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Democrats: too strong for their own good?

16 Jul

BOW, NH — When Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, addressed voters Thursday night before the two Democratic candidates took the stage, he looked a bit like a concerned parent urging the kids not to get too rowdy.

“The problem is, we have a late primary,” he told voters. “And if we get too excited in our corners and we can’t get back together, there isn’t time, and Charlie will slip in. The day after the primary, in fact, the night of the primary, I would like for us to come together.”

And in Buckley’s stern remarks to enthusiastic Democrats, he laid out their essential problem — the candidates might be too strong for their party’s good.

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Democrats Ann McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett have bucked the national trend by raising more money than their three Republican counterparts combined, energizing voters across the state through house parties and grassroots activism.

Kuster has raised more money from New Hampshire donors than any other Congressional candidate in state history. And Swett is a well-known political name who has more than a million dollars on hand. The two have the power to wage a strong race against each other. Read about their fundraising here.

But for Democrats, the concern is that a bitter primary could waste time and energy — resources that could be better spent fighting the Republicans, as Buckley pointed out.

“This is going to be an exciting election,” he said. “And I think that either one of these women will be amazing members of Congress.”

The two were cordial and polite at Thursday’s forum, only explicitly diverging on a few issues such as the use of nuclear power.

Kuster emphasized her passion for women’s health issues and her work as an adoption attorney, and Swett talked about her experiences as the daughter of Holocaust survivors working for human rights. Both agreed that the economy is one of the most important issues facing Congress today.

The women were impressive and articulate, but in the end, it wasn’t Kuster or Swett who had the last word — it was the Democrat who turned to look into the camera of a Republican aide to say what many in the boisterous crowd were thinking:

“Get ready Bass, we’re coming for you!”

I live-Tweeted a good deal of Thursday’s forum at @primarywire. Follow me on Twitter, and check back on Friday for video footage of the forum.

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Swett files, paints Bass as incumbent to beat

11 Jun

CONCORD, NH — As her supporters cheered her on in a crowded office, Democrat Katrina Swett grinned as she counted out $50 in single bills today, handing over the fee required to file as a candidate for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district and beginning what will likely be a contentious race for her party’s nomination and the seat in November.

“We’ve had people read the names of their supporters before,” said New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who oversees all elections in the state. “But I don’t think anyone has done this before.”

The gesture was intended to signify her understanding of the plight of the middle class. But whether voters will see Swett — the seasoned campaigner as both the daughter and wife of former Congressmen — as a trailblazer for their interests or one of the much-reviled “Washington insiders” remains unclear.

Swett speaks to the media after filling out the required paperwork.

Swett faces a serious challenge in the primary from Ann McLane Kuster, a local activist who has raised large amounts of money from New Hampshire donors — both are compelling, well-spoken women with strong ties to the state.

And should she move on to the general election in November, Swett will have to fight against a forceful anti-Democratic sentiment from her right and three fired-up Republican candidates eager to paint her as a “Washington insider.”

But at Friday’s filing, Swett seemed happy and upbeat, choosing to focus only on her differences with Charlie Bass, the likely frontrunner in the Republican race and former Congressman for the district.

The seat has no incumbent, with Democrat Paul Hodes running for Senate, and as Bass is the only candidate running who has held the seat before, he has been the target of much anti-incumbent sentiment.

“He was riding shotgun when George Bush drove the economy into the ditch,” Swett told her cheering supporters Friday, promising to fight for their interests should she be elected.

Swett said she sees anger right now as being directed toward incumbents, not necessarily Democrats.

“I see that in many ways it’s a ‘fix it’ election in people’s minds,” she said, pointing to the results of Tuesday’s primary. “And I think very much that I have a clear focus to do just that.”

Click below to enlarge pictures in the slideshow of Friday’s event:

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Up next: Check back tomorrow for an analysis of the race so far and best quotes of the week.

Horn echoes Giuda’s anger, presents more polished image

11 Jun

HUDSON, NH — When Republican Jennifer Horn speaks, stereotypes of crazy Tea Party candidates fade away, and it’s easy to tell that she hosted a current events radio show and has run for Congress before.

Horn, who spoke Thursday night at the Hudson Republican Committee meeting, combines Bob Giuda‘s strong conservatism with Charlie Bass‘s political ease, presenting a potentially formidable challenge to both men in the September 14 Republican primary, which will serve as a litmus test of voter anger with Democrats in Washington.

Republican Jennifer Horn listens to a supporter speak on Thursday night in Hudson, NH.

Bass, who served in Congress from 1994 to 2006, has served as a handy punching bag for his Republican opponents in a race with no incumbent (Democrat Paul Hodes is running for Senate).

And with anti-incumbent fever at an all-time high, both Giuda and Horn have received major props from supporters for criticizing Bass’s moderate record in Congress.

Both Horn and Giuda fill a void in running to Bass’s right, but the difference in their presentations of the anti-Washington, anti-government message couldn’t be greater.

Giuda comes across as intense and serious, a self-proclaimed fighter who seems excited at the prospect of stirring up controversy. He has said he doesn’t see legislators as part of government, but rather checks on its power, and that he wouldn’t go to Washington to make friends.

Horn, who was the Republican nominee in 2008 who lost to Hodes,  in contrast presents a more positive, collected image that could appeal to voters who are enraged by Washington but not quite at ease with Giuda’s hard line. A breast cancer research advocate, former radio show host and mother of five, Horn rails against the Democrats and their deficit spending in a manner that seems less personally combative.

In Thursday  night’s meeting, she also displayed a slight sense of levity and candor that her Republican counterparts have lacked thus far in their interactions with supporters and the press.

“What are you going to do now that Charlie Bass wants his seat back?” one woman in attendance asked.

“I’m sorry, whose seat?” Horn responded, laughing. “This is about wining the seat back for the state of New Hampshire.”

There is no doubt that Horn is taking her role as a fighter in this race seriously, but how voters will respond to her personal brand of New Hampshire conservatism remains unclear.

Up next: Check back Friday afternoon for an update on Democrat Katrina Swett officially filing in Concord.

Bass and Giuda file, present contrast in conservatism

8 Jun

CONCORD, NH — Both Bob Giuda and Charlie Bass officially filed their candidacies this morning at the Concord statehouse, overlapping at the building as each signaled his intent to enter the race for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district.

But while both candidates will run as Republicans in the election, the two present very different brands of conservatism — ones they hope will appeal to voters in the September 14 primary.

Bass is running as a Washington insider, ready to jump back into politics, while Giuda is touting his more conservative record and committment to opposing big government.

With a new Washington Post-ABC News poll reporting that only 29 percent of Americans intend to support their current Congressman in the fall, it will be a test for Bass to see if voters view him as an incumbent or a fresh political face.

Bass signs his official declaration of candidacy forms while wife Lisa and daughter Lucy look on.

Bass, who served as the Congressman for the 2nd district from 1994 to 2006 before losing to current Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes, is a centrist Republican running on his Washington experience and familiarity with voters.

Though the seat has no incumbent, he is the only candidate running who has served in Congress before.

“We need people who are ready to go to work on the first day,” he said after signing his official papers in the statehouse Tuesday morning.

In contrast, Giuda, a state legislator, has attacked Bass for not being conservative enough or supporting fiscally responsible measures while in Congress. He said Bass’ voting record speaks for itself.

“Charlie’s experience in Washington was anything but conservative,” Giuda said. “Those who created the problem would be hard-pressed to explain themselves. We don’t want a Washington insider.”

Conservative Republican Jennifer Horn is also running for Congress in the 2nd district and has criticized Bass.

Both Giuda and Bass have criticized the Democratic party‘s current leadership — citing it as a factor in their decision to run for office — and called for a reduction in government spending and job creation as major priorities.

But while Bass joked about filing for office for a second time this morning and presented a more relaxed, positive message of his belief in the American people, Giuda came across as angrier about the current state of politics and more passionate about his concern.

Giuda speaks to supporters with his family behind him in the New Hampshire Legislative Office Building before crossing the street to file.

“Sometimes the victory is in the fight itself,” he said. “Make no mistake about it — I’m not going to Washington to be friendly.”

He said does not see legislators as political insiders and thinks they have a responsibility to reduce spending and oversight.

“As an elected representative, I never considered myself part of government,” he said. “The role of the representative is to restrict government.”

Meanwhile, Bass rejected questions about his conservatism, and said his Republican opponents have criticized government without providing viable solutions.

“It’s easy to complain,” he said. “”This election will provide voters with a clear choice.”

While the Republicans have been attending more campaign events recently, neither Giuda nor Bass drew as much support as Democrat Ann McLane Kuster did when she filed in front of at least 50 cheering supporters last week.

However, the few who did turn out to cheer Giuda and Bass — aside from family members and campaign workers — were certainly passionate in their support.

“Conservatism for me is about individual liberty. It has to be an absolute focus on the individual and it means small government and lower taxes, ” said Laura Condon of Bedford, NH. “I have wonderful faith in the American people and believe in the American citizen.

Condon, who cannot vote in the 2nd district election, said it is her faith in citizens that influences her views and gives her confidence in Giuda’s brand of conservatism.

“I don’t believe we’re bad people,” she said. “We are good people. And if we have more of our hard-earned assets, we can do more. And that’s why I believe in Bob.”

To see photos of the events, click here.

Giuda urges pragmatism, vows to fight “crisis of leadership”

5 Jun

AMHERST, NH — Bob Giuda gets angry when he thinks about the problems facing the country today.

“There’s so much wrong that I could talk for hours,” he told the approximately 20 members of the Amherst Republican Committee who came to Joey’s Diner on Rt. 101 to hear him speak Saturday morning.

Guida speaks to supporters in Joey's Diner on Saturday morning.

Giuda spoke with passion and vigor this morning in his condemnation of the current Democratic leadership, fiscal irresponsibility and misdirected legislation that he said is threatening the country. He received seemingly positive support from his mostly middle-aged, conservative audience.

He is hoping to overtake the more moderate, and previously elected, Charlie Bass and conservative former talk show host Jennifer Horn in the Republican primary September 14.

“What people tell me about myself that distinguishes me from others is that I get the job done,” he said.

Giuda was sharply critical of Democrats, saying he thinks legislators should have been focusing on national security issues before addressing health care, among other missteps in leadership.

“While we sat here playing with healthcare for 14 or 15 months, the People’s Republic of China bought 90 percent of the world’s lithium,” he said. “While we are playing with things that are not strategic priorities, China’s out there gaining control of a major source of the world’s energy.”

Members of the Amherst Republican Committee listen to Giuda speak.

He spoke in favor of offshore drilling and nuclear energy, called the Environmental Protection Agency “over the top,” and said immigration problems will not be solved until the United States takes a more dramatic approach.

“The answer to immigration is simple, although not necessarily politically palatable,” he said. “If you don’t have a wall, you don’t have a border.”

Giuda, who has served as an airline pilot and has experience in foreign policy, bills himself as a pragmatist willing to get the job done when other legislators might falter. He said he will oppose Congressional earmarks and unnecessary expenditures in an effort to reform the federal government. And he even took a jab at his opponents while he was at it.

“With the crisis of leadership that we have in Congress,  to send someone down there who has been and not led, or someone who has never led, is not the answer.”