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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: From TV to Dartmouth- Hitchcock to Congress?

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 23. 2017 1:59AM
Josh McElveen is seen during an interview at the Union Leader in April after leaving WMUR to become vice president for communications at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

An intriguing new Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District seat could be emerging soon and it would surely shake up what is already a competitive primary.

Sources confirm to Granite Status that former Dartmouth-Hitchcock vice president for communications and WMUR political director Josh McElveen has been making calls to gauge whether there would be support for him to run in 2018.

Nashua businessman Steve Negron and VA whistleblower Dr. Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton are already in the hunt, but national GOP leaders have been wondering if others would get into this race, given how hard it typically is for a Republican to win.

It’s a pretty fresh topic for McElveen, who only two weeks ago abruptly stepped down from his Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center post due to “philosophical differences” with other administrators at the state’s largest hospital.

In that statement acknowledging his departure — first reported in the New Hampshire Union Leader — McElveen said: “Although I had always intended that my tenure would be short, I’m grateful to have been a part of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock team.”

He spent fewer than eight months there.

There’s no arguing that McElveen has skills that any political candidate would love to have.

He’s telegenic, still young enough, recently married, a Marine veteran and verbally quick on his feet.

The history of candidates from the broadcast industry in politics is like most fields — a mixed bag.

In 1996, former WMUR news director Jack Heath tried to make the leap, running in the First Congressional District after it opened up because incumbent Republican Bob Smith was going after a vacant Senate seat.

In a crowded field, Heath finished a disappointing third behind winner John E. Sununu and Manchester Mayor Raymond Wieczorek.

Fortunately for McElveen, this 2018 field — at least right now — has less political firepower.

So far, GOP allies, including some in the upper reaches of the party hierarchy, were welcoming McElveen to jump in.

“I am aware that Josh is looking at it. Everyone who talks to me about this, I don’t discourage them to run but talk to them about what some of the challenges would be,” said Jeanie Forrester, a former state senator and 2016 candidate for governor.

“Josh would be a fresh face, he’s a veteran, he’s clearly got something to offer but to be clear, I’m staying neutral.”

Don’t forget along with Negron and Levenson, there’s former state representative Lynne Blackenbeker of Concord, who hasn’t ruled out her own run once she completes her service as a naval officer next year.

“This is what I feel particularly good about. Josh and all three others looking at this either are veterans or in Stewart Levenson’s case, he has strong ties to that community, I think this would be critical if we’re going to unseat Congresswoman (Ann) Kuster,” Forrester added.

McElveen did not return a call seeking comment.

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Amherst businessman David McConville became the first recently to confirm the real fear some Republicans have about the Second Congressional District seat in 2018.

McConville, 71, bailed out of running two weeks ago because he does not believe the national party will be as committed to going after this race next year as they would have if incumbent Carol Shea-Porter were seeking reelection.

“To me, the day Carol Shea-Porter said she’s going to quit is the day money dried up completely from the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee,” said McConville. “There’s no doubt in my mind now that Washington is going to be fixated on the First Congressional District.”

It’s true that Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kuster is a prolific fundraiser. She’s well on her way to raising more than $4 million in an effort to win a fourth term.

The Second District has been a much tougher environment for the Grand Old Party. It hasn’t voted for a Republican nominee for President since picking George W. Bush over then-Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988.

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Last week, eight-term State Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, and his wife, Lisa, lost their son, Jarrod, who died after struggling much of his life with developmental delays.

A firebrand conservative, Itse spoke passionately before the full House about how caring for Jarrod had taught him about the struggles that all families face with children with serious health complications.

Friends of the family created a GoFundMe page to help the Itse family deal with funeral expenses.

“The $10,000 goal is based on an estimate of funeral costs,” the GoFundMe page states.

Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, took to Facebook and made an emotional appeal on behalf of his former colleague. And did they respond.

In four days the goal was more than met, $11,855 coming in from 128 different donations.

What was most gratifying was the cash came rushing in from across the political spectrum.

Sure, there was O’Brien ($250) and Trump campaign co-chairman/ex-Rep. Steve Stepanek ($250) along with Windham GOP Rep. David Bates ($100), but many Democratic lawmakers and sources chipped in — from the likes of House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff of Concord and Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua.

John Stephen of Manchester said the child touched his heart when he ran the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Jarrod was so special and lifted so many spirits and I will always cherish the short time I spent with him as commissioner,” Stephen posted on the GoFundMe page. “May his memory be eternal.”

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House and Senate conservative Republicans have put forward a concurrent resolution for the 2018 session calling upon President Donald Trump to grant a “full and complete pardon” of Jerry DeLemus, who was convicted on conspiracy charges in connection to a 2014 standoff with federal agents in Nevada. The petition argues it’s unfair to have DeLemus remain in federal prison while others charged with involvement in the conspiracy have not been convicted. DeLemus’ wife, Susan, a former House member, remains very popular among the GOP rank-and-file in the Legislature.

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Congratulations to Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn who is no longer a free agent, romantically that is. Woodburn chose to pop the question and get engaged to girlfriend Emily Stone Jacobs while the two of them were attending the annual conference of the State Legislative Affairs Council in Naples, Fla., earlier this week. Like Woodburn, Jacobs is a Whitefield native who most recently worked organizing Coos County for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Woodburn recalled how at a young age he came to meet his bride-to-be.

“When I was 9 years old, I played ‘Treasure Island’ in the lower barn of a friend’s house,” Woodburn posted on Facebook.

“Years later my friend’s family moved away and sold to a new family with a young daughter. Who would imagine that tonight 42 years later I would return to that spot to ask the beautiful, amazing girl who grew up there to be my wife (and she said yes!). Emily Stone Jacobs is my treasure!”

A father of five, this will be Woodburn’s second marriage.

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The Trump administration wants to hear from New Hampshire small business owners about what federal barriers exist to firms growing their customer base. The Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy is hosting a regulatory roundtable discussion Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Manchester Library Auditorium.

Email news and tips to granitestatus@unionleader.

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