February 21. 2014 3:19PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Is he in? Scott Brown making private calls to prominent NH Republicans

Senior Political Reporter

FRIDAY, FEB. 21: BROWN MAKING CALLS. The Granite Status has confirmed that former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has been making calls during the past two weeks to prominent New Hampshire Republicans to talk about a possible run for the Senate seat held by Jeanne Shaheen.

The two top New Hampshire GOP legislative leaders, Senate President Chuck Morse and House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, told us today they were called by Brown this week.

Neither would disclose the private conversation, but we understand from others who were called that they were essentially courtesy, due diligence, types of calls.

And the takeaway was that Brown is serious about a potential run, but no definitive word on when he will make a final decision.

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu also confirmed that he heard from Brown “maybe 10 days ago.”

Sununu called Brown “potentially a really exciting candidate and I love to hear that he’s making these calls. It’s a winnable race. It appears he’s taking the right steps if he is going to run.

Also, Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey said he speaks with Brown “every once in a while and we discuss the Senate race and the pros and cons of him running.

“I did tell him that I think it is a winnable race and that Obamacare is probably more unpopular here than anywhere else in the country,” Duprey said.

We understand Brown is far from finished making calls to New Hampshire Republicans. The list is expected to grow in the coming days and weeks.

Brown recently renewed his contract as a contributor with Fox News and he also has a trip to Iowa planned in April.

It’s not the first round of calls to top Granite State Republicans Brown has made. In December, we reported that Brown had called former Govs. Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, as well as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.


But if Brown is going to run, the time is approaching for him to make a move, many Republicans say.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

THURSDAY, FEB. 20: ATTACKING CRYANS. With the special District 1 Executive Council election less than a month away, the state Republican Party is going on the attack against Democratic candidate Mike Cryans on behalf of Republican Joe Kenney.

We've learned an initial wave of mailers has gone out in the huge district and will be hitting mailboxes there within the next few days, paid for by the Republican State Committee.

The mailer says Cryans has supported the Affordable Care Act, which "will force North Country residents to travel far from home to find a hospital or doctor in their network," and he "won't oppose Gov. Hassan's gas tax hike." The party cites a recent debate where Cryans would not rule out a gas tax hike.

The mailer calls Cryans a "liberal politician" and says North Country resident's "can't afford" him.

The mailer then praises Kenney as a Marine Corp veteran and former state legislator.

State GOP Chair Jennifer Horn said Cryans has a "liberal agenda" that "will hurt the North Country, and he continues to prove that he lacks the values and priorities needed to represent Executive Council District 1."
Democrats fired back that the NHGOP is "so desperate to distract from Joe Kenney's dangerously radical agenda that they are even attacking legislation sponsored by their own Republican state Senators,' referring to the Medicid-subsidized health insurance expansion plan backed by the Senate GOP leadership.
" Kenney says he would slash access to basic health services like cancer screenings, mammograms, and birth control for thousands of women in the North Country - just like he did in the State Senate," said NHDP spokesman Harrell Kirstein.
Calling Cryans a "common sense leader," Kirstein asked, "What voters actually want to know is if Joe Kenney opposes the bipartisan health care expansion compromise?"

The election to a successor to the late Ray Burton is March 11.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 19: BROWN STAYING WITH FOX NEWS. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown Wednesday denied a Boston Globe report that he was leaving as a contributor to the Fox News channel – a report that further fueled speculation that he may run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire.

"The Globe is wrong, the contract is good," Brown told the Granite Status in an email.

He said he is scheduled to appear on the "Fox and Friends" morning talk show on Thursday, adding, "that should say it all."

Later Fox News put out a statement confirming that Brown is staying:

"Sen. Brown has renewed his contributor agreement with Fox News. The previous yearlong agreement expired on Feb. 11 and was never terminated — this was purely administrative. We look forward to his continuing political analysis and insight across the network."

The fact that Brown has renewed his contract with Fox News is just another piece of the puzzle regarding whether Brown intends to run against several announced Republicans for the Senate nomination for the right to take on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 19: BROWN ON BOARD. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was confirmed Tuesday as the latest addition to the New Hampshire Republican Party's Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, set for March 14-15 at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.

It is unclear at the moment on which day Brown will appear. He joins a long list of national Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U.S. Rep. and talk show host Joe Scarborough, former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, New York U.S. Rep. and poetntial presidential candidate Pete King and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Brown has also agreed to become an "Event Sponsor" by donating $5,000 from his political action committee. The event benefits the NHGOP. Brown earlier contributed $10,000 to the party.

NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn said, "Senator Brown has been extremely generous supporter of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee and a champion for the traditional Granite State principles of smaller government and limited taxation. We are pleased that that he has agreed to attend the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference and share his thoughts about how to address the serious challenges facing our country."

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

SUNDAY, FEB. 16: A NEW NAME FOR GOVERNOR. Walter and Judy Havenstein of Alton are not household names in the Granite State, but they are well-known to establishment Republicans as strong donors and activists.

We've written their names many times as fund-raiser hosts and donors to Republican candidates such as Ovide Lamontagne, Rich Ashooh, John McCain and more.

Now, we've learned, Walter Havenstein, a former BAE Systems president and former CEO of Science Applications International Corporation, has been having informal discussions with a small group of Republicans about the possibility of running for governor.

Where will it lead? That's unclear at the moment, but it appears he's giving it serious consideration, and some Republicans are actively encouraging him to run.

Republicans view him as a very strong potential candidate with his obviously strong background in the private sector and an ability to self-fund, should he choose to do so.

A senior GOP strategist gushed over Havenstein, in fact, calling him "a serious individual who served his country as a Marine and created jobs during his extremely successful career in the private sector.

"He has the type of resume, management experience, connections to the business community and resources that are needed to run a strong campaign against Governor Hassan. There is no question that he is the strongest potential candidate considering the race, and Republicans will be extremely excited if he decides to run."

Havenstein's focus since retiring two years ago has been in the not-for-profit area. He formerly chaired and is the current vice chairman of Dean Kamen's FIRST 501(c)(3) public charity organization.

Is he willing to refocus on elective politics? We'll see.

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ANDREW'S TEAM. Meanwhile, the lone announced GOP candidate for governor, Andrew Hemingway, continues to gear up a campaign, announcing his steering committee early last week and following it up Friday with top staffers.

Veteran GOP campaign strategist Alicia Preston is the campaign manager, whose experience includes staffing for former New York Gov. George Pataki, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's special election win in Massachusetts, former Gov. Craig Benson and former U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley, the current state Senate majority leader.

The senior adviser is Matt Wylie, who has managed campaigns from Alaska to Georgia to New Hampshire (state Republican Chairman Jennifer Horn's congressional campaigns) and is former executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party.

Other staffers include UNH alumnus Mike Ciccio as field director; Rogers Johnson, aformer Bush administration education department official and former state representative, as senior policy adviser; former state Rep. Shaun Doherty, a veteran of Guinta's mayoral campaign and McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, as social media coordinator; and Windsor Lein of North Conway and New Castle as financial assistant.

What wasn't stated in the Hemingway announcement was that Patty Humphrey, wife of Hemingway steering committee member and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, is chairing Hemingway's campaign.

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CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. For two weekends within a month, New Hampshire will be the center of the political universe - again - at least on the Republican side.

At least eight potential presidential candidates will be attending two huge events.

Regardless of your political allegiance, it shows New Hampshire continues to be the place to be for those looking to run.

The events are the Republican Party's Northeast Leadership Conference on March 14 and 15 and the "Freedom Summit" being put on by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United on April 12.

The March conference, at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua, has added "Morning Joe" Scarborough to its lineup.Scarborough, longtime host of the MSNBC talk show and a former Florida congressman, has not ruled out running for President himself, but for now will host a first-in-the-nation primary panel during the second day of the event.

Scarborough first floated the idea of running for President in 2012. Last Wednesday, asked about it by radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, he said, "I won't rule anything out."

He said it was a "thrill" to serve in Congress, "and I've always said I wanted to get back in. It's just a matter of time. We'll see what happens."

Scarborough will moderate a panel of veteran Republican New Hampshire Primary strategists, featuring former Mitt Romney adviser Jim Merrill, former Rick Santorum campaign manager Mike Biundo, former Ron Paul campaign staffer Andy Demers and former Rick Perry adviser Paul Young, who also worked many years ago on Jack Kemp's campaign and is a former executive director of the NHGOP.

Scarborough joins a lineup that includes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Rep. Pete King of New York, former Ambassador John Bolton, 2012 presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Santorum and others.

Santorum, Jindal and King are also eyeing possible presidential campaigns, and Bolton has not ruled it out.

The latest entry for the conference, which is focusing on expanding the base of the party, is former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno, who was viewed during early 2012 as a long-shot running mate choice for Romney.

Last week, the "Freedom Summit," to be held at the Executive Court in Manchester, added Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to its potential presidential gathering.

Cruz is the fourth potential 2016 presidential candidate to agree to appear, along with real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who may just try again in '16 himself, is also scheduled to appear.

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-- Expect a big crowd on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. at Room 103 of the State House when CACR 17 goes before the Senate Rules, Enrolled Bills and Internal Affairs Committee for a public hearing. The proposed amendment to Article 2 of the state constitution, sponsored by Sen. David Pierce of Lebanon and six of his fellow Senate Democrats, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

-- State Democrats have been having fundraisers throughout the month for state senators. This week, Bette Lasky will be feted on Tuesday and Jeff Woodburn on Thursday. Both are at The Barley House in Concord at 4:30 p.m.

-- Monday, the Concord and Merrimack County Republican committees will host U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., as the keynoter for their joint Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Grappone Conference Center. A social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., with dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. Several candidates for top state offices are expected to attend.

-- Hemingway will appear Wednesday at the Barnstead-Alton-Gilmanton Republican Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. at J.J. Goodwin's Restaurant in Center Barnstead.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at jdistaso@unionleader.com and followed on Twitter: @jdistaso.