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Interested parties step up in wide-open field



Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011
With the announcement yesterday that he will not seek a fifth term, Gov. John Lynch resolved one area of political speculation in New Hampshire. But he opened up a whole new arena. Below are Democrats and Republicans who feature in the newly invigorated parlor game of identifying the gubernatorial candidates of 2012. Most have confirmed they are considering a bid for the corner office, and none has publicly ruled it out.

Democrats

A former state senator from Barrington, Jackie Cilley lost a bid for a third term in the Republican wave of 2010. Since then, Cilley, 60, has produced a legislative newsletter that she distributes through email. She previously ran a marketing research firm and taught at the University of New Hampshire. In the Senate, Cilley chaired the Executive Departments and Administration Committee.

Cilley said yesterday she has been encouraged to run for the governor's office and is considering her options. She praised Lynch for keeping a 'steady hand on the helm' throughout his time as governor.

'I think we need to start with a clean slate,' Cilley said. 'I agree with the governor that democracy depends on change, and we'll see what kind of new ideas surface.'

After resigning last year as director of the state Bureau of Securities Regulation, Mark Connolly started an investment advisory business not far from his home

in New Castle. Connolly, 56, said he had taken no active steps toward running because he thought Lynch would seek another term. But he said he's had conversations with others about his own political future.

'I have been asked by some people to contribute more to the state,' Connolly said. 'Now that the governor's decided not to run for re-election, I'll think seriously of (how) my experiences as an independent businessperson and a former regulator can help New Hampshire and its citizens weather this downturn and prosper economically.'

Connolly resigned as securities chief in the aftermath of the Financial Resources Mortgage fraud, saying his departure would allow him to call attention to failures in state regulation. Before going to work for the state, he worked more than 20 years in business.

A former Senate majority leader from Exeter, Maggie Hassan also lost her seat in the Republican sweep last year. Hassan, 53, served three terms in the Senate, where she chaired the Capital Budget Committee and the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee. Hassan has been exploring a run for governor, and she said yesterday she will decide soon.

'I am seriously considering a run, but I am going to continue doing what I have been doing, which is talking to people throughout the state, getting their advice and counsel,' Hassan said. 'I'll make a decision, I think, in the near future.'

Hassan said New Hampshire had weathered difficult times - a faltering economy, an ice storm, efforts to keep the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard open - in large part because of Lynch's leadership.

A former mayor of Portsmouth, Steve Marchand launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2007 but pulled out after Jeanne Shaheen entered the race. Now 37, he operates a public affairs and communications firm in Portsmouth. He also chairs a political action committee to support candidates for state office.

Marchand said yesterday he is considering a run for governor and expects to make a decision in the near future. Like the other Democrats, Marchand praised Lynch's leadership.

'Gov. Lynch has done an excellent job balancing the need to watch the bottom line during difficult times with watching out for the most vulnerable in our state,' he said. 'That's a very hard balance to maintain.'

Republicans

Ovide Lamontagne, who lost the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to Kelly Ayotte last year, may run.

Lamontagne was honored earlier this year as Americans For Prosperity's 'Conservative of the Year' at a 500-person gala that included speeches by presidential candidates. He was the Republican nominee for governor in 1996 and served as chairman of the New Hampshire Board of Education.

'I expect - very soon - to make an announcement about my own intentions for 2012, but today is for Governor Lynch and his family,' Lamontagne, who practices law at Devine Millimet in Manchester, said in a statement released yesterday.

John Stephen, the former Health and Human Services commissioner who was the Republican nominee for governor last year, said he is focused right now on helping Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign.

'After the primary, I'll certainly be making an announcement on my political future,' he said. Stephen said he's kept in contact with his campaign staff, has continued to monitor the political landscape and had 'a number of individuals contact me' about running.

Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group, has been talking to Republican leaders and activists about a gubernatorial run since at least the springtime, he said. The 34-year-old from Litchfield expects to make a decision by the end of the month.

Most people in New Hampshire know him in his role at Cornerstone, Smith said, but he was also assistant director at the state Division for Juvenile Justice Services for four years. He served in the Legislature from 1996 to 1998, where he was named the Christian Coalition's 'Pro-Family' House Member of the Year.

'I think it's time that we have some fresh, bold leadership in Concord,' Smith said yesterday. 'It's time to have new ideas that'll fundamentally challenge the status quo of state government. I don't think it's time to be electing career politicians and candidates.'

Public Policy Polling has been tracking potential Republican gubernatorial candidates for months, and so far John E. Sununu, the son of former governor John H. Sununu, has consistently polled the best against possible Democratic opponents.

Sununu served three terms in the U.S. House and one six-year term as U.S. Senator before losing his re-election bid to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. He is now a senior policy adviser at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a lobbying and law firm in Washington, D.C. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.