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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lynch ad calls Stephen untrustworthy

CONCORD – Gov. John Lynch launched his first attack ad against Republican nominee for governor John Stephen on Monday, charging Stephen lacked credibility as a tax-cutter and was untrustworthy.

The move came less than a week after Stephen easily won the GOP primary over three opponents and a new survey from a polling firm with strong Republican ties showed the race to be a dead heat.

The 30-second Lynch commercial was in response to Stephen’s criticism aimed at Lynch for failing to veto bills from the Democratically-controlled Legislature that increased total spending $2 billion over the past four years.

In fact, it opens with a clip from Stephen’s own ad in which the challenger remarks, “I’ll use this pen to make the tough decisions.”

The ad then zeroed in on Stephen’s record as commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services from 2004-07.

“Stephen won’t tell you but he raised fees 162 times, left a trail of mismanagement we’re still paying for,” the Lynch ad announcer shot back.

“John Stephen. If you can’t trust his numbers, how can you trust him?”

Lynch Campaign Manager Pamela Walsh said Stephen left behind a string of lawsuits over state support of seniors needing long-term care, a federal audit in 2004 that concluded the state owed Washington $35 million and the overhaul of a computer system that’s a year behind schedule.

Greg Moore, a spokesman for Stephen, said Lynch is trying to divert attention from his own record on spending and taxes.

“Governor Lynch of all people should know that department heads cannot raise fees; only the governor and the Legislature can do that as Governor Lynch provided in raising 84 taxes and fees,” Moore said.

“It is unfortunate that we have come to a place where Governor Lynch has to try to distort the record to muddy the waters and divert from the real issue of the fiscal crisis facing New Hampshire.”

Rasmussen Reports concluded from a one-day, automated poll done Saturday that Lynch had 48 percent to 46 percent for Stephen, a virtual tie within the margin of error. Founder Scott Rasmussen has done extensive polling for GOP campaigns in the past.

Other independent surveys last week had Stephen closing what had been a huge gap but still trailing Lynch by double digits.

“In an act of desperation, the governor has decided to launch dishonest and unfounded attacks against John Stephen to distract from his failed record,” said Ryan Williams, communications director for Republican State Chairman John H. Sununu.

Clearly this is Lynch’s toughest, re-election campaign as he seeks to become the first governor to win a fourth, two-year term.

In 2006 and 2008, he won more than 70 percent of the vote each time against unknown and outspent Republican opponents.

Lynch has carefully built an image in both political campaigns and while governing as someone who stays above the fray and avoids politically partisan appeals.

But Lynch is not allergic to going on the offensive.

In 2006 after GOP nominee Jim Coburn of Windham had spent $1 million of his own money, Lynch aired a TV ad criticizing Coburn for entertaining a hike in state tax on gasoline.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will appear at a Manchester fundraiser and make a plant tour in Londonderry with Stephen next Monday.

Potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have made plans to appear and help Stephen raise money this Saturday and next Thursday, respectively, officials said.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.