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Capital Beat

Capital Beat: Bob Smith is far from the first in N.H. to seek a political comeback

Bob Smith isn’t the first former U.S. senator from New Hampshire to attempt a later-in-life political comeback.

In fact, Smith – who announced a week ago he’ll run against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2014 – won the first of his two terms in the Senate in 1990. His opponent that year: Democrat John Durkin, who was attempting to return to the U.S. Senate a decade after losing his seat to Republican Warren Rudman.

It didn’t work for Durkin. Could it work for Smith?

If it does, it’ll count as an historic accomplishment. Since 1913, when the 17th Amendment made all senators directly elected, 38 U.S. senators have left office and then returned, with the longest gap – 12 years – held by Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats, according to an analysis by Eric Ostermeier on his Smart Politics blog.

Smith would match Coats’s record and become the sixth person in New Hampshire history to return to the U.S. Senate after departing it, according to Ostermeier, and the first since Norris Cotton, the Republican who briefly occupied his old seat in 1975 during the drawn-out dispute over the 1974 Senate election between Durkin and Republican Louis Wyman.

That is, if Smith can win the Republican nomination and then defeat Shaheen in 2014.

Smith enters the race with some built-in advantages, including more experience and name recognition than the two other major Republican candidates, former state senator Jim Rubens and activist Karen Testerman.

But the vocal, quirky conservative also faces the mocking enmity of many establishment Republicans for, among other things, the 1999 presidential run that saw him briefly leave the Republican Party, the nasty 2002 primary he lost to John E. Sununu and his 2004 endorsement of Democrat John Kerry for president.

He’s also spent most of the past decade in Florida, where he briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and 2010. And Shaheen has showed strength in polls this year as she’s flexed her fundraising muscles.

Still, comebacks have been in vogue lately in New Hampshire:

∎ Charlie Bass lost his U.S. House seat in 2006, won it back in 2010 and lost it again in 2012.

∎ Annie Kuster lost to Bass in 2010 but beat him in 2012.

∎ Frank Guinta lost his seat in Congress last year after one term, but is running to take it back next year.

∎ Carol Shea-Porter lost to Guinta in 2010, beat him in 2012 and could face him again in 2014.

∎ And Shaheen lost the 2002 Senate race to Sununu, but came back in 2008 to defeat him.

So, why not Smith?

Here and there

Speaking of the Senate race, what’s Scott Brown up to these days?

The former senator from Massachusetts will headline the New Hampshire GOP’s Dec. 19 holiday fundraiser in Nashua, with tickets starting at $50. The appearance is just the latest sign he’s building bridges and raising his profile in the Granite State ahead of a possible run in 2014 against Shaheen.

But if Brown is serious about switching states, he’ll have to avoid mixing them up as he (nearly) did Thursday night in Londonderry.

“What I’ve heard from the Republicans up here is they’re thankful that I’ve been around for a year, helping them raise money, helping them raise awareness as to the issues that are affecting not only people here in Massachesett – uh, in New Hampshire, but also in Massachusetts, obviously, in Maine,” Brown said, stumbling while speaking to reporters (and on video, natch). “I’ve been to Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut. I’ve been all over the New England area, certainly, talking and helping people raise money.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party responded with a crudely drawn map of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the latter labeled as “your home.”

“Note to Scott Brown: Here in New Hampshire, we know the difference between the Granite State and the Bay State. We hope this map helps you learn the difference, too, and find your way back home to Massachusetts,” said party spokesman Harrell Kirstein in a statement.

King’s back

Also in New Hampshire this month: U.S. Rep. Peter King, who’s exploring a run for president in 2016.

The New York Republican is headlining a Dec. 16 fundraiser in Concord for the Committee to Elect House Republicans. Tickets for the “Christmas Celebration” start at $20, or $10 for a state representative or spouse.

King was in the state in September, and again in October for a Politics & Eggs breakfast in Bedford. Still, he’s far less known than other 2016 hopefuls – a University of New Hampshire poll in October found less than 1 percent of likely GOP primary voters saying they support him.

Boutin staffs up

Sen. David Boutin won re-election last year by 396 votes. So it’s not a total surprise the Hooksett Republican is getting ready a little early for 2014.

Boutin last week announced he’s hired Andrew Provencher as his general campaign consultant. Provencher previously worked for presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, congressional candidate Sean Mahoney and Ted Gatsas, the former state senator and current Manchester mayor.

With Republicans holding a slender 13-11 majority in the Senate, Boutin’s district is sure to be a battleground next year.

His 2012 opponent was Kathleen Kelley of Manchester. Her husband, Patrick Arnold, ran for mayor of Manchester this year but lost to Gatsas.

Revenue dip

State revenue came in below plan for November, the second straight month that collections were down after a strong start to fiscal 2014.

The general and education funds collected $148.5 million in November, $1.6 million less than expected.

The main driver: business taxes, which came in $3.8 million under plan for the month due to an unusual $12.3 million in refunds, compared with $2.2 million in refunds last November.

“We think it may be a timing issue,” said Linda Hodgdon, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services. But, she said, the picture will only become clear with a few more months of data.

General and education fund revenue came in $2 million below expectations in October. But five months into the fiscal year, state revenue is still in the black by $23.3 million, or 3.5 percent.

And all in all, Hodgdon said, “it’s not a huge month. December’s our next huge month.”

Executive tussle

Democrat Michael Cryans of Hanover is looking ahead to the March 11 special election for the District 1 seat on the Executive Council

But his three Republican opponents – Mark Aldrich of Lebanon, Christopher Boothby of Meredith and Joe Kenney of Wakefield – will duke it out first, as they head into a Jan. 21 primary.

Boothby, a former Belknap County commissioner, picked up a big endorsement Friday: House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, the longtime GOP representative from Bartlett.

“The people in my district expect top-notch constituent service, regardless of the office,” Chandler said in a statement. “Christopher is the person to deliver that service.”

Still, don’t count out Kenney, a former state legislator and the 2008 Republican nominee for governor, or Aldrich, a former congressional aide.

Short takes

∎ George Bruno, the former state Democratic Party chairman and U.S. ambassador to Belize, has won this year’s Daniel Webster International Lawyer Award from the International Law Section of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

∎ Jim Merrill is the New Hampshire Republican Party’s new finance chairman, pending approval from the party’s executive committee, Chairwoman Jennifer Horn announced last week.

∎ Democrat Harold Janeway and Republican Steve Duprey were introduced last week as the new frontmen for two anti-casino advocacy groups, Casino Free New Hampshire and the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, as they gear up for 2014.

∎ Grant Bosse is the new majority caucus director at the state Senate, taking over from Tom Cronin, who became Senate communications director in September. Bosse (who’s ending his Sunday Monitor column) also is working for 1st District GOP congressional candidate Dan Innis.

∎ The public memorial service for Ray Burton, who died Nov. 12 after 35 years on the Executive Council, will be held Saturday, 1 p.m., at Plymouth State University.

∎ The Executive Council last week accepted Margaret Fulton’s resignation as assistant commissioner of the Department of Revenue Administration. Gov. Maggie Hassan has nominated Kathryn Skouteris, the DRA’s revenue counsel, as her replacement.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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