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Jabs over fundraising as N.H. congressional races heat up

  • Eddie Edwards Paul Steinhauser—



For the Monitor
Monday, February 05, 2018

New Hampshire’s primary is still more than seven months away, but the political shots are already being fired in the wide-open race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the state’s 1st Congressional District.

In a fundraising email to supporters Monday, Republican candidate Eddie Edwards took aim at Andy Sanborn, his main rival for the GOP nomination, over the Bedford state senator’s lackluster campaign fundraising figures.

“Here in the Republican primary, my opponent has shown that he just doesn’t have what it takes to bring the fight to the Democrats,” Edwards wrote. “The time is now to unify behind our campaign to ensure we have the strongest conservative to go up against Carol Shea-Porter’s protégé this November.”

Sanborn raised a meager $15,594 in the October-December fundraising period from just 14 donors. While Edwards didn’t set any fundraising records either during the fourth quarter, he nearly quadrupled Sanborn’s haul, bringing in just over $60,485. For Edwards, that was a vast improvement from the July-September third quarter, when he raised $27,130.

Sanborn reported $173,212 in cash on hand at the end of 2017, but $82,845 in debt. Edwards, a Dover resident and former South Hampton police chief who also served as top law enforcement officer for the state’s liquor commission, had $86,598 in the bank as of Jan. 1.

The third declared GOP candidate, Carroll County commissioner and former state senator Mark Hounsell of Conway, didn’t enter the race until a couple of weeks ago and won’t have to file a campaign fundraising report until April, after the end of the first quarter of this year.

Fundraising figures are considered an important early indicator of a campaign’s strength and a candidate’s reach among donors and activists. Campaign cash can be used by candidates to hire staff, build grassroots outreach and pay for ads.

The fourth-quarter fundraising by Sanborn and Edwards paled in comparison to the cash hauls of Democratic candidates Maura Sullivan and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas.

Sullivan, a U.S. Marine veteran who was deployed in the war in Iraq and who served at the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon under President Barack Obama, raised an eye-popping $430,000 during the first nine weeks of her campaign.

But 80 percent of the money she raised came from out-of-state contributions, which fed some criticism that Sullivan, who moved to Portsmouth with her fiancé last summer, was a “carpetbagger.”

Pappas, the Manchester Democrat who runs the Puritan Backroom restaurant that his family has owned and operated for 100 years, raised $218,999 in the 53 days between his filing as a candidate in mid-November and the end of 2017. More than 80 percent of his fundraising came from within New Hampshire.

On the criticism of Sullivan as an out-of-stater, Pappas opted not to comment.

“I’ll let the people of New Hampshire decide on that,” he told the Monitor recently. I just know that, as someone who’s rooted in the communities of New Hampshire, I feel like I have the experience in the issues and the understanding of the values of this state to be able to effectively represent it in Congress.”

Sullivan reported more than $373,000 cash on hand, with Pappas reporting nearly $208,000 in the bank.

Among the five other Democrats in the 1st District race, state Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester raised more than $31,000.

The former fireman who served more than two decades as head of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO loaned his campaign $100,000.

And retired Portsmouth trial lawyer Lincoln Soldati, a former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17 years as Strafford County attorney, raised nearly $36,000 and loaned his campaign $25,000.

In the 2nd District race, three-term Democratic incumbent congresswoman Annie Kuster of Hopkinton brought in more than $400,000 in the fourth quarter, with $2.28 million cash on hand.

Republican candidate Dr. Stewart Levenson, also of Hopkinton, raised more than $102,000 during the quarter. Levenson, a former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regional director who in 2017 was one of the top whistleblowers in a scandal at the Manchester VA Medical Center, contributed more than $205,000 of his own money to the campaign during the fourth quarter.

The other Republican candidate in the race during the fourth quarter, state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua, raised just over $12,000. But Negron, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has also loaned his campaign nearly $130,000 September.

Lynne Blankenbeker, a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve, announced her campaign for the GOP nomination in the 2nd District last month and won’t have to file a fundraising report until the end of the first quarter.