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July 21. 2012 10:30PM

Report says Ayotte among 'serious contenders' for Romney's running mate


Mitt Romney speaks at an event at Coastal Forest Products in Bow on Friday. Seated at right is Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who also spoke at the event. (DAVID LANE/Union Leader)

U.S. Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte is among the “serious contenders” to be Gov. Mitt Romney's running mate, according to the Boston Globe.

Ryan Williams, a national spokesman for Romney's campaign, however, declined to comment, saying the campaign does not make statements about the vice presidential selection process.

“We don't comment on who we are looking at or not looking at,” he said. However, he described Ayotte as a “rising star in the Republican Party and an outstanding representative in Washington for the people of New Hampshire. Gov. Romney is proud to have her support and looks forward to campaigning with her in New Hampshire over the course of this campaign.”

Ayotte, 44, of Nashua, former New Hampshire attorney general for five years, has been a U.S. senator since Jan. 5, 2011, a little more than 18 months.

She has conservative credentials, is the mother of two and wife of an Iraq War combat pilot and, some say, appeals to the independent voter and women.

Jeffrey Y. Grappone, director of communications for Ayotte, declined comment as well, referring a reporter back to the Romney campaign.

“Senator Ayotte is focused on her job representing New Hampshire in the Senate,” he said. “The Romney campaign is in charge of that process and they are the ones in the best position to talk about it.”

Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the state Republican Party, said while he has no “inside track,” the political rumor is Ayotte is on Romney's very short list of potential vice presidential candidates.

“I think she would be an excellent choice,” he said. “In the time she's been in the U.S. Senate she's done an outstanding job for New Hampshire.”

There are those in the Republican Party, however, who remember what happened when a little-known governor from Alaska became Sen. John McCain's running mate during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Fergus Cullen, who was chairman of the state Republican Party in 2008, when Sarah Palin teamed up with McCain, said he is a fan of Ayotte's but he considers her experience to be limited.

“I think she's off to a great start in the U.S. Senate, but the fact is she's only been in public life in a political capacity for three years when she left the Attorney General's Office and became a candidate,” he said.

He contends “the GOP simply is not going to repeat the error of 2008, which is nominating somebody with such limited experience for vice president, and I say that as a fan of Kelly Ayotte.”

Cullen said the vice president has to be “ready to assume the presidency on Day 2, and Sarah Palin failed that test. So, unfortunately, Kelly Ayotte labors under the shadow of Sara Palin's nomination four years ago.”

MacDonald, however, disagrees, pointing out Ayotte was serving her third term as attorney general when she decided to run for the Senate.

“She has really hit the ground running in Washington,” he said. “It's the total of her experience and the fact she's a quick learner. She would serve the country very well if she should be on the ticket.”

Ayotte is a New Hampshire native who has served in the public sector most of her career. She became the state's first and only woman attorney general when Gov. Craig Benson appointed her in 2004. Democratic Gov. John Lynch reappointed her two more times.

She was elected to U.S. Senate in 2010 with 60 percent of the vote over then-Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes.

Ayotte successfully prosecuted Michael Addison on a capital murder charge in the shooting death of Manchester police Officer Michael L. Briggs in October 2006. Addison is appealing the conviction.

She was born in Nashua and earned a bachelor's degree in 1990 from Penn State and a Juris Doctor degree three years later from the Villanova.

After law school, she clerked for a year for state Supreme Court Justice Sherman D. Horton. In 1994, she joined the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson and Middleton. Four years later, she became a prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office.

In 2003, she became legal counsel to Benson and went on to become deputy attorney general.

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Pat Grossmith may be reached at pgrossmith@unionleader.com.


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