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At GOP picnic in Chichester, Rick Perry says it’s important New Hampshire selects a Republican to serve in the Senate

  • A volunteer looks through t-shirts printed with the likeness of Texas Governor Rick Perry before he delivered remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    A volunteer looks through t-shirts printed with the likeness of Texas Governor Rick Perry before he delivered remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry begins delivering remarks as the special guest for the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014. He received an introduction from Humphrey and Bryan K. Gould, chairman of the Merrimack County GOP.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    Texas Governor Rick Perry begins delivering remarks as the special guest for the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014. He received an introduction from Humphrey and Bryan K. Gould, chairman of the Merrimack County GOP.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

    Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.

    (WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

  • A volunteer looks through t-shirts printed with the likeness of Texas Governor Rick Perry before he delivered remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry begins delivering remarks as the special guest for the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014. He received an introduction from Humphrey and Bryan K. Gould, chairman of the Merrimack County GOP.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks as the special guest of the Merrimack County GOP picnic at the home of Sen. Gordon Humphrey in Chichester on August 23, 2014.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry focused on the 2014 midterm elections when he stopped by the Merrimack County GOP picnic yesterday. In the final public visit of his two-day tour through the state, Perry emphasized the importance of electing a Republican to represent New Hampshire in the Senate this November.

“New Hampshire may be the deciding factor in the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. I cannot tell you how important this race is,” Perry said at the picnic, which was held at former U.S. senator Gordon Humphrey’s Chichester home.

The event drew about 100 attendees, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway and Gary Lambert, a Republican candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.

Perry spent most of his time talking one-on-one with the attendees. But he addressed the entire crowd during a casual, 10-minute speech and said he will be back in October to support whichever Republican U.S. Senate candidate

wins the September primary and goes on to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“I think New Hampshire deserves a U.S. senator who will not vote with Barack Obama 99 percent of the time,” Perry said. None of the Senate candidates attended yesterday’s event.

Many of the voters in attendance said they were interested to learn more about Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Perry has said that he hasn’t decided yet whether he will run, but when he arrived at the picnic yesterday, he met attendees in front of two large “Perry President” signs.

Perry ran for president in 2012 but ultimately dropped out after finishing sixth in the New Hampshire primary with fewer than 1,800 votes. Yesterday, he said things have changed.

“I am excited about the feel I get here. There is an excitement here that, I’ll be real honest with you, that I did not feel the times that I was here before,” he told the crowd.

Perry’s approach to New Hampshire seems to have changed, too, said Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College.

“His initial first steps seem to be a little stronger this time,” he said. Perry is talking about his positions on the border crisis and Iraq, and generally more about policy, Lesperance said. The question, he said, is whether voters are willing to give Perry a second chance.

Some are hesitant. Perry has a strong record in Texas, said former chairman of the state Republican Party Fergus Cullen, but it’s no different in substance from what it was three years ago.

“If it wasn’t good enough then, why should we think it’s going to sell better this time?” he asked.

Attendees at the picnic yesterday said they were impressed by Perry.

“He is coming across as more confident; he seems to have a better handle on the issues,” said Kathy Rago of Franklin, who supported Newt Gingrich in 2012 and came to picnic to learn more about Perry. She liked what he had to say, especially on securing the border.

“Before, he was hemming and hawing a bit, now he is coming across with more authority,” she said after the event.

“He’s got the fire in his belly now,” added Warner resident Natalie Wells. “I think he’s just fed up with the way our country is being run.”

A little more than a week ago, Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin, Texas, on two felony counts stemming from his veto of funding for a state public integrity unit. He has said that the charges are politically motivated. Democrats have pushed back.

“I am very troubled at how quickly the New Hampshire GOP has rushed to his defense,” said Concord state Rep. Katherine Rogers in a press call hosted by the National Democratic Party the day Perry arrived in New Hampshire. She said it’s part of a pattern of the state party lifting up “scandal-plagued bullies.”

Perry didn’t mention the indictment during the picnic yesterday. During his remarks, he focused on his record as Texas governor.

He said that Texas has had to absorb the rising number of unaccompanied minors coming across the border into the country, because Washington hasn’t dealt with the immigration issue.

“Washington still has not done its constitutional duty to secure that border, and if Washington, D.C., will not secure the border, Texas will,” he said as the crowd cheered.

He said Texas’s economy has done well because the state maintains a low tax burden on job creators and keeps its regulatory climate predictable, among other things.

Craig Souders of Nottingham came to the event yesterday with his wife, Denise, to meet some of the Republican candidates running for office. He was pleased to hear about Perry’s stance on securing the border, an issue that is important to him. Souders said it is still early to make any kind of decisions, but said, “I have real worries about the way the country is going.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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