In race for NH governor, time remains to enter
BEDFORD - While some New Hampshire political journalists see Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne as the one to beat this fall, two of their colleagues are not convinced and predict there is time for another candidate to join the race with just two months left to file.
'There is still time. They (potential candidates) ought to be thinking about it and putting things together. But, in New Hampshire, there is still time,' long-time New Hampshire Union Leader State House and political reporter Garry Rayno told a group of lawmakers and business people Monday night.
'It cries out for a moderate someplace,' he added.
To date, Republicans Lamontagne and Kevin Smith, and Democrats Jackie Cilley of Barrington and Maggie Hassan of Exeter - both former state senators - are the only candidates to announce they are running to succeed Gov. John Lynch this fall. Lynch announced he is not seeking reelection after serving four, two-year terms.
Veteran Nashua Telegraph State House reporter Kevin Landrigan also challenged prevailing thinking that Lamontagne has the gubernatorial election locked up.
'I'm not convinced,' Landrigan told more than 100 people at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative dinner held at the Manchester Country Club.
Lamontagne surged against challenger Kelly Ayotte during the final days of the 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate and 'came within a point and a half of stealing that primary,' Landrigan said.
'Now he finds himself as the hunted rather than the hunter. We will see how he holds up,' Landrigan continued.
Lamontagne is 'very likeable' and 'committed' and 'very compassionate,' Landrigan said.
'But he has never won an election,' Landrigan said of the Manchester attorney making his second bid for governor.
The comments came in response to state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, asking the panel of journalists if the election would be limited to the four announced candidates 'or are we going to get somebody else here?'
Veteran Concord Monitor reporter Annmarie Timmins, who began covering the State House in January, and WMUR-TV Ch. 9 political director James Pindell said they hear people predicting a Lamontagne victory.
'I hear the same thing - Governor Lamontagne with a sort of Romney buyer's lack of excitement,' Timmins said, referring to Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
'I'm with the Monitor. So they (Republican hopefuls) are probably not confiding in me,' Timmins added, referring to the newspaper's liberal-leaning reputation.
Pindell said 'the word off everyone's tongue is how to feel about Governor Ovide Lamontagne? It's almost total conventional wisdom that that's the way this is going to head,' Pindell said.
Later, he acknowledged the race is open.
'If you were every thinking of running for governor and screaming for a moderate, now is your moderate,' Pindell said. 'I am still shocked that Ted Gatsas is not running for governor,' he said of the Manchester mayor.