Granite State Republicans looking to avenge House seat losses in 2006

Granite State Republicans are looking to avenge lost House seats when they decide their candidates in Tuesday’s primary.

New Hampshire is one of a slew of nationwide primaries on Tuesday, and Republicans hope their choices will be able to knock off freshman Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Paul Hodes (D).

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Hodes and Shea-Porter won in the Democratic headwinds of 2006, defeating six-term Rep. Charles Bass (R) and two-term Rep. Jeb Bradley (R), respectively, and turning the state’s House delegation from “red” to “blue” in one fell swoop.

Shea-Porter upset Bradley (R) in the 1st district after having substantially outspent him, but Bradley now hopes to reclaim his seat, though he must first survive a primary challenge from former state Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen.

Stephen spokesman Greg Moore said that while he expects a close election, a variety of factors will end up favoring their campaign. Moore pointed to the campaign’s voter identification calls, which show Stephen ahead, while emphasizing that Tuesday’s expected low turnout will favor their campaign, which has appealed more to grassroots and conservative activists.

“The reality is, [Bradley]’s already lost to her [Shea-Porter],” Moore said. “I think that both the candidates have certainly had the opportunity to get their message out, and now we’re grinding out our ground games.”

The Stephen campaign has nearly kept pace with Bradley in terms of fundraising, with each having drawn roughly $600,000 in the campaign cycle to date. In the homestretch between July 1 and last week, each campaign raised about $100,000. Bradley has an advantage, however, in cash on hand, reporting having $360,000 in the bank through Aug. 20, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. Stephen had half that, reporting $130,000 on hand.

The Bradley campaign did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Having reported almost $680,000 in cash on hand through Aug. 20, Shea-Porter still maintains a financial advantage, though not as overwhelmingly as some incumbents. The campaign points out, however, that Shea-Porter has broken New Hampshire fundraising records, and that her efforts this time dwarf the shoestring budget of the 2006 campaign.

Shea-Porter spokeswoman Tia Carusone said the campaign is prepared for both Stephen and Bradley. “She’s beat Jeb Bradley once. They know each other pretty well at this point,” Carusone said. “Stephen is an ineffective bureaucrat who’s had own political ambition on his mind more than effectiveness.”

{mospagebreak}A match-up between Stephen and Shea-Porter could play out in Manchester, the district’s largest city. Moore said that Stephen’s Manchester roots could be a huge boost in the primary and general election, while Carusone said she expects Shea-Porter to enjoy large turnout in Manchester, despite the fact that her primary is uncontested.

In New Hampshire’s other House district, Hodes will face the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary between talk radio host Jennifer Horn, state Sen. Bob Clegg and former congressional aide Grant Bosse.

Both Horn and Clegg have taken out loans to finance the campaign; Clegg has taken out a $300,000 loan and has spent about as much. Horn took out $175,000, but has more cash on hand through Aug. 20, with almost $150,000 in the bank. Bosse has raised substantially less, but the nearly $30,000 he has spent on the race could prove decisive in a close primary between Horn and Clegg.

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“We are very well-positioned going into tomorrow’s primary,” said Horn campaign manager David Chesley. The campaign has been doing targeted get-out-the-vote efforts since May, Chesley said. “Our numbers are trending very well. I like where we’re at, and I think Jennifer Horn could win decisively tomorrow.”

“This year is going to be less about voting for a party and more about voting for a person and the issues,” said Clegg spokeswoman Alicia Preston. She touted Clegg’s experience in government as an asset against Horn and Hodes. She also pointed out the national assistance Clegg has received from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who has made robo-calls on behalf of the campaign.

The race has not seen many divisions between Horn and Clegg on issues, and the campaigns expect results to be more personality-driven. Each candidate will make energy prices — particularly the cost of home heating oil, a major commodity in the Northeast — an issue to use against Hodes.

“Paul Hodes has done nothing to address this,” Chesley said. “He voted to go on vacation, when he could have stayed in Washington and done something to address it.”

Whoever emerges will face an uphill battle in the Democratic-leaning district, though, and Hodes has raised an impressive $1.6 million in the race to date, while spending $730,000 and saving almost $950,000 for the general election.

“The congressman’s going to run on his record of accomplishment,” Hodes spokesman Mark Bergman said. Bergman said Hodes will emphasize his recent letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asking to triple home heating oil subsidies in the upcoming economic stimulus package as a rejoinder to attacks on energy policy.

Bergman said Hodes will benefit from a fundraising advantage, as well as increased turnout from the races this fall for Senate and the presidential election. Bergman also pointed to the money spent on the Republican primary, which is still expected to have low turnout.

“There’s just not a lot of excitement behind these candidates,” Bergman said.