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Sunday, August 21, 2011

GOP leaders discuss committee discord

Kevin Landrigan

The highest of high-ranking Republicans in New Hampshire politics huddled for a brainstorming session about what to do with the troubled Republican State Committee.

House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, put together the meeting/conference call Friday morning that also included Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Congressmen Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, all R-NH.

O’Brien and Bragdon declined to comment but independent sources confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph that it took place.

The group then settled on an emissary among them who was to meet with Chairman Jack Kimball and present the group’s thoughts on a future strategy.

Calls heated up Friday, led by the New Hampshire Union Leader, for the forced resignation of Kimball over his firing of Executive Director Will Wrobleski.

Not everyone in New Hampshire’s GOP power elite believe that Kimball’s departure has to happen.

Meanwhile the numbers are the numbers.

Kimball has called a special meeting of the 36-person GOP Executive Committee for Sept. 1. Kimball set the meeting to head off a petition being circulated to hold an emergency session.

It takes only a simple majority vote on the panel to take Kimball out, and according to some committee members, that kind of opposition to the incumbent could emerge.

If that were to happen, longtime Vice Chairman Wayne MacDonald could become the acting chairman until such time as a permanent replacement could be found.

One scenario would have MacDonald, a full-time state employee, take the caretaker role through the first-in-the-nation primary and then hold a special election of the state party to pick the new boss.

This thing remains very fluid, but some still need to be convinced Kimball’s sacking is the ultimate answer.

They all agree, however, that things need to change.

MacDonald has turned down the acting post before and his state job would complicate things like fundraising, not to mention the complication of meetings during working hours.

In recent days, MacDonald has repeated his desire not to take over that role.

Ironically, the biggest fear about putting the political rookie Kimball in charge in the first place was that he would put his foot in his mouth on a regular basis and overshadow the new GOP majority in the Legislature.

Instead, it’s been the reverse.

Leading presidential campaign staffers here openly have wondered for months why Kimball hasn’t been out front more often bashing President Barack Obama’s agenda.

The same goes for four-term Gov. John Lynch. Republican legislative leaders, especially in the House, have made Lynch a frequent target because Kimball so infrequently has gone after the popular chief executive.

Whoever is running the place, this leadership team is looking for the state party not only to pay all its bills and be a well-oiled machine but set a very aggressive, anti-White House tone going forward.

Look for smoke signals from this GOP hierarchy to go a long way in determining Kimball’s fate.

Perry’s big presence

Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent three plus days campaigning in New Hampshire last week and much of it was out of the public eye.

On Wednesday for example, Perry’s two public events in Bedford and Nashua consumed less than three hours yet he spent probably twice that in multiple meetings with activists and GOP VIPs.

Perry’s visit to the south Nashua home of House Majority Whip Peter Silva was a microcosm of these private, meet-and-greet affairs.

Pamela and Peter Silva cooked homemade chicken barbecue for Perry, Texas First Lady Anita and their two children.

“They are really such a down-to-earth family. It’s hard not being impressed by the guy and I was,” Silva said during a telephone interview.

The Silva’s hosted more than two dozen other activists wanting to meet the newest 2012 contender including big Tim Pawlenty supporters-now free agents Dave McLaughlin, Jennifer Horn, House Speaker O’Brien, House Ways and Means Chairman Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst, and 2010 congressional candidate Rich Ashooh.

Silva stressed he hasn’t made a decision but wondered aloud if his search for the right candidate is over.

“We’ll see, but I can’t think of anyone who could upstage him,” Silva said.

Many layers

New Hampshire political regulars are used to Secret Service and the ultra-elaborate net of protection and personal privacy that surrounds not only POTUS but candidates during the stretch of the general election and sometimes the nomination process.

What is jarring is the level of “trappings” when the governor of a mega-state begins to run for president.

Consider this vignette. Company officials at Resonetics did not offer details, but other sources confirm that 13 (count them) staff and/or campaign advance team showed up for the walk through at the company days before Perry showed up.

That’s quite a bit of firepower for a 15-minute tour of the business and one-hour discussion with 12 business leaders.

Silva said an advance team showed up at his home last Tuesday night and were “very thorough.”

“It’s almost surreal but you can understand it. He’s governor from a very big state that gets all kind of attention and probably all sorts of sharp criticism thrown at him,” Silva said.

The phalanx of aides and volunteers that cocooned Perry throughout this first visit was reminiscent of Team George W. Bush with the initial foray in 1999.

Then-Texas Gov. Bush was ably protected by Texas Rangers (not the baseball players, the state cops) who in uniform and undercover shadowed the candidate.

Over time, Bush got the security detail to be much more low profile and that helped.

The less visible the entourage for Perry, the better he’ll go over here, said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

“He strikes me as good one-on-one but voters here don’t like to have to go through layers to see or ask the candidate a question,” Smith observed after Perry’s first New Hampshire speech to the Politics and Eggs Forum in Bedford.

Tuesday announcement

The back-and-forth between the Local Government Center and Bureau of Securities Regulation shows no signs of slowing down.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner tried to bring it to a halt Friday confirming he’s picked an independent officer to hear the case and will announce it Tuesday.

“I think most of the parties in this matter have never met him, but I’m very pleased he’s willing to do it,’’ Gardner told reporters.

At week’s end, the LGC offered to split the taxpayer costs to hire a retired judge to sit as a hearing officer over the bureau’s claim the LGC owes “more than $100 million” to cities and towns.

Staff lawyer Earle Wingate said the $1,200 a day price tag for a former judge was too high because taxpayers were footing the bill for the investigation.

But state officials turned down LGC lawyer David Frydman’s offer to split the cost.

“Appointing an impartial, retired judge not only protects LGC’s rights but also assures the public that the process is fair,” Frydman said.

Gardner said he had no involvement in the back-and-forth between the LGC and bureau staff and had independently gone about his due diligence to find a hearing officer.

“The process will be fair, open and in public. I’m making this selection because it’s my responsibility,” Gardner said.

As for the LGC’s offer to split the cost, Gardner responded, “I do not think that is good public policy.”

Horn takes stride

Two-time congressional candidate Horn of Nashua won’t leap right back into the business of endorsing a GOP presidential candidate.

“Yes, I will be re-evaluating the field and not moving too quickly toward anyone. Every one of our candidates impresses me one way or another,” said Horn who played a major role in Pawlenty’s now-aborted campaign.

Horn acknowledges that those pushing Congressman Paul Ryan to get in (he said no again last week) is “very interesting” despite Ryan’s lack of executive experience.

“I believe that the task remains the same – to make sure that we send a strong, principled, experienced conservative to the White House,” Horn continued.

“America will not survive another four years of the failed liberal progressive agenda of this president. For me, politics has always been about preserving a free and prosperous America for my children and theirs.’’

Return to home state

A New Hampshire college grad who made it in D.C. is returning to become No. 2 in command at the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Sean Doyle will start work as deputy executive director to assist Chairman Raymond Buckley who still is searching for an executive director to replace Mike Brunelle who left at the end of last month.

Doyle’s credits include working on the 2008 presidential campaign of ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson along with the Democratic coordinated campaign in the fall.

The Franklin Pierce University grad also led New Hampshire college Democrats during that cycle.

Since 2009, he’s been operations director for the Association of Democratic Chairs at the Democratic National Committee.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com; also check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.