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Friday, August 1, 2014

Havenstein stumps with Christie in tow

During a visit to BAE System’s Nashua headquarters Thursday, former CEO Walt Havenstein told employees he’s ready to tackle New Hampshire’s economic problems.

New Hampshire has a “walking dead economy that is barely moving and has no life,” he said to the crowd of about 125. “It is not acceptable that New Hampshire has fallen behind Vermont and Rhode Island when it comes to economic growth.” ...

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During a visit to BAE System’s Nashua headquarters Thursday, former CEO Walt Havenstein told employees he’s ready to tackle New Hampshire’s economic problems.

New Hampshire has a “walking dead economy that is barely moving and has no life,” he said to the crowd of about 125. “It is not acceptable that New Hampshire has fallen behind Vermont and Rhode Island when it comes to economic growth.”

Havenstein returned to his old stomping grounds on Spit Brook Road with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in tow.

Christie’s visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state is his second in a month meant to underscore the Republican Governors Association support for Havenstein’s challenge to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a first-term Democrat.

Havenstein met the governor in front of the hilltop headquarters and brought him inside, where the two joined Electronic Systems President Dan Gobel onstage in an auditorium

“This is somebody who understands the principles of honesty, integrity and forthrightness and responsible management,” Christie said in his introduction of the former CEO. “Him putting himself forward now to serve in an entirely different way is both inspiring and daunting.”

Christie said he’s familiar with the economic challenge, having served New Jersey under similar circumstances.

“The inspiration is that somebody who’s had Walt’s career is willing now once again to offer himself up for service in an entirely different way,” Christie said. “The daunting part is the problems in here New Hampshire are pretty significant and need to be dealt with.”

Havenstein’s comments at times referenced policy and procedure at the company he ran from 2007-09 before leaving for Science Applications International Corp.

“It’s difficult not to get a little bit emotional, so as I chat with you this afternoon, think if it as nothing more than the emotional chats we had many times in this room and at Canal Street, Merrimack 15, Hudson, about our future,” he said.

Havenstein told the crowd he’s “not willing to spend my evenings yelling at the TV and not do anything about it.”

Christie and Dan Gobel watched Havenstein make his remarks from a pair of chairs set up on the stage behind him. Havenstein spoke for about 25 minutes before escorting Christie from the building to his waiting Suburban.

On Thursday night, Christie was the headliner for a Home Run to Victory in 2014 fundraiser for the Republican State Committee where Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and ex-New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu played leading roles.

The latest public polls have Hassan ahead by nearly a 2-1 margin over Havenstein and his Republican primary rival Andrew Hemingway, of Bristol.

Havenstein got off to a rough start with his campaign after questions arose about whether he was eligible to run since he had lived more than four years in Maryland and had received in-state tax breaks there.

The Ballot Law Commission voted, 3-2, to allow him to run.

Some political observers have said Hemingway stands a chance of scoring what would be a stunning upset given the likely low turnout for the Sept. 9 primary and Hemingway’s close ties to the tea party and libertarian wings of the GOP.

But leading state and national Republicans have concluded Havenstein’s vast experience in business and his ability to raise money makes him the better standard-bearer to take on Hassan.

Two years ago, the RGA played a major role trying in Republican nominee for governor Ovide Lamontagne’s campaign, spending more than $7 million on television and radio commercials critical of Hassan.

The Democratic counterpart outspent the GOP by $1 million as the governor’s race set a state record for the role these non-candidate groups played in the campaign.

Since then, Hassan has become vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and is the only female incumbent governor on the ballot in the country this November.

Havenstein said Thursday at BAE that he felt his “campaigning was going well” and that he was “building momentum and closing the gap.”

Soon after the 2012 elections in which Democrats here scored big victories for governor, Congress and the state House of Representatives, Christie moved quickly to insert his influence into the Republican State Committee.

The state party hired as its executive director Matt Mowers, a former aide to Christie as governor and for his re-election campaign in 2013.

Colin Reed, Christie’s former deputy communications director, has since become campaign manager for leading Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown.

The New Jersey Legislative looking into the bridgegate scandal subpoenaed emails and other records Mowers had regarding the controversy.

According to published reports, Mowers sought the endorsement of leading, local officials on Christie’s behalf.

After Christie’s campaign didn’t get those officials on board, New Jersey officials went ahead with a turnpike lane closures project that caused traffic tie-ups in those towns.

Christie has denied playing any role in the controversy or having prior knowledge about his subordinates ordering the go-ahead for the lane closure work.

Independent polling shows here that the bridgegate scandal took its toll on Christie’s political profile here as his negative rating went up significantly among likely voters last winter.

Yet among possible, Republican contenders for president, Christie fell from the top perch in the polls a year ago but still has remained in the top tier with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

His negative rating has improved since January. Some pollsters here have said that got less to do with what’s happened with Bridgegate and more to do with Christie’s trips to the state and his fund raising on the GOP’s behalf.

At BAE Havenstein answered questions regarding Christie’s motives for being in New Hampshire and issues with trust in the wake of the road closure scandal.

“I don’t think he has a trustworthiness issue at all. Not for me,” Havenstein said. ”I’m focused on my campaign. If there are other motivations, they sure aren’t apparent to me.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH). Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow him on Twitter (@KLandrigan).