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Tax lien ‘truth’ in GOP state party race puts Republican on defensive

Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional race Jennifer Horn speaks to the editorial review board at the Concord Monitor; Wednesday, August 18, 2010.

(Alexander Cohn/Monitor Staff)

Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional race Jennifer Horn speaks to the editorial review board at the Concord Monitor; Wednesday, August 18, 2010. (Alexander Cohn/Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Two weeks before the state Republican Party elects its new leader, candidate Jennifer Horn is being asked to explain a $92,000 IRS lien placed on her Nashua home two years ago. And it’s a fellow Republican who is asking.

On Sunday, Joe Barton, chairman of the Newmarket Republican Committee, posted a copy of Horn’s publicly available lien on the Facebook page of the Manchester Republican Committee. Within four hours, there were nearly 150 comments, many of them from Barton defending his post against complaints from other Republicans.

In an interview yesterday, Barton said he publicized Horn’s lien because he believes the debt leaves questions about Horn’s ability to raise and manage money for the state party. Barton also cited the nearly $230,000 Horn owes herself in campaign expenses for her 2008 and 2010 runs for Congress.

“I think it’s relevant because the GOP chair’s primary function is fundraising,” Barton told the Monitor in a Facebook message. “We get our butts kicked in fundraising every cycle. I think (Horn’s) own personal debt, which I believe is due to the lack of fundraising in her previous campaigns, reflects her ability to fund raise for the party.”

Horn declined to discuss Barton’s post yesterday but provided a written statement.

“Like a lot of families across New Hampshire, the recession took a toll on our household,” Horn wrote. “My husband was under-employed for a period of time and we were forced to make tough decisions, but we have been working with the IRS to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

“It’s a shame that this race for state party chair now includes personal attacks on my family,” Horn continued. “While others may want to spend their time attacking other Republicans, I will remain 100 percent focused on building a stronger New Hampshire Republican Party.”

Horn is one of two candidates seeking to replace party Chairman Wayne MacDonald at the Jan. 26 state party election. The other candidate is Andrew Hemingway of Bristol, who on Sunday issued a statement on Facebook criticizing the “personal attack” on Horn. “Let us remember President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment,” Hemingway wrote. “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,’ and think twice before we attack members of our own party.”

In an interview yesterday, Hemingway said he didn’t learn Barton had posted a copy of Horn’s lien until his phone started ringing Sunday night.

“The calls were from supporters of Horn who asked why I had done this,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it. There is no reason to tear someone down like this. I just don’t think there is any place in this race for personal attacks.”

Hemingway declined to comment when asked whether he felt Horn’s IRS lien and campaign debt jeopardized her ability to lead the party.

Steve Duprey of Concord, a Horn supporter who served several terms as state party chairman, said Barton’s Facebook activity is the kind of thing that not only divides Republicans but turns good candidates away from seeking office.

“I think this is the kind of nonissue and personal issue that . . . that has made our civic discourse much coarser,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons people get fed up with politics.”

Looking for a bright side, Duprey said, “But it certainly dispels the notion that the Republican Party is full of fat cats and rich people. In New Hampshire, Republicans are working people who go through the same economic struggles as everyone else.”

Rep. George Lambert, a Litchfield Republican and enthusiastic supporter of Hemingway, echoed Duprey’s sentiment yesterday. As a Litchfield selectman, Lambert said he’s seen a number of homeowners struggle to pay their taxes in the last several years. “I don’t want to see this lady’s reputation ruined if she’s not done anything wrong,” he said.

Rep. JR Hoell, a Dunbarton Republican, has not declared his support for either candidate. He said yesterday he thinks Horn’s personal debt is a “serious issue” in the election but added that he expects Horn will do well if she wins the race.

“Jennifer is a wonderful person and this is not a character assassination,” he said. “But this is a leadership position and it’s about fundraising. We have to have someone who is meticulous in those areas.”

This is not the first time Barton has had a public falling out with his party.

In April 2011, Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican, contacted the police after Barton allegedly threatened her for opposing right-to-work legislation. Barton acknowledged that he challenged Carson for her vote but denies he threatened her. The police issued Barton a no-trespass order that was reported in the press.

The reaction on Facebook to Barton’s post was divided, and some people referenced the alleged threats against Carson.

“Perhaps you have a problem with strong women,” wrote Rip Bower.

“It is certainly public information,” wrote Ross Harkness. “However, posting something like this on Facebook gives the impression of desperation.”

Louri Boilard wrote, “This right here proves why we lost the election – division.” And John Gibson offered Barton a suggestion: “It would be nice if you would save your fire for Democrats in the upcoming elections.”

Others considered the information important. “I actually think this is pretty relevant and should be answered to,” wrote Lisa Gravel. “Finances are a huge part of the position (Horn) is running for.”

Barton was unapologetic.

“I get that you are all upset by this, that you would prefer to be left in ignorance, hidden from the truth,” he wrote on Facebook.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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