Flanagan announces run for U.S. Congress against Kuster

Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Republican state Rep. Jack Flanagan announced Tuesday he will run for U.S. Congress against incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction within the electorate, and they are looking for change,” said Flanagan, of Brookline. “I can influence legislation and public policy enough to improve the lives of people in the second district.”

Flanagan is the first Republican to jump into the race for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, which spans the western half of the state and includes the cities of Concord and Nashua. It’s not yet clear whether he will face a primary.

Flanagan stepped down as House Majority Leader last October to explore a run against Kuster, and said he has received “overwhelming” encouragement from members of his own party and Democrats alike.

Flanagan will hold a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Thursday afternoon.

He said he plans to run on a platform to balance the federal budget, improve veterans access to health care and increase support for law enforcement to tackle substance abuse.

The biggest challenge, he said, will be raising his name recognition among voters.

A recent WMUR Granite State Poll found Flanagan is largely unknown by voters in the district. The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, showed Kuster is “somewhat popular” in her district with a net favorability rating of four percent.

Kuster is serving her second term in office, after she defeated Republican challenger state Rep. Marilinda Garcia in 2014 to win re-election. Kuster’s campaign spent more than $3.6 million in that race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Flanagan says he has raised a “couple thousand dollars” so far, but expects donations to start rolling in now that he has officially declared his candidacy.

Flanagan is serving his third term in the New Hampshire House and is vice chairman of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee. House Speaker Shawn Jasper named Flanagan majority leader in 2014 following a controversial speaker election that pitted Republicans against one another.

Flanagan filed several bills this year including one to establish an online registry system for heroin dealers, which was killed by the Republican-led House in February. He also proposed a bill that would expand New Hampshire’s death penalty to include acts of terrorism. It comes up for a vote this week.

Flanagan said he has been unhappy with Kuster’s performance in Congress.

“She has always touted she is there to help the middle class . . . the middle class shrunk while she was in office,” he said. “It seems to be broken, and I think the public is well aware of that.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)