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Lamontagne Launches Bid for N.H. Governor

Lamontagne Launches Bid for N.H. Governor

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 19, 2011


Prominent conservative and Manchester attorney Ovide Lamontagne announced his candidacy for governor of New Hampshire on Monday, becoming the first Republican to officially enter the race to succeed retiring four-term Democratic Gov. John Lynch.

Lamontagne's campaign will be one to watch not only because Lynch's departure opens a door for Republicans to take the governor's mansion (Lynch first won the seat by defeating Republican incumbent Gov. Craig Benson in 2004) but also because the gubernatorial candidate has been positioning himself as a potential kingmaker in the first-in-the-nation GOP primary, throwing parties at his Manchester home for several Republican presidential contenders.

Just four days after Lynch officially declined to seek another two-year term, Lamontagne declared his bid at the annual Bedford Republican Committee breakfast at the Manchester Country Club, pledging to lessen the role of the federal government at the state level and to jump-start the economy. He also promised to veto any state income tax or sales tax measure that lands on his desk should he be elected governor.

This will be Lamontagne’s second try for the Granite State's top job. He scored the Republican nomination in 1996, defeating then-U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff. But Lamontagne went on to lose to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who served three terms as governor before being elected to her current post as U.S. senator. In last year’s midterms, Lamontagne challenged the well-funded and establishment-backed Attorney General Kelly Ayotte for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat. He secured the coveted endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader and proved to be a competitive Tea Party-backed insurgent candidate, but lost by less than 2,000 votes. Ayotte later trumped Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes to win the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Judd Gregg.

Since then, Lamontagne has formed a political action committee and has drawn small groups to his home to meet and mingle with White House candidates hoping to gain traction in New Hampshire. Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, whom he endorsed in 2008, have stopped by. In hosting these small but influential gatherings, Lamontagne has been fashioning himself as a key endorsement in the 2012 presidential race.

While Lamontagne is the first Republican to enter the race, the GOP primary is likely to become a crowded one. Other Republicans expected to join the fray include Kevin Smith, executive director of the conservative thing tank Cornerstone Action; Ted Gatsas, the mayor of Manchester; and John Stephen, the state’s heath and human services commissioner and the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2010.

Democrats were quick to respond to Lamontagne’s announcement.

"Whether it's calling schools 'glorified social service agencies,' not supporting a woman's right to choose in any circumstance, or supporting the job and wage killing right to work for less legislation, Lamontagne is in lock step with Republican Tea Party legislature," said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in a statement Monday. "Lamontagne's reckless ideology has already been rejected by New Hampshire three times over a span of nearly two decades, and he is rapidly becoming the Don Quixote of New Hampshire Republicans." 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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