NASHUA — The state’s top Republican in elective office joined the two most recent New Hampshire GOP governors on Tuesday to endorse Scott Brown in the September primary to determine who will run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November.
A “Who’s Who” of New Hampshire Republicans turned out at a downtown diner on Tuesday to support the former Massachusetts senator as he was endorsed by Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former governors Steve Merrill and Craig Benson.
The endorsements, which had been announced on Monday, drew a standing room only crowd to Norton’s Classic Café in the shadow of Nashua’s City Hall.
Also on hand for the event were former Manchester Mayor and Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek, who introduced the two former governors, along with former Nashua Mayor and Executive Councilor Bernie Streeter.
State GOP Party Chair Jennifer Horn was also there, but said her presence did not constitute an endorsement, given the four-way race in the Republican primary.
Merrill took advantage of the opportunity to remind the crowd of Brown’s five votes against Obamacare while in office, and to applaud his military service. Brown recently retired after a 35-year career in the National Guard.
Benson alluded to Brown’s commitment to cutting taxes, reducing regulation and opposing the appointment of activist judges.
“Scott stands for the Constitution,” Merrill said. “He’s not going to allow judges who want to interpret the Constitution in evolving ways. He won’t allow judges to become revisionists. He believes the Constitution says what it says, and that’s it.”
Ayotte called Brown “a patriot who cares deeply about this country,” and urged the crowd to support him as her partner in efforts to “get the federal government out of the way of our businesses, and let our businesses create jobs.”
Brown said he was anxious to return to Washington and work with Ayotte as “her wingman, to be her battle buddy. Not only for our state, but for the country.”
Former Sen. Bob Smith, Brown’s leading primary challenger according to recent polls, said he took the endorsements as a sign of concern over his candidacy.
“I take the endorsements of Ayotte, Benson and Merrill as a compliment,” he said. “They are clearly worried and well they should be. My message to Scott Brown is to stop hiding behind endorsements and accept my challenge to debate the issues in 10 counties in front of the true endorsers — the voters.”
Former State Sen. Jim Rubens declined to comment, but issued the following statement through his spokesman, James Basbas: “In order to defeat Shaheen in November, we need to nominate a candidate who can contrast Senator Shaheen on key issues such as Dodd-Frank, healthcare and the Second Amendment. Jim Rubens is the candidate in this race who contrasts Senator Shaheen most effectively and has a track record of accomplishment.”
Ayotte was asked about differences between her and Brown on Second Amendment issues as she left the event, but she did not answer.
The third candidate in the primary, political activist Karen Testerman, did not respond to a request for comment.