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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nashua senator to step down after being reinstated by Marines

CONCORD – A Nashua Republican said the recent decision to reinstate him as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves was the primary reason he decided not to run again in 2012.

State Sen. Gary Lambert said Friday he’s stepping down after one term. Lambert made history in 2010 by winning a state Senate district typically dominated by Democrats.

“Quite honestly, I prefer being a Marine compared to being a senator, although I have loved both very much,” said Lambert, 52. “I’m leaving the place better than when I found it, and I think that’s always the goal of public service.”

A Bronze Star recipient and Iraq War veteran, Lambert led a lawsuit against the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps, convincing a federal judge to rule that he and 98 others were wrongfully retired without due process in October 2009.

His departure leaves a big opening for New Hampshire Democratic leaders. The District 13 seat had been filled by a Democrat for 96 years.

By party registration, it’s one of the most Democratic among the 24 Senate seats. But Lambert took the seat after a feverish, door-to-door campaign.

“It is hard work, but I’ve proven that it can be done,” he said. “I am going to work to find a capable Republican to replace me and then do all I can to make that happen. It won’t be easy.”

Nashua Democrat Bette Lasky held the seat before losing to Lambert and is likely to sign up to try to win it back this fall.

If Lasky were to decide against it, there are several veteran Democrats who might get in, including two former House committee chairmen: six-term state Rep. David Campbell, from Nashua Ward 6, and four-term Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, from Nashua Ward 3.

Lambert becomes the third Senate Republican to voluntarily leave an overwhelming 19-5 GOP dominance in the Senate. He shares an office with Sen. Ray White, R-Bedford, who became the first to bow out publicly.

White spoke of the “political inertia” that impedes progress on key issues as playing a role in his retirement, but Lambert said dissatisfaction had nothing to do with his decision.

“I was frankly surprised at how good all my relationships were with fellow senators, including the Democrats,” Lambert said.

He said balancing the current two-year state budget was a key accomplishment for him.

Lambert also stood out among the GOP caucus by supporting the regional greenhouse gas initiative, despite the desires of many Republicans in the Legislature to repeal the program.

“What pleased me most about being in the Senate was that I have never been pressured to vote one way on any one thing, and I guess that’s no surprise when you have 19 Senate Republicans,” Lambert said. “The leadership was great and fair and could afford to lose one or two or even three of us on any given issue.”

Lambert’s goals for the 2012 session are to pursue an amendment to change the state Constitution so targeting education aid to neediest school districts is legal and to get more access to child care for parents who are pursuing a college degree.

Lambert leads a law practice specializing in copyright and trademark law.

He stressed this wasn’t necessarily his permanent retirement from elective politics.

“I’ve got the political bug; I intend to come back sometime if the right opportunity presents itself,” Lambert said. “I sure hope it does.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan) and on The Telegraph’s interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.