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Ayotte is the best choice for Senate

Last modified: 9/12/2010 12:00:00 AM
In picking a candidate to compete against Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes for retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg's seat, Republican primary voters must choose from a field of flawed contenders. Deciding whether former attorney general Kelly Ayotte, former state Board of Education chairman Ovide Lamontagne or businessman Bill Binnie would make the best senator was extremely difficult.

Our vote goes to Ayotte, whose long and successful career in public service sets her apart from the other candidates.

Ayotte has had a succession of difficult jobs for state government - and has won the approval of both her bosses and her staff. She was a state homicide prosecutor, legal counsel to the governor and attorney general. She worked for Republican Gov. Craig Benson and the Democrat who ousted him, John Lynch.

Her experience taught her to work with politicians of both parties. She sparred with opposing counsel - and cut deals when appropriate. She treated the victims of the state's worst crimes with sensitivity and respect.

Ayotte took on significant challenges as AG: arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court, changing the rules for the incarceration of sexual predators, advising the governor on touchy political and budgetary matters, overseeing the prosecution of the state's first death penalty cases in modern times. In all, she has shown herself to be an ethical, serious public servant.

Ayotte's track record outweighed our disappointment in her lackluster campaign. The negative tone was, sadly, what many voters have come to expect from politicians. And Ayotte's off-the-shelf primary campaign, in which she never strayed from predictable positions recited as party talking points, did a disservice to voters.

What is Ayotte passionate about? What sort of senator would she be? If she wins Tuesday's GOP primary, we urge her to spend less time during the general election reciting from the Republican playbook and more time showing voters her true self.

Voters who consider themselves both fiscally and socially conservative have the real deal in Lamontagne. He is steadfast in his beliefs, can explain why he holds them and expresses his views genially and with no hint of malice toward those who disagree. But those views - he supports, for example, amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit abortions even in cases of rape or incest - put him far outside the mainstream in a pro-choice state that sanctions gay marriage.

Binnie, a multi-millionaire who rose from humble beginnings to become a successful international manufacturer and later a developer, believes that citizens, to the fullest extent possible, should be free of government interference. As such, he is pro-choice and against government intrusion into the private lives of all citizens, gay or straight. Those positions are close to our own, but Binnie is a newcomer to politics and to public service. His campaign has shown him to be knowledgeable and articulate, but combative and defensive. It's impossible so far to know what the state would get if it sent him to Washington.

That brings us back to Ayotte, whose positions are more mainstream than those of Lamontagne and whose record of dedicated public service puts her well ahead of Binnie. She is the best choice for Republicans to put up against Hodes in November.


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