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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Bass-Guinta reach redistricting deal; NH's Andrew Hemingway a casualty of Newt's big staff cuts;

Senior Political Reporter

March 28. 2012 11:02AM

GOP candidate for governor Kevin Smith will roll out the names of 51 grassroots supporters on Thursday. Read more below.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, UPDATE: FEUD FINISHED. The long-running redistricting stalemate between U.S. Reps Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass has been resolved, the Granite Status has learned.

Details are expected to be brought out on the state Senate floor l;ater this afternoon, but we've learned that both sides are happy with a deal that has Sanborton, Tilton and Campton moving from Bass's CD 2 to Guinta's to CD1, and Deerfield, Northwood and Center Harbor moving from CD1 to CD2.

Bass had wanted to beef up the Republican vote in district as he girds for a tough reelection battle with Democrat Ann McLane Kuster.

Guinta had refused to give up any of his key Republican towns.

In Concord, lawmakers became frustrated with the stalemate and urged a resolution.

This plan, we're told, helps Bass somewhat while preserving Guinta's slight lean-GOP district. It gives the 1st District swing towns that slightly lean GOP in exchange for for swing towns that generally lean a little more heavily to the GOP.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, UPDATE: ANDREW HEADED HOME. Newt Gingrich's former New Hampshire primary campaign manager is among the casualties of the big shakeup in the Gingrich campaign announced last night, the Granite Status has learned.

'It's a double-edged sword,' Andrew Hemingway told us a few hours after he had been told that his services will no longer be needed as of the end of the month.

'It's a good time to move on,' he said.

Hemingway, the former chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire and a web/digital expert, has been on the staff at Gingrich's Washington headquarters since about a week after the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.

'I am a part of the policy and digital communications team. Having fun!' he emailed the Status just last week.

Today, he said that indeed, he was among the one-third of the staff laid off as part of the announced scaling back of the Gingrich campaign operation.

Gingrich also replaced his campaign manager and scaled back his schedule.

Still, Gingrich said he intends to stay in the GOP presidential race all the way to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

'I talked to Newt this morning,' Hemingway said. 'We hugged. He thanked me and I thanked him and he is definitely determined to go all the way to Tampa.'

As for Hemingway, 'It's been awesome. It's been an amazing experience and I wouldn't trade the opportunity. I have no hard feelings toward Newt or anyone on the campaign. This is a sad reality of campaigning.

'I'm looking forward to getting back to New Hampshire and getting back involved in the political scene,' Hemingway said.

51 FOR SMITH. GOP candidate for governor Kevin Smith on Thursday will roll out the names of 51 grassroots supporters, most of them previously unannounced.

We've learned that key new names on the list include:

- Renee Riedel-Plummer of Portsmouth, vice president of marketing at Two International Group, LLC;

- Jane Lane of Keene, a former New Hampshire staffer for U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, and former long-time officer of the National Federation of Republican Women.

- Police Chief Richard Crate of Enfield, an officer of the New Hampshire Associations of Chiefs of Police.

- Linda Frawley of Belmont, a long-time activist for former Sen. John E. Sununu and a communications consultant.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow. A new Granite Status will appear tomorrow in the New Hampshire Union Leader and on

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, UPDATE: NYQUIST STAFFS UP. Attorney Lee Nyquist of New Boston hasn't formally announced his candidacy for the District 9 state Senate seat, yet, but he's taking all the necessary steps in that direction.

Democrat Nyquist, calling himself 'a very probable candidate,' told the Granite Status that he has hired staff, launched a campaign web site, filed a campaign exploratory committee and will hold events in Bedford, New Boston, Jaffrey and elsewhere around the district in the coming weeks.

Nyquist says he has hired campaign veteran and former state Rep. Kevin Hodges as his top consultant; Mike Hoefer, managing editor of, to handle his web site; and Doug Hasson of Bridge Communications, based in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., to focus on direct mail and other communications efforts.

Hoefer was state Sen. Molly Kelly's campaign manager, while Hodges has managed Senate candidate Bob Backus' campaign.

Deanna Powell of New Boston is Nyquist's volunteer coordinator and fiscal agent.

Nyquist will begin touring the district, with appearances scheduled for April 4 at the Bedford Library, for April 24 in Jaffrey and for April 25 at the Whipple Free Library in New Boston.

The campaign's website is

'We've also been working very hard at fund-raising and have raised several thousand dollars,' Nyquist said.

Nyquist, an attorney and the long-time New Boston town moderator, has said that although District 9 has been highly Republican in the past, he believes that with the addition of what he views as more moderate towns through redistricting, he has a chance to win with a moderate message and a call for a return to 'collegiality' in Concord.

Republicans expected to run for the seat are state Rep. Ken Hawkins, R-Bedford, and state Sen. Andy Sanborn, who has said he expects to relocate from his home in Henniker to Bedford.

The redrawn District 9 includes Bedford, New Boston, Mont Vernon, Lyndeborough, Greenfield, Temple, Sharon, Peterborough, Hancock, Dublin, Jaffrey, Troy, Fitzwilliam and Richmond.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, UPDATE: DeBLOIS MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Manchester Republican Tom DeBlois is making it official: he will not run for reelection from state Senate District 18 and will instead run for the District 4 Executive Council seat being vacated by the retiring Raymond J. Wieczorek.

Wieczorek's son, Manchester businessman James Wieczorek, will chair DeBlois' campaign, while businessman and state Rep. Will Infantine, R-Manchester, will be DeBlois' fiscal agent and campaign co-chair.

Also in the race to succeed Wieczorek so far are Republican Hillsborough County Treasurer Bob Burns and Democratic former Hillsborough County Treasurer Chris Pappas, who owns the Puritan Backroom restaurant.

DeBlois is serving his first term in the Senate representing Manchester Wards, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 and Litchfield.

In announcing his run for a seat on the five-member council, he said the council 'plays an integral role, approving the spending of a major portion of the billions of dollars that are appropriated annually by the Legislature.' He noted it is also responsible for vetting gubernatorial nominees for department heads, judges, commissioners and regulatory board members.

DeBlois said that as a self-employed businessman in Manchester for more than 46 years (as well as a New Hampshire native and lifelong resident of the city), 'I feel that I have the skills and background that will be extremely beneficial in serving the people of District 4.'

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, UPDATE: Just a day after he made news by pledging his support on the presidential front to Mitt Romney, long-time New Hampshire political operative Paul Collins is back in the political headlines - this time in a much more extensive role.

The Granite Status has learned that Collins will bring his 30 years of political experience to Republican Ovide Lamontagne's run for governor, as his campaign manager.

Lamontagne campaign senior advisor Jim Merrill, in a statement obtained by the Status, called Collins 'a seasoned political leader whose years of high level management experience make him the ideal choice to oversee day-to-day campaign operations.' He noted Collins' expertise in grassroots campaigning, which, he said, fits with Lamontagne's style.

Collins had been a Republican National Convention delegate for former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, but the Granite Status reported on Monday that with Huntsman out of the race, Collins was shifting his support to Romney, whose senior advisor in New Hampshire is the same Jim Merrill who advises Lamontagne.

We're told there was no connection between the two events. A campaign source called it a 'total coincidence.'

Collins called Lamontagne 'a proven conservative and a tested leader we can trust,' as well as 'a man of experience and integrity.'

Collins said Lamontagne is 'the clear choice for Republicans and independents who wish to deliver real change and reform to Concord.'

Collins' political experience dates back to 1982, when he worked on John H. Sununu's initial campaign for governor. Collins then was a special assistant in Sununu's governor's office during Sununu's three terms.

In 1989, when Sununu went to the White House as chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, Collins joined the staff as Special Assistant to the President for National Service and then Special Assistant to the President for Political Affairs.

Collins worked on Charlie Bass' successful 1994 campaign for the U.S. House and then was Bass' district director.

From 1996 through 2008, Collins was campaign manager and chief of staff for John E. Sununu during his years as a House member and a senator.

Soon after John H. Sununu was elected chairman of the Republican State Committee in January 2009, he named Collins as the party's executive director.

He worked at the party during that time with Tom DeRosa, who is now the political director for the campaign of Kevin Smith, who is opposing Lamontagne for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Coincidentally, two of John H. Sununu's other sons, James and Michael Sununu, along with Jamie Burnett, are principles at Profile Strategy Group, which is the consulting firm handling Smith's campaign.

Burnett is a former deputy campaign manager, legislative director and state director for John E. Sununu during his years in the Senate. At that time, Burnett and Collins worked together.

In 2010, Collins managed Sean Mahoney's campaign for the 1st District U.S. House Republican nomination and last year was the senior strategist for Huntsman's New Hampshire campaign.

He is a founding partner of a consulting firm called CB Strategies, LLC, along with Brad Blais, who is managing Bass' campaign this year.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, MARCH 26, UPDATE: DENNEHY HELPING FRANK. Republican strategist Michael Dennehy says he has become increasingly impressed with U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta during his past 15 months representing the state's 1st Congressional District.

So, Dennehy said, when Guinta asked him recently to become the treasurer of Guinta's new leadership PAC, Dennehy obliged.

Guinta today announced the formation of 'GUINTAPAC: Getting Us Involved Now, Transitioning America," which, he said, 'will work to support individuals and organizations that share common sense, small government solutions for improving our economy and middle-class job creation.'

Leadership PACs, which are separate from campaign finance committees, are common among House members and senators, giving them a vehicle to make contributions to other member of Congress, their PACs and the PACs of other industries and interests.

By having a leadership PAC, a politician can increase his or her influence on Capitol Hill. It is sometimes an indication that they have their eye on a leadership position or higher office at some point in the future. Politicians cannot use leadership PAC proceeds for their own campaigns.

Both of New Hampshire U.S. senators have leadership PACs. Jeanne Shaheen's is A New Direction PAC, while Kelly Ayotte's is KellyPAC. Rep. Charlie Bass has the Monadnock PAC.

Former Sen. Judd Gregg still has his White Mountain PAC and former Sen. John E. Sununu still has his Daniel Webster PAC.

Dennehy said that while he previously had not been politically close to Guinta, he was 'impressed with him over the debt ceiling debate. It was difficult for any Republican to vote for it and then to back to the district and explain the vote.

"It took guts for him to immediately come back to New Hampshire and have in-person town halls on the issue. I felt that this guy really wants to talk to the people about his positions and is not afraid to debate them in what can be difficult circumstances,' said Dennehy.

Dennehy is now potentially in the mix as Guinta begins to gear up a reelection campaign, but Dennehy said the new position with the leadership PAC does not mean he will be a part of Guinta's campaign. He said there have been no discussions along those lines.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, MARCH 26, UPDATE: MOVING TO MITT. As of this morning, Mitt Romney had amassed 568 delegates in his battle to get to 1,144, the amount needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. That's according to the latest count reported by CNN.

Well, make that 569.

The Granite Status has learned that Paul Collins, a senior strategist in former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's third-place New Hampshire finish and a Huntsman delegate, will be announced later today as moving to Mitt Romney.

Also supporting Romney will be Huntsman alternate delegate Brad Blais.

Collins says it's time for Republicans to united behind Romney as 'the one candidate who can win in November.

Collins has several Romney connections, including through his former boss and long-time associate, former Gov. John H. Sununu, a top Romney surrogate. Collins is also a former chief of staff and campaign manager for former Sen. John E. Sununu, working with current Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams.

Huntsman dropped out of the race on Jan. 16. He had earned three New Hampshire GOP delegates by finishing with nearly 17 percent of the vote in the Jan. 10 first-in-the-nation primary, according to data on the Secretary of State's web site.

His delegates were released when he dropped out.

Huntsman's other two New Hampshire delegates, consultant Sarah Crawford Stewart and business executive Renee Plummer, told the Status this morning they remain uncommitted. Plummer said she intends to remain uncommitted until the Republican National Convention in late summer.

In a statement to be widely released later today, Collins says, 'Mitt Romney is the one candidate who can lead our party to victory in November and reverse President Obama's failed policies.

'He has the private sector executive experience that is needed to turn around our struggling economy. Our party can't afford to nominate a candidate with no job creation experience, and our country can't afford four more years of President Obama. That is why I support Mitt Romney and will work my hardest to help him become our nominee and make President Obama a one-term president.'

Collins and Blais are partners in a political consulting firm, and Blais is currently the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass' reelection campaign. Bass is also a Romney supporter.

'We're picking up delegates like this across the country,' said Romney spokesman Williams. 'We're working for every delegate. Every delegate is important and we're glad to have Paul and Brad on board.'

While the state GOP had been allocated a total of 23 delegates, the Republican National Committee cut the total to 12 in sanctioning the state GOP after the state held its primary earlier than allowed by an RNC rule. According to the RNC, Romney will get 7 of those delegates (prior to the Collins) move, Ron Paul is allocated three, with two delegates 'unbound.'

MONDAY, MARCH 26 UPDATE: GOP DELEGATES POSTED. The Secretary of State's office has posted on its Web site the names of all 17 delegates and 17 alternates for Romney and Paul, the two remaining candidates who earned delegates as a result of the first-in-the-nation primary, as well as those for former candidate Huntsman.

The list pre-dates the shift of Collins from Huntsman to Romnmey.

The list ignores the sanction imposed by the RNC. It also does not include three 'super-delegates' state GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald, and Republican National Committee members Steve Duprey and Phyllis Wood, who would not be included as delegates if the sanction is enforced at the convention.

The Romney delegates, in addition to Collins, are former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, former Gov. John H. Sununu, state Sens. David Boutin and Chuck Morse, attorney Tom Rath former House speakers Douglas Scamman, Jr., and Donna Sytek, Beverly Bruce, former state GOP Chairman Gerald Carmen, Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, Romney campaign adviser Jim Merrill and Executive Councilor Dan St. Hilaire.

Paul's delegates are state Sens. Jim Forsythe and Andy Sanborn, state Rep. Paul Mirski, Ron Noyes and Donna Mauro.

For the full list, CLICK HERE.

Former state Democratic Chair Kathy Sullivan noted that only two of Romney's now 13 delegates and one of his 12 alternates are women, for a total of 3 of three of Romney's 25 delegates and alternates are women.

'Just another example of how clueless the Romney campaign can be,' Sullivan emailed us. 'It isn't as if Republican attitudes toward women haven't been an issue lately!'

State Democrats are in the process of electing their 35 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Party spokesman Sean Doyle said that the 18 who have been elected so far will elect the final 10 at-large delegates on April 28.

The party also will send seven automatic delegates, or'super-delegates' to Charlotte: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Gov. John Lynch, NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley, Vice Chair Martha Fuller Clark, and Democratic National Committee members Sullivan, Peter Burling and Joanne Dowdell.

Doyle noted that the delegates who are elected are equally divided between men and women. That's in accordance with a DNC rule.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, MARCH 23, UPDATE: HASSAN'S ROCKINGHAM ORGANIZATION. Democratic candidate for Gov. Maggie Hassan today announced her new steering committee in Rockingham County has more than 90 members.

Hassan's campaign said the group will be chaired by long-time Democratic activists state Rep. Robin Read of Portsmouth, former Rep. Kim Casey of East Kingston, and the Democratic chairs of Londonderry, Tammy Siekmann; of Derry, Betsy Burtis; and of Kingston Carol Croteau, as well as former Hampstead Democratic Chair Andrew Weir.

Hassan's supporters labeled her 'dynamic and thoughtful,' a 'common sense leader,' and 'earnest and dedicated.' Hassan, a former state senator from Exeter, said she was honored by the 'outpouring of support' in her home county.

Among those on the steering committee are former state Democratic Party Chairman Joe Keefe of New Castle, Bob Shaines of Rye, former state Senate President and former Executive Councilor Beverly Hollingworth and long-time party activist and donor Fred Seigel of North Hampton.

To view the full steering committee list, visit Hassan's campaign Web site:">.

(Earlier updates and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 22, UPDATE: JACK RETURNS TO PATRIOTS PAC. Former state Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball is returning to the top spot at one of the state's most important conservative organizations.

Jerry DeLemus of Rochester has informed members of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC that he is resigning as chairman of the group to focus his attention on the Rochester 912 Project, which he founded and continues to be deeply involved in.

Kimball, a Dover businessman, told the Granite Status that he has agreed to resume his duties as head of GSPLPAC, the Tea Party-oriented group he founded in 2009.

Kimball, after losing the September 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to John Stephen, resigned as the chairman of the PAC to run for state GOP chairman. He said he would not have run for party chairman had it not been for DeLemus 'stepping up' to take the reins of the PAC.

Running with Tea Party, liberty movement and even establishment GOP support on the Republican State Committee, he won the party chairmanship in January 2011 over former Cheshire County GOP Chair Juliana Bergeron, but then resigned the post under fire from the established state GOP hierarchy in September 2011.

Kimball later signed on as Seacoast coordinator for the Herman Cain presidential campaign. After Cain dropped out of the race, Kimball backed Newt Gingrich for President but held no official title with that campaign.

He said he expects to re-energize the PAC to become very active during the current election year.

Kimball said he is organizing what he hopes is a major event kicking off election year activities for members of the GSPLPAC and other liberty groups under its 'umbrella' for April 21.

'Jack's Back: Save Our Republic' is the title of the free event slated for Guppey Park in Dover, Kimball said.

Kimball said, " We will be looking to fund our PAC by finding 1,000 or more members who would be willing to make a monthly contribution of $10."

In a statement issued to the Granite Status, DeLemus said:

"As Chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC it has been my pleasure to keep up the defense of our Republic in our State as well as at the national level. I haven't led this defense alone but have had the help of the GSPL PAC leadership team as well as the support of leaders of liberty groups in New Hampshire and Maine.

"The PAC has expanded its footprint and achieved much over the last few years.

"I have also remained the Organizer of the Rochester 912 Project and I have decided to resign my Chairmanship of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC so as to rededicate myself to the mission of the 912 Project. I have been fortunate to have the PAC's former Chairman Jack Kimball agree to take the helm of the GSPL PAC. I know how much the PAC means to Jack and I give him my full support with his new endeavor."

'You can only do so many things well,' said DeLemus. 'I did do quite a bit to get the PAC known throughout the state and nationally, and I'll still be out there and quite active.'

Kimball said he intends to help bring the PAC and the overall Tea Party-liberty movement in New Hampshire 'to a whole new level.'

'There's power in numbers and we want to bring all of the various groups under our umbrella,' Kimball said. He said he intends to hire staff for the PAC and 'really focus 24/7 on getting rid of Obama this coming election.'

Kimball, said he has personally endorsed Ovide Lamontagne for governor, but said the PAC will not make an endorsement.

'I won't back off on that,' he said. 'I'll be up front on that with the organization.'

But he said the PAC will not endorse in the primary because, as in the recent presidential primary, 'there are too many diverse opinions.'

Kimball said DeLemus' move 'makes sense.

'It's hard for a guy working hard in a recessionary economy to try to run two major organizations,' Kimball said.

The PAC's Web site will also be upgraded, Kimball said.

'We're going to be very visible and very active,' Kimball said. 'We're not going to let 'Occupy Wall Street' define what's happening, at least not in New Hampshire.'

(An earlier update and the full March 22 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 22 UPDATE: JKL FOR COUNTY TREASURER. Manchester Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levassuer told the Granite Status today that he is running for the Hillsborough County Treasurer's post being vacated by Robert 'Bob' Burns.

Burns announced on Wednesday he will not seek reelection to the county seat and will instead run for the District 4 Executive Council seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Ray Wieczorek (see item below).

Levasseur said he intends to continue serving as an alderman if he is elected county treasurer.

He said the two positions are 'totally different.' He said wants to learn how the 'county government system works, and I think I can bring some valuable experience to the position, being a businessman and being an alderman in the City of Manchester.'

He also said that he wants to be sure Republicans compete for all offices in November because the Democrats, he said, 'will be running a full slate of candidates.'

(The full March 22 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 22: DEMS EYEING EXECUTIVE COUNCIL. If proof is needed that some of the moves over the past 15 months by the all-Republican Executive Council have riled up Democrats, consider this:

Here it is the third week of March and already the party has candidates either announced, ready to announce or seriously considering running in four of the five districts - and party activists believe that's a first.

The only district without a Democrat already campaigning or gearing up to campaign is District 1, where Ray Burton has his usual strong bipartisan base of support.

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SUCCEEDING THE 'WIZ.' Much attention in the Manchester area will be focused on District 4, where Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek will retire and there will be a wide open race to succeed him.

Yesterday, the two lifelong Granite Staters who ran for Hillsborough County Treasurer in 2010, Republican Bob Burns of Bedford and Democrat Chris Pappas of Manchester, said they will be candidates for the council seat. Burns won that treasurer's race by nearly 20,000 votes.

Pappas, who owns the Puritan Back Room restaurant, said, 'It's important to get Concord back into balance. We've heard a lot of extreme noise coming out of the Legislature and the Executive Council hasn't been immune to it, either.

'We need pragmatic people to make sure the people's interests are being represented, and that's my motivating factor in deciding to start a campaign.'

When Wieczorek announced in January he wouldn't run again, Pappas was among the first to say he was interested in running for the seat.

He told us this week the encouragement he received was 'humbling.'

Pappas said the all-Republican Executive Council has taken 'some very political votes' during the past 15 months.

He cited the council's rejection of the Planned Parenthood contract, firing of the state consumer advocate and rejection of federal funds to study the viability of passenger rail in southern New Hampshire.

He said he has 230 employees and deals with hundreds of customers and a variety of vendors.

'I understand the pressures of the business community and the stresses working families face daily,' Pappas said.

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BURNS MOVES IN. No sooner did our report on the Pappas candidacy hit than Burns emailed a press release announcing that he won't run for reelection as county treasurer and will also seek the council seat.

Burns said, 'It is imperative that we have strong fiscal conservatives on the Executive Council,' and said he brings 'many different types of business experience to the table, having spent over 10 years in the manufacturing industry.'

'I look forward to running against Chris Pappas again this November,' Burns said.

Burns also announced that state Rep. Shaun Doherty, R-Pelham, has signed on to be his campaign manager and treasurer.

Also eyeing the seat for the past two months has been Republican state Sen. Tom DeBlois of Mancheter.

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KIMBALL OR HOLLINGWORTH. In the other Executive Council districts, Colin Van Ostern has been mounting a strong campaign for the District 2 seat since last fall.

It's unclear if the incumbent, Republican Dan St. Hilaire, will run again given that the Republican Legislature established District 2 as a heavily Democratic, 'dragon-shaped' monstrosity that stretches from Keene to Concord to Portsmouth

And in District 5, former councilor Deb Pignatelli announced this week she will seek a rematch with Republican David Wheeler in an attempt to regain the seat she held until he ousted her two years ago.

In District 3, the Granite Status has learned that former councilor (and former state Senate President) Bev Hollingworth is strongly considering a rematch against Chris Sununu, who defeated her easily in 2010.

Also looking at running is Democratic businessman Duane Kimball of Barrington, who tells us he hasn't decided whether he would run in a primary against Hollingworth if she decides to run, or whether he'd instead step aside to give her an unimpeded run at Sununu.

The 62-year-old Kimball is also a lifelong Granite Stater but has never run for office. He said he has not been a party activist, but has been 'watching from afar.'

He founded, owned and then sold a company called RewardsNOW, Inc., in Dover, which developed rewards programs for credit card companies and became an 'Inc. 5000' company for about five consecutive years.

'I've been watching with an increasing concern the direction the state is headed in,' he said. 'It doesn't seem to be the New Hampshire I grew up in.'

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HORN BACKS SMITH. Conservative leader Jennifer Horn of Nashua endorsed Kevin Smith for governor yesterday, calling him 'a new voice' that will bring 'new energy' to the Republican Party and the state.

Horn, the GOP's 2008 nominee for the 2nd District U.S. House seat and the founder of the nonprofit issues group 'We the People,' told us, 'It's time for new leadership, not just for the Republican Party, but for the state, and Kevin has a strong record of accomplishment' on a variety of issues, most importantly, she said, economic and fiscal.

'There is no question that Kevin is the underdog' in his race for the GOP nomination against Ovide Lamontagne, Horn said.

'Ovide has been in politics for decades,' Horn said. 'I think the voters are looking for new energy and new ideas.'

She cited Smith's economic plan, released on Tuesday, to lower business taxes and improve government efficiency, as 'a detailed plan, which is something we don't always get from candidates.'

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CONSERVATIVES FOR OVIDE, TOO. Lamontagne has picked up key conservative endorsements as well.

We've learned that the latest is Jim Adams, chairman of the Granite State Taxpayers, who said Lamontagne 'is the right person at the right time' to deal with the state's financial issues and can make the state 'business-friendly.'

Today, Lamontagne will be in Orford for a house party at Mt. Cube Farm, the home of new Lamontagne supporter Tom Thomson, the long-time conservative firebrand and son of former Gov. Meldrim Thomson, Jr.

They will then tour and meet with employees at the King Forest Industries sawmill in Wentworth. Lamontagne also has stops in Henniker, Hampton and Greenland planned.

A coalition of high-powered businessmen and businesswomen joined a group of political leaders to host a major fund-raiser for Lamontagne April 18 at the Manchester Country Club.

The committee includes Doug Dean, CEO of Elliot Hospital; Jeff Eisenberg, president of the Eisenberg, Vital and Ryze public relations firm and past president of the Manchester Monarchs; Ben Gamache of Gamache Enterprises; David Larrivee, owner of Workplace Benefit Solutions; Dan McKenney, owner of the Merrimack Mortgage Co.; Ted Purington, principal at Manchester Sand and Gravel; Dick Rawlings, former Managing Partner of Northwest Mutual and current chairman of Easter Seals New Hampshire Board of Directors; and Mike Reed, owner of Stebbins Commercial Properties.

Also on the committee are Beth Roberts, senior vice president at Harvard Pilgrim; Dave Roedel, principal of Roedel Development; Cathy Schmidt, past president of Citizens Bank; Arthur Sullivan of Brady Sullivan; Jim Tenn, past president of the New Hampshire Bar Association; Patrick Tufts, president and CEO of the Granite United Way; Nick Vailas, president of the Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center; Jeremy Veilleux, principal at the Baker Newman Noyes accounting firm; and Steve Webb, president of TD Banknorth New Hampshire.

All are backing Lamontagne personally and not on behalf of their businesses or groups.

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KRAUS JOINS OVIDE'S STAFF. We've also learned that young activist Luke Kraus has been named the field director of Lamontagne's campaign.

Kraus worked on former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty's political action committee and New Hampshire presidential campaign and, after Pawlenty dropped out, worked on the Rick Perry presidential campaign.

He has recently been helping Cliff Hurst with his campaign for vice chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

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NEW BASS CAMPAIGN ADVISER. U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass' re-election campaign has hired the campaign manager of Bass' former primary foe to advise his bid for an eighth term.

The campaign said David Chesley will be a senior adviser 'focusing on coalitions, voter outreach, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV).'

Chesley worked on the 2006 Bass re-election as a grass-roots adviser before joining Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in New Hampshire in 2007 as state field director.

In 2008, Chesley managed Horn's congressional campaign, helping her win a four-way primary to become the Republican nominee. He also managed Horn's 2010 congressional campaign, and when she lost to Bass in the party primary, he joined the Bass campaign as an adviser during the general election.

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THUNE TO HONOR AYOTTE. Republican South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune will be announced today as the first out-of-state elected official to commit to attend the Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire event honoring New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte as 'Conservative of the Year.'

U.S. Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have been invited.

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REDISTRICTING MOVES ON. The full House yesterday passed to the Senate its U.S. House redistricting bill that keep the two districts essentially as they are, moving only Waterville Valley and Sargent's Purchase from the 2nd District to the 1st District.

At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said the Senate Internal Affairs Committee sent its own bill to the Senate floor that would make no change to either district.

Bradley said that because the U.S. Constitution requires the two congressional districts to be equal in population (currently, 2nd District has 502 more people than the 1st District), 'we know there is still work to be done on this legislation.'

Bradley urged Bass and U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta to finally end their long-running feud and reach agreement on redistricting.

'We have said all along that Congressman Guinta and Congressman Bass should work together to agree on the changes that must be made to meet the 'one person-one vote' requirement,' Bradley said. 'To date, our representatives have failed to reach that agreement.'

Bradley explained that Senate rules required committee action on this bill (Wednesday) and require full Senate action next week.

'This provides our federal Representatives with ample time and a clear deadline by which to reach consensus. If they cannot do so, the state Senate and House of Representatives will be forced to make these decisions for them,' Bradley said.

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

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