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CAMPAIGN 2010

Hodes zeroes in on e-mails

Ayotte accused of exploiting case

Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte was considering a run for office as early as 2006, according to a series of Ayotte's e-mails recently released from the Department of Justice.

The e-mails are becoming an issue in the Senate campaign, with Democratic candidate Paul Hodes criticizing Ayotte for politicizing a capital murder case that she prosecuted that year.

At a debate at New England College on Monday, Hodes quoted from an e-mail exchange Ayotte had with her friend and now campaign strategist Rob Varsalone.

Varsalone e-mailed Ayotte on Oct. 27, 2006, about the likelihood of Hodes winning the upcoming congressional election with the title 'Get ready to run . . .' Ayotte responded by mentioning the Oct. 16 shooting death of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs and her decision to seek the death penalty for his killer, Michael Addison.

Hodes said Ayotte was using the case for political gain. Ayotte said Varsalone is a longtime friend. An Ayotte spokesman said she mentioned the Briggs case because it was Ayotte's 'sole focus' at the time.

Yesterday, the Hodes campaign focused on a series of e-mails between Ayotte and Varsalone from Nov. 14 to 16, 2006, which were recently released by the Justice Department in response to multiple Right-to-Know requests.

The e-mails were sent a month after Briggs's death and days after state Democrats swept the 2006 elections, and they show that Ayotte and Varsalone were already discussing her political future - and possibly considering a congressional run in 2008.

'Clearly, the prosecution of Michael Addison was not Ms. Ayotte's 'sole focus' at the time,' said Hodes spokesman Mark Bergman. 'We now know that smack dab in the middle of the Briggs case, she and her top political strategist were quite busy plotting, strategizing and weighing a political run in the near future.'

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said the attacks on Ayotte are absolutely not true.

'Congressman Hodes' attacks on Kelly's years as AG are false and desperate,' Grappone said in a statement. 'Kelly will proudly put her record of service as the people's lawyer and her non-partisan service as Attorney General up against Hodes' hyper-partisan record in Congress any day.'

In one e-mail to Varsalone, Ayotte writes that she is 'Recovering after the democratic tsunami.' 'Check out the UL front page from sunday. Future of the GOP article. Whose name is first«? Me,' Ayotte writes. 'It must be killing Johny who is apparently already contacting people to say he has an interest in running for congress.' That appears to be a reference to Republican now-gubernatorial candidate John Stephen.

Varsalone responds, 'Hey, Monk- I saw the article, and every other article where your name is mentioned. What are you going to do? (Redacted) is here with me in (redacted) and we have been talking non-stop about a potential campaign. Looks like 08 could be a crazy year.'

Ayotte wrote back, 'Dude Some keep mentioning Keough. He is so tired. Can we beat him?' Bruce Keough, a former state senator, ran for governor in 2002 but lost in the Republican primary.

'he can and will drop $2 mill into the race. it will be tough,' Varsalone responded.

In another e-mail, Ayotte wrote, 'Hey Varsalona, When you come home for Christmas can we sit down with a state map. Do you still have info on population profiles, approx # of registered voters in areas (r,d I) . I have some ideas and need to talk with you using some data.'

Varsalone was not the only one speculating with Ayotte about a run. On Nov. 4, 2006 - days before the 2006 election - lobbyist Mike Dennehy wrote to Ayotte 'Gearin up for congress««' Ayotte responded, 'Funny.'

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