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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NH Rep. Garcia challenging Lambert for GOP 2nd District nomination

CONCORD – A more conservative alternative to ex-Nashua state Sen. Gary Lambert has emerged as a Republican contender for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Marilinda Garcia, a four-term House member from Salem, filed papers to officially become a candidate in hopes of knocking off freshman Congresswoman Annie Kuster. ...

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CONCORD – A more conservative alternative to ex-Nashua state Sen. Gary Lambert has emerged as a Republican contender for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Marilinda Garcia, a four-term House member from Salem, filed papers to officially become a candidate in hopes of knocking off freshman Congresswoman Annie Kuster.

Garcia offered herself as someone with substantial experience but a fresh face on the larger political stage from a demographic that Republicans nationally must appeal to – Hispanic women.

“Americans are tired of what seems to be complete dysfunction in Washington,” said Garcia, 30. “We have to change the kind of people we’re sending there.”

A native of Boston, Garcia emerged in recent years at the New Hampshire Statehouse as someone marked for career advancement according to Greg Moore, former House chief of staff and state director of Americans for Prosperity.

“People identified
Marilinda early on as someone with the potential for higher office,” Moore said.

What turned their heads was how she responded as a one-term legislator to defeat in 2008 finishing 14th in a race for 13 House seats from Salem and Windham.

“I remember telling her this may be the best thing for her because it will force her to focus on her own campaign,” Moore recalled.

When a seat in the district opened up the following year, Garcia ran in that special election and won 63 percent of the vote.

Then, when Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives with the 2010 election, new Speaker William O’Brien, of Mont Vernon, identified Garcia as an up-and-comer.

O’Brien convinced Garcia to run and become chairman of the House Republican Alliance, the powerful bloc of conservatives that helped O’Brien achieve many legislative victories.

“She showed in that experience to be someone really interested in policy and helped the speaker succeed on many fronts,” Moore said.

O’Brien had been a GOP candidate for this same congressional seat until last May when he abruptly backed out to become the US-based CEO of an international software security company.

This was what prompted Garcia to look at the race.

“I’ve never had a long-term political ambition in mind for myself, but in the past few months, circumstances have led me to do serious introspection and decide if I were to consider running for higher office in the future, maybe the future is now,” Garcia said.

The Telegraph was the first to report that O’Brien and other leading conservatives had reached out to Garcia about getting into the race.

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said voters will reject Garcia’s political brand.

“The right wing has found yet another reliable rubber stamp who will carry on Bill O’Brien’s tea party torch that caused so much damage to families in New Hampshire,” said Marc Brumer, spokesman for the DCCC.

“Rep. Marilinda Garcia has repeatedly voted to put her own personal social ideology ahead of New Hampshire voters, and she has proven she will stop at nothing to advance Bill O’Brien and the tea party’s radical agenda, rather than side with New Hampshire’s middle-class families.”

During Lambert’s one term in the state Senate, some conservatives were upset that he joined then-Democratic Gov. John Lynch to support keeping in place a greenhouse gas initiative that allowed utilities to bill consumers for the cost of reducing pollution emissions.

Moore said he believes Garcia could exploit that position to get financial support from national interests that oppose such pollution restrictions such as oil and gas company executives.

Lambert said he’s not concerned about facing a primary foe and believes it could help boost the name recognition of the winner against Kuster who has proven to be a very successful fundraiser.

In 2012, Kuster beat seven-term GOP Congressman Charlie Bass by outspending him by nearly a 2-1 margin.

“I didn’t have a primary running for the state Senate but always had assumed someone else would be in this race,” Lambert said during a telephone interview. “It would not surprise me at all if others get in.”

And Lambert said the competition speaks to the fact that Kuster is vulnerable, and along with the 1st Congressional District here, will be among the 40 most targeted House seats in the nation.

“There is definitely a lot of room for optimism,” Lambert said.

Both declared candidates agree the No. 1 concern among voters is to make members of Congress spend more time solving problems and less time trying to score cheap political points.

And they support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act charging that it will make already high costs for health insurance unaffordable for middle-class residents.

Garcia hasn’t hired staff but will work with Brad Stevens, a former Nebraska state director of AFP who worked with Garcia during Mitt Romney’s campaigns for president in 2008 and 2012.

Stevens now heads up his own political and media consulting firm, Aegis Strategic LLC.

Lambert has been working on this race since January and recently was identified by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee as a “Young Gun” worthy of financial support.

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