He's pro-life, pro-Trump, pro-immigration reform, anti-Obamacare and until nine months ago he was just another happy guy, living low-profile at a nice retirement home on Lake Wentworth in Wolfeboro, going out in his wooden boat with his dog and taking pictures of bald eagles and loons.
Then as he was winding down succession of a nationally successful corporate law firm, Bryant "Corky" Messner began to get the political bug.
And that journey took him to Wednesday morning when he made official his GOP run for the U.S. Senate.
"One more mission and this is it," said the former Army Ranger who during the Cold War helped guard the Berlin Wall.
During an interview, Messner, 62, said he believes his complete lack of experience in holding political office, unlike one of his primary opponents, will help him.
"I believe that we need senators who can bring real-life, commonsense experience to Washington, DC," Messner said.
"I think my lack of elective experience frankly is an asset."
Messner said he's been given plenty of encouragement to get into this race, even though it already includes a conservative icon -- ex-House Speaker Bill O'Brien; a war hero -- retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc; and likely also a Trump firebrand -- former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
"I have always been conservative. I think some views of mine have evolved over the years; that’s a normal human thing. I tend to be intellectually curious," Messner said.
Also as he grew his Denver-based law firm, Messner said anyone doing research will find over the years he's contributed to political figures in both major parties.
"As a businessperson, I was asked on many occasions to support people, asked by associates to support people of both parties and I have done that," Messner said.
"This should prove to you that I didn’t have eyes on a long-term political career."
Messner said he first came to New Hampshire as a young West Point cadet and vowed to come back.
"A good friend of mine asked me to come here and help him close down his aunt’s camp at the base of Mount Monadnock," Messner recalled.
"I fell in love with the state. I had big dreams and I thought I was going to come back to New Hampshire and live here some day."
So Messner bought that vacation home on Lake Wentworth 13 years ago. He moved to live in it full time a year-and-a-half ago when his youngest son, Thomas, went off to attend West Point.
Yes, Messner has personal wealth and won't be afraid to use it in this race.
“I have been and am committing some of my own resources to this race. I am also working hard at raising money. I am doing both,” Messner said.
On social issues, Messner said it's not enough to oppose abortion rights.
'I tend to have a Libertarian bent. I support the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. I am pro-life and I believe culturally we need to do a better job of supporting women who have babies from a difficult pregnancy," Messner said.
"I would propose we pass legislation to make it as easy for a single mom to get child support as it is for the IRS to get somebody’s money who owes on their taxes."
Messner has picked up Trump's attack on Democrats promoting socialism, but passed on whether that label applies to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.
"I think she’s a liberal career politician and I think her main focus is on political survival," Messner said. "To do that today she is following the lead to the left of the Democrats."
Feltes draws Sununu fire
The decision of Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, to announce for governor was probably driven in part by the timing of the legislative sessions Sept. 18-19 in which the Democratically-led Legislature will vote on more than 50 vetoes from Gov. Chris Sununu.
Feltes also had to hope as the first Democrat entering the race that he'd attract Sununu's attention and criticism.
Sununu was probably only too happy to oblige Wednesday with this partisan pearl from Jack Heath's radio talk show.
"Dan Feltes frankly is praying. He’s one of those guys praying for a recession so he can have something to talk about. It’s frankly disgusting behavior," Sununu said.
In turn, Feltes was pleased to fire right back, recalling his experiences during the last recession a decade ago.
“It’s shocking that Chris Sununu thinks that I, or anyone else who saw the damage the last recession caused, would 'pray for a recession.' As a legal aid attorney, during the last recession, I worked with hundreds of Granite Staters crushed by job loss and facing foreclosure," Feltes said.
"These were Granite Staters who were hit hardest by the recession, who in many cases lost their jobs and drained their family’s savings. I was part of the effort to fight back in court against big Wall Street banks who were foreclosing on our homeowners all across New Hampshire. I don’t know what Chris Sununu was doing during the last recession, but I pray that no one will ever have to face that pain or devastation again.”
With his roll-out, Feltes got some timely endorsements from fellow State Sen. David Watters of Dover, clean water leader and Executive Council candidate Mindi Messner of Rye and clean energy advocate Dan Weeks of Nashua.
“Dan is the most effective senator I’ve seen in my four terms in the State Senate. He tackles the toughest issues head-on, works hard, and gets results," Watters said.
"Dan stands in stark contrast to Chris Sununu by working for all Granite Staters. Dan’s led the charge on everything from expanding access to health care, to protecting people with pre-existing conditions and combating climate change.”
2020 Democratic primary over The Pledge
Feltes has in the past said he opposed an income and sales tax and in this campaign said if elected governor, he would veto one.
"Let me be clear I don’t support a broad-based sales or income tax and I would veto one if it reached my desk as governor,” Feltes said.
He vowed to continue working to reduce the burden of property taxes on working families in the state.
This split surely will be a cornerstone of the Democratic primary, where the other sure-to-run candidate, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord, has refused to take the pledge.
Volinsky has been a past supporter of the financial campaign to get an income tax passed in New Hampshire.
These two backed one another in their first campaigns for office, but now refuse to yield, which will make this race very competitive.
Primary showdown with DNC
A Democratic National Committee meeting of its Rules and Bylaws Committee Friday could go a long way to igniting or extinguishing a looming threat to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status.
After 2016, the DNC instructed all states holding caucuses -- including Iowa, which is first on the calendar and Nevada, which is fourth -- to do more to empower people to take part, even if residents can't make it to an event.
Iowa's biggest turnout ever in 2008 was only 10 percent of its population.
This was Hillary Clinton's lament on that Iowa caucus night when Barack Obama defeated her.
Both states came up with plans for "virtual caucuses" that would allow for absentee voting running up to the event.
This could put at risk New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status and allow Nevada Democrats to be surveying its voters for a caucus vote ahead of our first primary.
The DNC's panel recently rejected the first proposals from these states for their "virtual" plans, in part because some panel members on New Hampshire's side raised these concerns.
Now there's talk the DNC may declare a truce and allow these states for 2020 to have a waiver from the virtual mandate; this may come up at Friday's meeting.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley doesn't sound worried.
"The DNC has made a commitment they will resolve this issue without impacting the calendar," Buckley told reporters Wednesday.
"I don't think there is any reason for the people of New Hampshire to be nervous in any way."
Buckley: Nobody is down and out in NH
Having been at this for a while, Buckley always is amused when political pundits declare prematurely the primary fight has been set and only a certain number of candidates can possibly win.
"We have all witnessed candidates who won the NH primary or Iowa caucus who were at 1 percent or less on Labor Day. I don’t think anything can be counted out yet," Buckley said as 19 candidates prepared to descend on the SNHU Arena for the Democratic State Convention Saturday.
"There is always a massive amount of movement between the first of the year and the presidential primary. It is far from over; I think there are a lot of candidates with a lot to say," Buckley added.
Swett laments gun violence fight goes on
Former U.S. Rep. Dick Swett knows too well the power of the national gun lobby. It cost him his seat in the U.S. House when he changed his view and voted for the 1994 crime bill that included a ban on certain semi-automatic firearms for civilian use.
"It was the right thing to do then and if I had it to do over again, I would do it again,'' the Bow Democrat Swett wrote in a commentary he penned after the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
"But the biggest problem I see coming from that vote is the fact that it revealed how our nation was fracturing along ideological lines and losing its ability to put things in perspective."
And Swett, a former ambassador to Denmark in the Clinton administration, said since that vote this country has become much more polarized.
"But over those 25 years I have come to believe that that vote is never going to cure the cancer that eats away at our society’s core. To cure that cancer, we are going to have to relearn how to respect one another," Swett said.
"Democrats are going to need to stop dividing our communities up with identity politics. It was this practice that enabled a populist like Trump to drive a wedge deeply between the elites and the common folk who felt left out, and win the White House."
Pete shows off endorsements, grass roots
All these Democratic candidates coming to New Hampshire are trying to figure out ways to make the biggest splash in this pond.
For South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg it was rolling out some endorsements and showing off his ground game.
On the heels of a house party in Cornish at the home of former state senator Peter Burling, Buttigieg copped the support of 12-term liberal leader and House Ways and Means Chairman Susan Almy, D-Lebanon.
"Pete can outshine a looming Donald Trump in the debates, and he can bring our country through to a sustainable future worthy of the United States of America," Almy said.
Rep. David Morrill, D-Keene, became the fourth state representative to back him.
Over the weekend, the Buttigieg campaign will open 12 new campaign offices this week and bring the count of total staff on the ground in New Hampshire to 56.
The candidate will personally attend the grand opening of four of those offices.
“Granite State voters want a President like Pete who has the courage to break with the past and address the urgent challenges facing this country — from the gun violence epidemic to the climate crisis,” said Communications Director Kevin Donohoe. “Over the spring and summer, we’ve been excited by the strong grassroots energy across New Hampshire for Pete and his vision for this country."
"By expanding our team and opening a dozen offices, we’ll be able to continue to grow our community of volunteers, expand our grassroots campaign, and win the first-in-the-nation primary.”
Delaney has his backers too
Former Congressman John Delaney still holds the lead by far for the most visits to New Hampshire, but is still waiting to see his stock rise here and nationally.
The Maryland Democrat had his own list of new backers this week, led by state Reps. Stephen Woodcock, D-Lincoln, and Jerry Stringham, D-Center Conway.
Nashua Selectman Teresa Moler, Portsmouth climate activist Wes Tator and Cheshire County business owner Sarah Weck also joined the Delaney team.
Jay Surdukowski steps out
Once Volinsky runs for governor, the most Democratic seat in the Executive Council (District 2) opens up and Concord lawyer Jay Surdukowski is making an early forceful move for it.
In an email to supporters, Surdukowski spoke about his four months exploring the run and working on an issues platform that he'll promote during this campaign. He's also attended several council meetings over that period.
"Having mostly grown up in Dover, Somersworth and Concord, much of the district is familiar ground, but I am getting out there every week from NH’s Seacoast to 'West Coast' to listen and learn," Surdukowski wrote.
"Since the district is massive, 49 cities and towns that stretch from the Vermont border all the way to the Maine border, I will not be able to do this alone."
Surdukowski displayed an impressive list of 260 who have said they'd support him if he ran, including former Congressman Carol Shea-Porter of Rochester, former first lady Susan Lynch of Hopkinton, House Finance Committee Chairman Mary Jane Wallner of Concord, philanthropist Lew Feldstein of Hancock, Durham trial lawyer Larry Vogelman, ex-Sen. Harold Janeway of Webster, former insurance executive John Swope of Concord, former Health and Human Services Commissioner Ned Helms of Concord.
More veto bait likely on the way
The clock is ticking down to lawmakers returning to take up the vetoes, but the pile may be getting bigger.
Sununu will soon decide on these three bills, all of which will have difficulty getting his signature.
• SB 99. Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, sponsor. This expands the definition of partial disability for the purposes of qualifying for workers compensation benefits.
• HB 611. Rep. Katherine Rogers, D-Concord, sponsor. This removes the limitations and allows anyone for any reason to ask for and receive an absentee ballot.
• HB 616. Rep. Dianne Schuett, D-Pembroke, sponsor. This grants a cost-of-living increase to all retirees who have been off the job for at least five years.
The handicappers now figure there are these three major prospects for supporters to defeat Sununu and override his vetoes when lawmakers come back.
• HB 369, Rep. Howard Moffett, D-Canterbury, sponsor. This increases the use of net metering by allowing larger generators to produce and use their own renewable power to cut their energy costs.
• HB 183, Rep. Peter Schmidt, D-Dover, sponsor. This measure provides subsidies worth as much as $20 million to six wood-fired plants.
• HB 706, Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, sponsor. This creates an independent redistricting commission that would craft redrawn lines for legislative, congressional and Executive Council districts to be voted on up or down by the Legislature.
Keep in mind this is no secret to Sununu and his team. That's why they are focused on finding GOP converts to change views and uphold these vetoes.
House Republican leaders have said to their colleagues that the House GOP team considers the redistricting commission a Democratic tactic and any of their lawmakers voting against Sununu could risk facing a 2020 primary over it.
Here are other 2020 stops to watch
Prior to the convention, here's how a few other candidates will be trying to make a big impression.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.: More than a dozen candidates have been here more than she has, so her town hall Friday afternoon at Mack's Apples in Londonderry and later that night to a Portsmouth Democratic annual dinner will be closely watched.
Amy O'Rourke, the wife, of former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, makes her first solo trip to New Hampshire on Thursday, one day before her husband arrives. She starts with a forum on gun violence at Gibson's Bookstore in Concord.
O'Rourke has done a total reboot of his campaign since the tragic shooting murders in his hometown of El Paso, Tex. and taken a more aggressive approach by going directly to meet with those he says are hurt by Trump policies.
While here, he'll be visiting with New Hampshire Muslims and also going aboard a boat to meet with New England fishermen about their struggles with trade tariffs.
The screamer is back
Former Democratic National Chairman and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will always be remembered as that guy who got a little overheated on stage when he won the Iowa caucus in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry buried him here and the rest was history.
Dean returns Tuesday morning for a New Hampshire Institute of Politics forum on the future of the Supreme Court
Joining Dean will be ex-Rep. Shea-Porter and UNH School of Law adjunct professor Maggie Goodlander.
Dean has been outspoken that the court's direction needs to figure more prominently in the 2020 presidential campaign.
GOP Senate fundraiser coming up
The New Hampshire Senate Republicans PAC takes fundraising on the road out of Concord next Tuesday with an event honoring state Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester at the Revolution Tap Room in his hometown.
Sponsorships of the event start at $250 and go as high as $2,500.