Guinta takes eight-way race

Last modified: 9/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
Former Manchester mayor Frank Guinta, who ran on his record of bringing tax relief to the state's largest city, will take on Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st District after defeating seven rivals in Tuesday's Republican primary.

Guinta, 39, who started campaigning a full year before some candidates, fended off several strong challengers, including Bedford business executive Rich Ashooh, who called Guinta early yesterday morning to concede Guinta's narrow victory. Guinta was unavailable for comment, and his spokesman said yesterday afternoon he was holding off on declaring a win.

In agreement on most of the issues, the candidates emphasized experience and ethics as they fought for a chance to unseat Shea-Porter, who faced no primary opposition.

Guinta emphasized his government experience as a former mayor and lawmaker, taking credit for Manchester's first tax cap and its first tax cut in a decade. While he tried to keep the focus on the 50 federal budget cuts he proposed totaling more than $827 billion, his challengers kept the spotlight on Guinta's personal finances after he amended a disclosure form to list a previously unreported bank account holding between $250,000 and $500,000. Guinta updated the form after lending his campaign $245,000, raising questions about where the money came from.

Though Guinta said it was a simple mistake, Portsmouth businessman Sean Mahoney used the issue to suggest Guinta was unethical, while retired bank executive Bob Bestani of Newmarket suggested he was incompetent if he couldn't understand the disclosure form instructions.

It was the second attempt at the nomination and second loss for Mahoney, 44, who spent $900,000 of his own money on this race and finished third in an eight-way race in 2002. A former Republican National Committeeman who resigned his position in April to protest what he called the party's 'out-of-touch, free spending culture of Washington,' he emphasized his experience running a small business as publisher of Business NH Magazine.

Ashooh, 46, who is on leave from his job as an executive for the defense contractor BAE Systems and once worked for former senators Gordon Humphrey and Warren Rudman, cited his business expertise and government experience while offering himself as a fresh face. Bestani, the lesser-known of the four major candidates, touted his long career in banking and corporate finance, including a stint at the U.S. Treasury and work running banks in Asia and Afghanistan.

Though Shea-Porter's seat has been considered vulnerable, she has raised more money than any of the Republicans. The most recent poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in late July, showed her slightly ahead of Ashooh, Bestani and Mahoney and about even with Guinta.

Four other candidates also were on the Republican ballot. They were Peter Bearse of Danville, Andrew Kohlhofer of Fremont, Richard Parent of Wolfeboro and Kevin Rondeau of Rochester.

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