Bob Burns, Jim Adams tout personal backgrounds in Executive Council Republican primary
Jim Adams and Bob Burns, Republican contenders in the Executive Council District 4 Republican primary, don’t seem to have much in the way of common ground. But it’s there.
They were both born and raised in New Hampshire. Both describe themselves as loyal conservatives, in person and online: They say they’re committed to limited government, low taxes, protecting personal freedom and upholding constitutional values at the state and federal level. Both earned 100 percent scores from the Granite State Taxpayers Association, of which Adams is a former chairman. Burns is the national committeeman for the New Hampshire Young Republicans.
From the Executive Council, Burns and Adams say they want more transparency, more thoroughly vetted appointments, more carefully reviewed contracts, more value for taxpayers’ dollars. They both say New Hampshire is behind the curve on information technology, especially in the health sector. They both want more accountability out of the council and the officials it deals with – judges, contractors, the governor and so on – and they want the councilors to be more accessible to the public in general.
They’ve also both been through this kind of primary before, with varying results. Adams ran for executive councilor in District 2 in 2010 and came in third place. Burns won the District 4 primary in 2012 and lost to Chris Pappas, who’s now the incumbent Democrat vying to hold onto his seat in this year’s race. (Burns beat Pappas in a different race in 2010, earning his current spot as Hillsborough County treasurer.)
And each is convinced that his background – Adams, as a Vietnam veteran and a guy who worked his way up the ranks of the U.S. Postal Service; Burns, as a tech-savvy business owner who tends toward skepticism when it comes to the “old boys’ club” mentality of government – makes him the right choice for District 4 this time around.
Experience vs. ‘anti-authoritarian’
Nowhere is the contrast between Adams and Burns more stark than in their campaign strategies.
Adams, who lives in Pittsfield, has been sticking to a traditional playbook: lots of door knocking, lots of hand shaking, lots of effort to make sure people across District 4 (which includes Allenstown, Auburn, Barrington, Bedford, Bow, Candia, Chichester, Deerfield, Epsom, Goffstown, Hooksett, Lee, Londonderry, Loudon, Northwood, Nottingham, Pembroke, Pittsfield and Manchester) recognize his name.
He wants people to get to know him and “what I’m going to do if they give me their vote.”
That’s part of what brought Adams last week to a backyard that has played host to several big-time Republican politicians, at the home of former New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority director Claira Monier.
“This pool made Newsweek,” Monier said just before kicking off a meet-and-greet she had been asked to host for Burns’s campaign last Wednesday. (In this case, she was referencing the time it was featured as the backdrop to Bob Dole’s announcement as a presidential candidate in 1996.)
You won’t see Burns, on the other hand, seeking out many strangers’ handshakes.
“I walk into a diner, nobody’s talking to me,” Burns said last week in the basement campaign headquarters he is sharing with gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway. “If I went around and had a handler who went up to people and said, ‘Would you like to meet Bob Burns, he’s running for executive councilor?’ First of all, I’d feel moronic, and second of all they’d be like, ‘Who the heck is this meatball thinking I want to meet him?’ ”
Burns said he’s not convinced that the “traditional grassroots stuff” is particularly effective in an Executive Council race. Instead, Burns said, he’s focusing heavily on using social media and reaching out digitally to the masses to spread the word about his campaign.
Online, Burns’s presence far outweighs his competitor’s: His campaign has 601 Twitter followers and 1,177 “likes” on Facebook to Adams’s 88, as of yesterday afternoon. The Adams campaign is not on Twitter.
And endorsements? Burns said he thinks they’re “actually the most pointless things in the world” – though his Facebook and Twitter personas might suggest otherwise, as he promotes nods from the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, Stark 360 and the New Hampshire Conservative Majority Project.
Adams, meanwhile, has the backing of former U.S. senator John E. Sununu, the Union Leader, Bedford-area business leaders Rich Ashooh and Chuck Rolecek, former District 4 executive councilor Earl Rinker and Sen. Sharon Carson of Londonderry. Former District 4 executive councilor Raymond Wieczorek, who had endorsed Burns in 2012, is a key part of Adams’s steering committee.
In one other stroke of similarity, both men say they’re not afraid to tell it like it is, to make tough calls or bear the brunt for unpopular decisions – but where Adams stressed diplomacy, Burns said he’s known to be more blunt.
And if you ask the candidates, both say their personal histories are what really set them apart.
Adams touts his years of experience at the postal service – he was the chief of staff for three postmaster generals – and his time in the military with giving him the experience needed for the position of executive councilor.
“I think the huge difference is the fact that I have 27 years of executive experience, and I have almost more executive experience than this young man has been alive. I have endured things he couldn’t imagine, have been through things – have been to places I wouldn’t want anyone to go to” Adams said, adding that he’s been trying to avoid electoral “mud-throwing.”
His opponent sees things differently. Maybe it’s a product of “growing up in the early ’90s, probably listening to a little bit too much punk rock and being a little bit too much anti-authority and anti-establishment,” he said, but he tends to be skeptical of the “lobbyist-lawyer crowd” and government “insiders.”
Burns also is not afraid to throw a little mud, turning Adams’s postal service experience into a point of criticism.
“I’ve worked my entire life in the private industry, in a high-tech industry,” Burns said, adding that his knowledge of databases and other information technologies shouldn’t be overlooked in terms of what he’d bring to understanding the contracts coming before the council.
“He’s worked his entire life for the federal government with a failed organization.”
(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)