hampshire does not want campaigns to be run in the state,' he said. 'We don't face this kind of harassment anywhere else in the country.'

A major national Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, saying it plans to do polling for federal candidates in New Hampshire, has gone to the Federal Election Commission seeking an advisory opinion on whether firms working for federal candidates can bypass the state law and adhere to less stringent requirements of federal law.

The state's push-polling law was the focus of a New York Times story last week that contended the attorney general's office is 'threatening legal action against some of the nation's most prominent polling firms,' which apparently failed to make the disclosures required by the law when conducting push polling in New Hampshire.

The story quoted Assistant Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge as saying there was 'a big uptick' in push-poll calls during the presidential primary campaign. Mavrogeorge's boss, Associate Attorney General Richard Head, told the Granite Status said there are actually 'three or four' open investigations at the moment and 'we've looked at others,' based on complaints registered by citizens, but found no violations of the law.

But Ayers said the attorney general's office is 'not only threatening legal action, they are in the process of negotiating fines for conducting bona fide survey research.

'There is one major Republican firm that I know of and one major Democratic firm that I know of that have been approached and are in legal negotiations,' Ayers said.

He said that when the American Association of Political Consultants 'found out that the attorney general's office was moving against several research firms, threatening a $1,000 fine per respondent, we decided we needed to take action and warn our fellow AAPC members what has been going on and that they need to be awfully careful' doing business in the Granite State.

Ayers, Mark Mellman and Jeffrey Pollock, pollsters on the AAPC Board of Directors, warned members, 'The New Hampshire attorney general's office has given no clear guidance for how legitimate survey researchers can avoid being caught in this legal web.

'Until we are successful in keeping this law from being wrongfully enforced against genuine survey research, be very careful when conducting legitimate survey research in New Hampshire.'

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PROPER IDENTIFICATION. Ayers said there are two issues in the law that cause problems for pollsters.

First is the law's requirement that anyone conducting a push poll must inform the person contacted that the call 'is being made on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to, a particular candidate for public office, identify that candidate by name and provide a telephone number from where the push polling is conducted.'

Last week, when the Times report surfaced, Attorney General Michael Delaney said the law requires the candidate conducting a negative push-poll to disclose the candidate's name 'up front' during each call.

Ayers correctly pointed out that the law does not actually require 'up-front identification.' Head confirmed this, telling the Granite Status that 'perhaps (AG) Mike (Delaney) mixed it up' with a separate law governing automated political telephone calls, commonly known as 'robo calls.' The 'robo calls' law requires identification of who paid for the call within the first 30 seconds of the call.

Head said that in live push-polling, as long as the disclosure is made sometime during the call, 'there is no requirement in the statute as to when during the call the disclosure is made.

'Our office has never taken an enforcement action based on the timing of the disclosure,' Head said. 'It is only whether the content of the call or the disclosure itself complies with the statute.'

The law does not even specifically require the candidate who paid for the call, or who is the beneficiary of the call, to be identified. Simply naming the candidate being targeted by the call is also sufficient.

But Ayers said, 'Our attorney advises us that we need to specify a campaign that is conducting the survey, and apparently in the attorney general office's enforcement, they are going after people who named a campaign but failed to give a telephone number.'

Head said that if the candidate paying is identified at the end of the call, 'then it's not going to affect anything because people will have already given their answers.'

Ayers acknowledged that identifying the candidate at the end of the call is 'less onerous' than doing so up front, but he said it still lets the caller and the person called know who is paying for the survey, 'and that violates the way we conduct business.'

In surveys conducted by his own firm, Ayers said, 'we don't even let the interviewers know which candidate is paying for the survey. We don't want to give them any hint.'

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DEFINITION CALLED TOO BROAD. The second issue pollsters have with the law is its definition of a push poll.

The law defines a push poll as calling voters on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to any candidate for public office and 'asking questions relative to opposing candidates which state, imply or convey information about the candidate's character, status or political stance or record.'

Ayers says that passage describes what polling firms do when they conduct legitimate research.

A push poll, he said, is really a 'negative persuasion' call, usually relatively brief and made to a large number of people, designed to 'influence people's opinions negatively about a candidate.

'Those short calls bear no resemblance to legitimate scientific public opinion research, which talks to a relatively small number of people, randomly selected, and includes often lengthy questionnaires that are designed not to change public opinion, but to measure public opinion,' said Ayers.

Head said 'There is no effort on the part of our office to control the content of any of the push polls. As long as there is disclosure, they are perfectly legal. The disclosure requirement is really very simple and the disclosure can be at the end of the call.'

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$1.4 MILLION FINE? Ayers said he is aware of a firm that could face a maximum of $1.4 million in fines, or $1,000 per answered call, for violating the law as written.

But Head said $1,000 per call is the maximum penalty under the law and has never been levied.

Head noted that in a settlement reached in 2010 with Mountain West Research of Idaho, which push polled for U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hodes' campaign against opponent Kelly Ayotte without making proper disclosures, the firm was fined $20,000 for making 529 allegedly illegal calls, which is a fine of about $38 per call - far below the maximum.

'The penalty depends on the nature of the call, the economic benefit and how flagrant the violation is,' said Head. 'Each one is taken under the facts and we use appropriate discretion.'

Although the push-poll law has been on the books since 1998, the Mountain West case was the first time the state imposed a fine under the law. The only other fine under the law was announced in January, when OnMessage, Inc., of Virginia agreed to pay $15,000 for making 400 calls on behalf of Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta in September 2010. The attorney general's office charged those calls were also made without proper disclosures.

The fine amounted to $37.50 per call - also far below the $1,000 maximum.

Ayers noted the attorney general's office began levying fines only after Delaney became attorney general in August 2009. He said that he and Howard Fienberg, director of government affairs for the Marketing Research Association, sent Delaney a five-page letter in January 2011 - as a result of the Mountain West Research case - laying out their concerns that the disclosure requirement in the law would make legitimate political research 'irreparably biased, distorting the results of research and making it impossible to accurately reflect the thoughts and opinions of New Hampshire residents.' But he said he received no response from Delaney's office.

Head said that while his office 'has been enforcing the statute for a long time,' until recently, it was sending out cease-and-desist letters,' but they had little effect. As a result, the office decided to levy fines in the Mountain West and OnMessage cases.

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BATES WANTS MORE INFO. In the middle of the issue is Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, chairman of the House Election Law Committee.

Bates is concerned that he had to read about the apparent 'uptick' in enforcement of the push-polling law in the newspapers.

He said that more than a year ago, he had asked the attorney general's office 'for information about election law violations and the results of their investigations. But they never produced anything.'

As a result, Bates introduced HB 1673, which passed the House yesterday without debate. The bill requires the attorney general to report to the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2012, and every six months after that 'on the status of all complaints of alleged violations of election laws received.'

Bates said that without information, it is impossible for lawmakers to know whether there should be changes in election laws.

Regarding the push-polling controversy, he said, 'If I had know about this, we might have been able to address it' prior to the presidential primary campaign.

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SKY'S THE LIMIT? Another election law bill that passed the House yesterday would put an end to the voluntary spending limits in state elections.

Under current law, a candidate for governor who agrees to spend no more than $625,000 in a party primary and $625,000 in a general election can legally receive $5,000 from any individual in the exploratory phase, $5,000 during the primary and $5,000 in the general election. For those who do not agree to the limit, individual contributions are limited to $5,000 in the exploratory phase, $1,000 in the primary and $1,000 in the general election.

The bill as passed by the House would allow unlimited campaign spending while allowing individuals to contribute up to $5,000 for the state primary election and $5,000 for the general election. It also put into the law the established system that allows individuals to contribute 'an additional $5,000 during an exploratory period to a political committee' prior to his or her 'public declaration of candidacy.'

Finally, House Bill 1704 would require additional public filings by political committees in the year prior to an election, beginning on June 30 of the odd-numbered year. Filings would also be required for the second half of the odd-numbered year, the first quarter of the year of the general election and from April 1 to 12 weeks before the primary election.

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THE OBAMA NH STEERING COMMITTEE. Just about every big name New Hampshire Democrat you can think of, and many who are not as well-known, comprise the 114-member state steering committee for the Obama reelection campaign, to be announced later today.

The campaign says the group represents members from more than 50 different cities and towns. It says that it has held more than 600 events across the state and opened seven offices.

Here's a sampling of the committee: Nanette Avril of Franconia, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, Garth Corriveau and Kathy Sullivan, all of Manchester, Dayton and Dianne Duncan of Walpole, Katherine Hanna of Bedford, former Executive Councilor and state Senate President Beverly Hollingworth of Hampton, former state Democratic Party Chairman Joe Keefe of New Castle, state Sen. Amanda Merrill of Durham, House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli of Portsmouth, former Executive Councilor and state Sen. Debora Pignatelli of Nashua and Jean Sanders of Atkinson.

The full list can be seen at

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FEARING FERGUS? Maybe Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas took former Republican State Committee Chairman Fergus Cullen's words to heart.

Gatsas professed his dedication to the city of Manchester in a prepared statement on why he won't run for governor this year. But as Cullen pointed out in an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Feb. 17, candidate for governor Gatsas would have had a chore ahead of him proving his loyalty to the Republican Party in a primary.

Cullen is a supporter of candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne and is an original member of Lamontagne's steering committee, which was announced last September. Cullen says, however, that although he was on the steering committee at the time he wrote his op-ed, it "was my own and represented my own views."

Cullen recalled in the piece that Gatsas as a state senator led a coup that dumped former Senate President Tom Eaton and installed Gatsas in the post. After the Democrats won control of the Senate in 2006, Gatsas became Senate minority leader. But two years later, after the Democrats retained control of the Senate, the Republican caucus dumped Gatsas and installed Peter Bragdon.

Two years after that, Bragdon became Senate president after leading the GOP in re-taking the Senate majority, 19-5.

But during that bleak (for the GOP) 2006 campaign, as Cullen recalled in his piece, Gatsas showed that even as Senate president, he was more of an ally of Democratic Gov. John Lynch, the prohibitive favorite for reelection, than of the Republican who stepped up to take on Lynch when no one else would, Jim Coburn.

Coburn had been campaigning on the charge that Lynch's promise to veto a broadbase tax was an empty one and would be broken as soon as the state Supreme Court tried to force such a tax on the state to pay for education.

But Gatsas, at a fundraiser for himself in October 2006, undermined Coburn's message, telling the crowd, 'If John Lynch gets reelected, I believe he will veto an income tax.'

When we asked Gatsas at the time whether he backed Coburn, his party's nominee, for governor, he declined to say.

Not until the next day, after our story appeared on the front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader under the headline, 'Gatsas Cool on Coburn,' did Gatsas say, 'I support Coburn. I support the ticket.'

Cullen laughed when we asked him yesterday if he think his piece scared off Gatsas.

'I doubt it,' he said.

Cullen said that while he believes party loyalty would have come up had Gatsas run for governor and 'I don't think he would have had a satisfactory answer for a lot of people,' he did say that Gatsas 'has been a better mayor than I expected.'

Cullen said Lamontagne 'deserves some credit for the fact that others aren't getting into the race. He has built up a huge amount of good will from the way the last campaign ended,' with Lamontagne deciding not to ask for a recount in his close U.S. Senate primary loss to Kelly Ayotte and backing her strongly in the general election.

'People who had to choose between Ovide and Kelly and chose Kelly now feel they can support Ovide in this race and get the best of both worlds.'

But Cullen isn't so sure how Gatsas would have fared.

He pointed out that Gatsas benefits from the fact that there are no campaign contribution limits in Manchester and that he pretty much self-funded most of his Senate races.

Republican strategist Michael Dennehy said he believes Gatsas 'could have done well' had he positioned himself as a moderate Republican running against conservatives Lamontagne, activist Kevin Smith and businessman Steve Kenda.

But, Dennehy said, if one assumes that a Republican will be elected governor in November, 'This was probably Ted's last chance. So in that sense, I'm surprised he decided not to run.'

After Gatsas announced his decision yesterday, fellow Manchester resident Lamontagne's relief at not having Gatsas in the primary mix was evident in his statement that gushed praise on Gatsas. Can a Gatsas endorsement of Ovide be far behind?

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-- It's no surprise, but a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this week confirmed to Foster's Daily Democrat that she intends to seek re-election in 2014.

-- U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta will host a conference his office says is 'designed to assist local women in finding jobs and furthering their careers' on Friday, March 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. The event is free and those interested can register by contacting Ashley Pratte at or at (603) 641-9536.

-- There are St. Patrick's Day events, and then there is the granddaddy of them all. Bobby Stephen's 34th Annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner is slated for March 17 (of course!) at the Executive Court in Manchester. Tickets for the event are $50 and proceeds go to the Bobby Stephen Fund for Education, a nonprofit that provides student scholarships through the New Hampshire Jobs for America's Graduates program. Stephen says that last year, 41 students received financial help for college through the program.

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

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