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Brookline Republican bows out of 2nd Congressional District race

  • Jack Flanagan, photographed on Sept. 8, 2016, is a Republican candidate for New Hampshire's second congressional district. (AP Photo) Thomas Roy

  • Jack Flanagan (left) speaks as Jim Lawrence (right) listens during a 2nd Congressional District candidates debates in 2016. AP file



For the Monitor
Friday, November 10, 2017

Republican Jack Flanagan is ending his bid for the U.S. House in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.

In his first interview after dropping out Friday morning, the former state House of Representatives majority leader and former school board chair and selectman in Brookline told the Monitor “after 35 years of public service, I might want to take some time for myself.”

“I’ve put in my time and I just don’t have that burning desire to be in Washington at this time,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan launched his congressional campaign in June. It was his second straight bid for the GOP nomination in the district, which is held by three-term Democrat Annie Kuster. He came in second in the 2016 GOP primary, losing to Jim Lawrence by around 5,000 votes in a multi-candidate field. He said he felt he should have won the primary, adding “my pride was sort of in the picture.”

“I thought the energy and the desire from the first run for Congress was going to carry over,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan also said his family was a consideration in deciding to bow out. He has three adult daughters.

“My kids are getting older. They’re starting to have families. It was sort of a personal decision,” Flanagan said.

But he didn’t rule out a possible return to the State House, saying of his six years in Concord “I really enjoyed myself there. So if the right situation came up, I would consider that.”

As it was in his first campaign for Congress, fundraising was an issue. His campaign reported just over $20,000 cash on hand at the end of September. Kuster’s campaign boasted more than $2 million in the bank at the end of the third quarter. And state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua, one of the two other declared Republicans in the race, has put more than $115,000 of his own money into his campaign.

“I don’t like fundraising,” Flanagan said. “It’s not my forte, unlike Annie Kuster, who’s on the phone all the time with special interest groups.” But Flanagan told the Monitor that his decision “wasn’t over fundraising.”

“My fundraising was better than it was last time around,” he added.

But Flanagan added that “there were a number of donors who gave last time who weren’t ready to commit this early this time around.”

With Flanagan out, the GOP field is down to two declared candidates: Negron, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, and Dr. Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton, a former regional director at the Veterans Administration and one of the whistleblowers earlier this year at the Manchester VA facility.

Lawrence is still considering another campaign for Congress.

“I have not closed the door to another bid in 2018. That option is still open,” the former three-term state representative and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate told the Monitor. “It’s no secret that many people have asked me to run.”

Flanagan says he won’t make any endorsements but “I’ll be supporting whoever the nominee is.”

In his statement he added that “I know that there are others running for this office that have the same priorities as I do and I’m encouraged by that.”

Levenson, in a statement to the Monitor, touted his conservative credentials and praised Flanagan.

“Jack has been a long time public servant and has a loyal and engaged group of supporters. Over the course of the campaign, I hope to earn his and their support,” he wrote.

Flanagan’s move came three days after New Hampshire Democrats enjoyed great success at the ballot box on Election Day 2017. Democrats won a mayoral contest in Manchester for the first time in 14 years, swept the board of aldermen elections in Nashua, and won two state House special elections, including flipping a GOP held seat. The party has now won eight of the ten Statehouse special elections this year.

Flanagan said the results were not a factor in his decision to end his campaign, but predicted that “I think it’s going to be a very difficult year for Republicans.”

Minutes after the news broke that Flanagan was dropping his congressional bid, the New Hampshire Democratic Party tweeted that “NHGOP candidates are starting to realize how difficult 2018 will be.”