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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Socially liberal, fiscally conservative Litchfield GOP Rep. Lambert may run for governor

CONCORD – Litchfield State Rep. George Lambert, a self-described “socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican,” confirmed he’s seriously exploring a GOP run for governor in 2014.

Lambert, 44, said he recently began thinking about a run for governor and admits realizing after only three years in the Legislature that New Hampshire’s chief executive office is weak, but still drives the political dialogue. ...

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CONCORD – Litchfield State Rep. George Lambert, a self-described “socially liberal and fiscally conservative Republican,” confirmed he’s seriously exploring a GOP run for governor in 2014.

Lambert, 44, said he recently began thinking about a run for governor and admits realizing after only three years in the Legislature that New Hampshire’s chief executive office is weak, but still drives the political dialogue.

“The attitude of state government in general is dictated by the corner office,” Lambert said during a telephone interview Monday.

“There is an ongoing message that we need accountability and transparency.

“If we can bring that, we would have a state that changed its culture in the way new leadership changed New York City from a very rough town into a fairly safe place to live.”

Among other Republicans also potentially eying a run to deny Gov. Maggie Hassan a second term include Bedford Sen. Andy Sanborn, 2012 candidate Kevin Smith, of Litchfield, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, of Newfields, and perhaps Salem Sen. Chuck Morse.

Last year, Lambert was a strong supporter of Smith, who lost in the GOP primary to Ovide Lamontagne of Manchester.

Smith has said he’ll decide this summer on a 2014 campaign.

“If he really is going to do it, I would happily support him,” Lambert said of Smith.

“If Kevin did run, he would maybe have a better chance, he’s got better name recognition but honestly I think I have a better message.”

A Sanford, Maine native and father of three, Lambert is widely viewed as a maverick in the 400-person House especially since Democrats have taken control.

Two weeks ago, House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, ruled Lambert out of order for demanding an answer for why more than 100 House Democrats got mileage payments attending a private caucus on a Monday, not a traditional day for allowed, taxpayer travel.

“People said ‘Well, it wasn’t a lot of money,’ but it worked out to a single homeowner’s property tax bill for the year,” Lambert said.

“So for the sake of argument, they wasted my property tax bill that day.”

Under former House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, Lambert was more in the mainstream getting seats on the Legislative Administration Committee and the now-defunct, Redress of
Grievances Committee.

“I learned a lot on redress that a whole lot of our citizens feel abused by their government and they feel powerless to do anything about it,” Lambert said.

A difficult lawmaker to label, Lambert was a registered independent for years, first ran as a Democrat to become a Litchfield selectman in 2006 and then became a “Ron Paul Republican” for the ex-Texas congressman who was the Libertarian Party’s standard-bearer for president as well.

A year ago this month, Lambert considered running for the state Senate before changing his mind during the filing period.

“I’m a constitutionalist, a liberty Republican. I lean Libertarian but so did our founding fathers,” Lambert said. “I’m socially liberal, fiscally conservative and I believe in limited government.”

GOP State Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, of Nashua, said all Republican-leaning voters have to keep their eye on the prize.

“We welcome all candidates to the race and look forward to a productive primary that will produce a fiscally responsible Republican nominee who will defeat Governor Hassan,” Horn said in a statement.

Democratic Party Communications Director Harrell Kirstein mocked Lambert’s legislative record in his own response.

“In the Statehouse, Lambert tried to make it harder to arrest perpetrators of domestic violence, limit judges ability to take guns away from people arrested for dangerous crimes, reduce child support payments for deadbeat parents, and he voted for the reckless O’Brien-Bradley budget that killed hundreds of New Hampshire jobs while making the largest cut to public higher education in American history,” Kirstein said.

“Lambert would fit better in a circus tent than he would in New Hampshire’s corner office, with his clownish antics claiming the authority to nullify federal laws and his shameful campaign to classify airport security officials as sex offenders, but he fits perfectly in today’s NHGOP.”

Among the 84 bills Lambert attached his name to were many that expanded gun owner rights. Others would have legalized possession of marijuana, reduced the state’s role on education aid and given state law permission to home poker games.

“I play cards all the time,” Lambert quipped.

The Litchfield Republican supports a casino but not a single-monopoly as Hassan had wanted to grant to one bidder. Lambert signed onto a stalled House bill issuing up to six casino licenses.

“I couldn’t vote for it until we broke the monopoly,” Lambert said.

Hassan has failed with follow-through for her agenda, against opening up the casino bill to more players and trying to eliminate the option for ill patients to grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes, Lambert charged.

“I think our current governor had some really interesting ideas but has been unable to make them happen,” Lambert said. “We need leadership from the top.”

On same-sex marriage, Lambert opposed repeal of the 2009 law but would prefer the state defined all couples of any sexual orientation as civil unions with the same rights.

“I want the government out of marriage. If the Catholics and the Baptists can’t agree on marriage, why are we trying to define it,” Lambert said.

“Let’s have everyone form a civil union and give the churches the right to solemnize what is or is not a marriage by their religious belief.”

Lambert calls himself “pro-choice” on abortion but voted to ban so-called late-term abortions and require minor girls notify a parent or judge before getting one.

“I am pro choice one-third of the time,” Lambert said, meaning he would oppose any restrictions against abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

“How’s that for a complicated answer?”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).