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Granite Status: GOP self-funded candidate looks ready to enter primary

By Kevin Landrigan
March 07. 2018 8:12PM




At last, national Republican leaders may have a self-financed candidate willing to run in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

He’s Bruce Crochetiere of Hampton Falls, the founder and chairman of Focus Technology Solutions Inc., a highly successful, IT company based in Seabrook that among other things builds solutions for business clients across many platforms.

“I am very, very close to making this a go and if I do, I’m all in,” he said.

Crochetiere, 54, has been active in local sports programs with his two children but not in politics; this would be his first campaign for any elective office.

“This is something I believe I have to get into in terms of the leadership that’s called for in this country,” Crochetiere said during a telephone interview Wednesday.

He’s already met with officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee and is heading down to Washington, D.C. again later this week.

He has GOP activists that if he gets in, he’s willing to “invest” what it would take to replace retiring Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

Crochetiere declined comment when asked his views on social and fiscal issues.

“I’d like to hold off on all of that until there’s an announcement,” he said.

He holds degrees from Southern New Hampshire University (MBA) and the University of Lowell (BSBA).

He’d join the primary alongside state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford and former liquor law enforcement chief Eddie Edwards of Dover.

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On Monday, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has a big extravaganza planned (as only he can pull off) to mark the 50th anniversary of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary of 1968.

Former Republican state Rep. Dean Dexter and others helped put the program together to unite many who were involved in making this slice of history.

We’ve had many memorable elections, but 1968 surely goes down as among the most unpredictable. Topping it was Sen. Gene McCarthy’s stunning showing in the Democratic primary that led to President Lyndon Johnson declaring that he would not run for re-election.

Johnson won here with 49 percent but McCarthy’s 40 percent showing was so devastating it forced the incumbent out, leading to Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey becoming the nominee following the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

On the Republican side there was a similar meltdown as Richard Nixon vanquished all foes — including George Romney, who actually withdrew from the race before New Hampshire in what observers called the first “technical knock out” in modern history.

A write-in campaign for Nelson Rockefeller got very little traction here.

Former House Speaker and lobbyist George Roberts will join Gardner as a former Nixon delegate along with the venerable, former Executive Councilor Ruth Griffin.

Rep. Chuck Grassie of Rochester and Sandra Hoe will return as McCarthy delegates while former Democratic nominee for governor Paul McEachern will represent the Johnson delegates. Mark Stevens will be there as a former student activist for the McCarthy campaign.

Union Leader Publisher Joseph W. McQuaid will provide the newspaper’s perspective of that campaign while pointing out he was a college student at the time.

The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. in Room 100 at the State House.

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On Tuesday, Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., called for the resignation of longtime New England VA Network Director Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, something the Manchester whistleblowers had been demanding for more than a year.

On Wednesday, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced Mayo-Smith would be retiring (Story, Page A1).

Is that coincidental timing?

Not exactly.

On Tuesday, Kuster chose to reveal that back on Feb. 1 she had written a letter to Shulkin saying Mayo-Smith had to go. She also released statements from state leadership of the American Legion and VFW supporting that move.

Kuster Communications Director Nick Brown said they had learned on Tuesday that Shulkin was having a news conference the following day about “VISN leadership,” which refers to the regional network.

She wasn’t told that Shulkin would be announcing Mayo-Smith’s retirement, Brown said.

“We had assumed it would be about structural changes in the network but we wanted to make it clear that she had already informed the secretary that change needed to take place in the leadership,” Brown said.

Kuster’s Republican primary opponents, led by Manchester whistleblower Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton, have criticized Kuster for dragging her feet on demanding changes at the VA.

Last October, Kuster had asked Shulkin to remove Mayo-Smith from the VA New Hampshire VISION 2025 Task Force. In response to that call from the entire delegation, Shulkin replaced Mayo-Smith as co-chair of the task force.

GOP primary rivals Steve Negron of Nashua and Lynne Blackenbeker of Concord are both veterans with their own distinguished careers.

Whoever emerges in the September primary, count on this being one of the most contentious issues of the fall campaign.

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GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester has lined up headliners to assist with 2018 fundraising next month.

Former George W. Bush press secretary and ubiquitous talking head Ari Fleischer will be here April 12.

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Bob Paducheck comes up on April 24.

This couldn’t come at a better time, since New Hampshire Democrats as of the year end and heading into 2018 enjoyed a huge financial lead over the state GOP.

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Former Republican Vice Chairman Matt Mayberry of Dover took himself out of contention for the 1st Congressional District primary contest.

Mayberry said he had to make decisions regarding future business opportunities and concluded 2018 just wasn’t the right time to get into the fray.

“I looked at it very hard but at the end of the day, the time just wasn’t right for me,” Mayberry said.

A Mayberry candidacy would have tested the strength of the socially left-of-center wing of the party since he supports both abortion and gay rights.

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The Child and Family Services Sleep Out of 2018 already had political overtones.

That’s because Gov. Chris Sununu used his State of the State speech to announce he’d not only be spending the night at this annual event to benefit homeless youth, but he challenged the entire executive branch to join him.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig confirmed last week she and her entire staff would also be camping out for the March 23 event.

Now the campaign is on over who can raise the most money.

The governor had only collected $200 on his own but Team Sununu had more than $9,200 by Wednesday afternoon.

Sununu has Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis to thank since he’s brought in more than $6,100 of his team’s checks.

Copadis’ fund-raising prowess is legendary (see Glendi) and those who chipped in when Copadis called included former Sen. Judd and Kathy Gregg ($100), Auto Fair Group ($500), Quirk Auto Dealers ($200), Anagnost Companies ($200) and UNH financial executive Cathy Provencher ($100).

Meanwhile, Team Joyce Craig ($135) has gotten off to a slow start but she has plenty of local fans who will no doubt fatten those coffers.

All of them, however, bow down to Lou Kaucic, a board member with Child and Family Services.

Kaucic has already raised $37,526 for the event and former Mayor Ted Gatsas last year singled him out as the “rock star” when it comes to fundraising.

The second-ranked group is Team ProCon, a construction firm, bringing in $24,895.

By the way, State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, claims some credit for putting the project on Sununu’s radar.

“I was involved in the Sleep Out last year and I told the governor it’s really a great event he should get involved in,” Feltes said.

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Seacoast Democrats were celebrating the unanimous vote of the Executive Council Wednesday to approve hanging in the State House the portrait of former Councilor Dudley Dudley, the first female elected to the body in state history.

The portrait was unveiled in December 2016 but the approval process dragged on until Councilor Andru Volinsky started asking questions.

Democratic partisans insist Sununu dragged his feet given Dudley’s liberal roots.

Sununu said there was a process that had to be followed.

For her part, Dudley recently said she didn’t think the whole controversy was political.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t see that this is such a big deal that it would be political. It’s putting a painting on the wall,” Dudley said.

Now that the council has approved accepting the portrait, the Division of Cultural Affairs must decide where it will hang in the State House.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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