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Thursday, February 2, 2012

GOP’s Steve Kenda, North Hampton businessman, exploring gubernatorial run

Businessman Steve Kenda of North Hampton confirmed Wednesday that he’s seriously exploring a Republican bid for governor in 2012.

Kenda, 54, said he’s got the business smarts and is an experienced leader who can help the state grow jobs and better manage its affairs.

“Politics shouldn’t be a career, and it isn’t about personal ambition. It’s a civic duty. It’s what you do to repay the country that brought you prosperity and happiness,” Kenda said in his statement posted on his Web site, www.kenda2012.com.

“I’ve earned both, and my gratitude for that freedom and opportunity has led me to form this exploratory committee, and consider a run for executive office.”

Kendall said he has yet to see someone already in the race with the private sector experience he brings.

“After too many years under Democratic rule, New Hampshire needs a new kind of governor: a governor who is already an experienced leader, who has been in the trenches and understands that business is both profit and people, and can be encouraged or destroyed by what happens in Concord,” Kendall said.

“With great respect for those who’ve thrown their hats into the ring, I don’t think that governor has entered the race.”

Ovide Lamontange of Manchester, 2010 candidate for U.S. Senate, and conservative activist Kevin Smith of Litchfield have already entered this GOP primary for the right to replace Gov. John Lynch, who is not seeking re-election.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas also has said he, too, may make a GOP bid.

Former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan of Exeter is the only announced Democratic candidate, though it appears likely that ex-Barrington Sen. Jackie Cilley also will form a campaign.

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Kenda was an MIT chemical engineering graduate and bought his first home in Hollis working as an account executive at AT&T.

Kenda then launched a software consulting firm, KENDA Systems in Salem growing it from a one-person shop to a successful company with 180 employes, 850 external consultants and 16 offices in the U.S. and Europe.

“I’m very proud of how my partners and I navigated those waters – we took calculated risks, grew the company, and weathered downturns by digging into our own pockets to keep the doors open and our people employed,” Kenda said. “Loans we had to take out were all paid back, with interest; no one ever lost a dime lending to Steve Kenda.”

In 2006, Kenda sold the business and formed a new company HireAbility.com that fell victim to the recession and government regulation.

“And it was there that I hit the turning point that brought my politics to the forefront,” Kenda said.

To stay afloat, Kenda cashed in his 401(k) savings and said he incurred a 15 percent penalty for early withdrawal.

“I grew up poor, worked hard and built a company,” Kenda summed up.

“As a leader, I have managed transitions, weathered downturns, and put my own hard-earned resources on the line repeatedly to protect jobs and come out stronger on the other side. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty to put New Hampshire where it should be: leading the country in economic growth.”

Kenda tapped as his campaign consultant Chris Wood of Concord, a veteran operative who worked on the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Ron Paul, along with advising former Gov. Craig Benson and ex-congressman Chuck Douglas.

“I’ve been waiting for an experienced conservative leader with real business smarts to enter the New Hampshire governor’s race,” Wood said in a statement.

“If he decides to go for it, Steve Kenda is the real deal. He built his success from the ground up, and I, for one, would like to see that kind of entrepreneurial spirit running this state”

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.