Capital Beat: Just who is Walter Havenstein?
Democrats’ willingness to throw around words like “tax fraud” and “Maryland resident” when talking about Walter Havenstein isn’t doing much to temper Republicans’ excitement about their newest gubernatorial candidate.
“This is just the Democrats’ weak attempt at trying to paint somebody as something that’s less than appealing,” Havenstein adviser Jamie Burnett said. “But they don’t even know the guy.”
So who exactly is he, and why are Republicans so excited about him?
First and foremost, he’s a businessman with decades of experience in the aerospace and defense industry. His most recent posting was as chief executive officer of Science Applications International Corp., a multibillion-dollar company. Before that, he was CEO of BAE Systems Inc., a global defense company that’s been one of New Hampshire’s largest manufacturing employers. He’s a board member of FIRST, the nonprofit founded by Dean Kamen that works to get young people interested in science and technology.
Havenstein’s friends say this business background is what makes him a strong challenger to Democratic incumbent Gov. Maggie Hassan.
“We’re dealing with a still very touchy economy, and he understands that economy very well and what works and what doesn’t,” said Rich Ashooh, director of strategy at BAE Systems and a former Republican congressional candidate.
To Ashooh, Havenstein’s tenure leading at BAE was defined by the care he showed for his employees. Even as the man at the top of the company, Havenstein was most happy when he was interacting with the workforce, Ashooh said. Havenstein also implemented a mentorship program within BAE Systems, Ashooh said. (Havenstein is not giving interviews until he formally announces his candidacy next week.)
“The level of involvement with all levels of employees was very high under Walt,” Ashooh said. “As part of the leadership team, even that became a far more collaborative and, quite frankly, team-like and enjoyable experience because of Walt’s focus on people as individuals, not drones.”
Outside of the workplace, Havenstein and his wife, Judy, have long been active in Republican circles as participants and donors. The two moved to New Hampshire in 1999 and have donated tens of thousands of dollars to state and federal candidates. Former New Hampshire House speaker Donna Sytek has known Judy for years through the Vesta Roy Excellence in Public Service Series, which honors Republican women in politics.
Sytek said she thinks Havenstein’s leadership of a defense company also provided him with valuable experience in dealing with the federal government, something he’ll have to do if elected governor, especially on health care issues.
It’s not just New Hampshire Republicans that are cheering Havenstein’s entry into the race. The Republican Governors Association doesn’t take sides in primaries but reportedly conducted a poll recently asking specific questions about Havenstein. Jon Thompson, spokesman for the RGA, said the governor’s race here is a high priority for the organization, which plans to invest time and money here.
That might not have been the case if Havenstein hadn’t gotten in the race. In the primary, he’ll face tech entrepreneur Andrew Hemingway, a young Republican with a libertarian bent. Most of the state’s top Republicans, including House and Senate leaders and key strategists, hesitated to get behind Hemingway as they waited to see if someone else would jump in the race. Hemingway has made some enemies among more establishment Republicans, most recently by running an insurgent campaign against Jennifer Horn for state party chair.
Havenstein, top Republicans say, has the ideas and ideological mindset the party needs without all the baggage.
“We’ve been looking for a candidate who can bring a fresh perspective, bring a lot of his own money and be somebody that all segments of the party can get behind,” Sytek said.
Don’t expect Democrats to let the questions over Havenstein’s eligibility to run for governor in New Hampshire fade away anytime soon.
There’s no recourse to formally challenge him until he officially puts his name on the ballot, which happens in June. At that point, anyone is free to file a challenge with the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission. Someone has already purchased walthavenstein.com and is posting photos of tax payments on the condo Havenstein previously owned in Maryland. Both the Democratic Party and the Hemingway camp say they have nothing to do with this site.
The two issues at play are whether Havenstein meets New Hampshire’s eligibility requirement of being domiciled in New Hampshire for seven years prior to running for governor and whether he fairly received a tax exemption on his Maryland property where he lived during the work week from 2008 to 2011.
Kathy Sullivan, former chairwoman of the state Democratic party, says Havenstein effectively gave up his domicile in New Hampshire when he signed a form saying the Maryland condo was his “principal residence.”
That form is required for the tax exemption, and it asks whether the person has a driver’s license at and votes at the property they are claiming the exemption on. The form doesn’t specifically say all of these qualifications must be met to get the credit, but Sullivan says that doesn’t matter.
But Havenstein’s camp maintains that he always kept his domicile in New Hampshire and always voted here.
Unfortunately, the tax exemption form Havenstein filled out was destroyed by the Maryland government after Havenstein sold the property several years ago. That means we’ll never see which boxes he checked or the information he put down about himself.
Furthermore, issues of domicile and residency are complicated, and most governmental offices – including Maryland’s Department of Assessments and Taxation and the New Hampshire Secretary of State – won’t weigh in without formal complaints. That leaves it up to both sides to continue interpreting the law as they please and pointing to sections of it that help their case until (and if) someone decides to formally challenge Havenstein’s eligibility.
Brown building campaign organization
Scott Brown is staffing up his soon-to-be-official U.S. Senate candidacy.
His newest hire is Colin Reed as campaign manager. Reed previously served as press secretary in Brown’s Senate office and communications director for his 2012 re-election campaign. Most recently he’s been working for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“I’ve known Scott for more than four years. An opportunity to work with him again is something I couldn’t pass up. I am excited for the next seven months and a victory in November,” Reed said in a statement.
Last week Brown also brought on Elizabeth Guyton, a former aide to Sen. Kelly Ayotte, as communications director for his exploratory committee.
Meanwhile, Brown’s been traveling across the state meeting voters as he prepares to make his campaign official.
What to watch
∎ A number of potential Republican presidential candidates are traveling to New Hampshire next weekend for Americans for Prosperity’s Freedom Summit.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will participate in a rally for the state Republican Party in Dover on Friday night. On Saturday, the Freedom Summit event will feature speeches by Paul, Ayotte, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and other top party voices.
For Cruz and Paul, two potential 2016 candidates, this event will be key toward shoring up support from New Hampshire Republicans.
∎ Two House committees will hold a joint public hearing on the Senate bill to increase the gas tax for road and bridge repairs Tuesday at 10 a.m. This will be the last chance for anti-tax groups to make their case against the increase, although the bill is nearly certain to pass through the House.
∎ The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the two-casino bill Thursday at 9 a.m. The committee voted against the House’s one-casino bill and the chairwoman, Rep. Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat, expressed frustration last week that her committee needs to spend time on another gambling bill.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or email@example.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)