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Drew Cline: Rubio backs Brown, takes on Jeb (Bush); Bragdon keeps options open

Editorial Page Editor

May 07. 2014 8:55PM

After publicly supporting Scott Brown in New Hampshire’s Republican U.S. Senate primary on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would not rule out running for President in 2016 if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decided to run as well. Rubio counts both Brown and Bush as personal friends.

Rubio first stated his support for Brown on Jack Heath’s WGIR-AM radio show Wednesday morning. He did not call it a formal endorsement. In an interview later, he said not to read anything into the distinction.

“I don’t want to leave any doubt that I think Scott Brown was a great senator,” he said. “When we make endorsements, we do them through Reclaim America (Rubio’s PAC) .... I believe he would be a great choice and he would be a great senator. We’ll have something more formal to announce in the next few weeks.”

Rubio said his backing of Brown is based on a long-standing personal relationship. He encouraged Brown to run for the Senate and would like to see him back.

“We don’t generally get involved in primaries. We’ve gotten involved in one so far ... the reason why New Hampshire could potentially be an exception is that I’ve worked with Scott and know him well.”

As for Rubio’s own primary prospects, there has been a lot of speculation nationally that he would not run for President if Jeb Bush runs. Rubio said his decision would not be influenced by Bush’s.

“If somebody aspires to the highest office in the land, I think they do that on their own decision making, not with concern to anybody else. I don’t think you make a decision on an office like that based on who else is running.”

Rubio is in New Hampshire on Friday to speak to the Rockingham County Republicans.

Sen. Bragdon doesn’t rule out future run

Though former state Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, announced this week that he will not seek re-election after a decade in the state Senate, the once most powerful Republican in state government does not rule out returning to elective office one day.

“I’m 50, which is relatively young, so who knows down the road?” he said in a Wednesday interview.

At the end of this session, Bragdon will have served a dozen years in office, three as Senate president. He stepped down from that position last September after taking a job running HealthTrust, formerly the Local Government Center. From 2009-2011, Bragdon was Senate minority leader while Democrats held both chambers of the Legislature, the corner office, both congressional seats and one U.S. Senate seat. He was the top-elected Republican in state government and the second highest-ranking Republican elected official in New Hampshire behind U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg. He led the GOP effort, not always successful, to cut or curtail state spending, pass a constitutional amendment on education funding and block tax increases. Bragdon’s leadership during that legislative session was one reason for the GOP landslide in the 2010 elections. He avoided controversial distractions and kept Republicans focused on budget and tax issues.

As Senate president, Bragdon helped keep Republicans focused on the budget fight in which they cut $1 billion, actually reducing state spending below the previous year’s level, and cut taxes. He helped orchestrate the Senate’s passage of a constitutional amendment on education funding that had the support of Gov. John Lynch. But when asked about his legacy, he talks about his constituent work.

Asked to name his most proud accomplishments, he replied: “My role as just a regular old state senator helping constituents apply some oil to the gears of bureaucracy from time to time, and then some of the local issues I’ve been able to move through, such as the preservation of Temple Mountain and some toll relief for Merrimack for the first time in 20 years. Helping out people with their interactions with state government is a big thing.”

That was one reason for Bragdon’s longevity. Yes, he had a favorable district. But he also did a great deal of constituent service. His pragmatic leadership will be missed by state Republicans, but by the residents of District 11 most of all.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.

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