John Gregg: Candidates Stepping Forward for Odell’s Senate Seat

Senate District 8 candidate Jerry Little, R-Weare

Senate District 8 candidate Jerry Little, R-Weare

A second Hillsborough County Republican has said he plans to run for the Newport-area New Hampshire Senate seat long held by state Sen. Bob Odell, R-New London.

And a Democrat from Sunapee also acknowledged yesterday she is seriously considering a bid for the District 8 Senate seat.

Weare Republican Jerry Little — the former president and executive director of the New Hampshire Bankers Association — said on Wednesday he was encouraged weeks ago by Odell to consider a run if the incumbent retired. Odell, a centrist Republican and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, announced last week he would not seek a seventh term in the Senate.

“When Bob announced he was not going to seek re-election, that did get me excited,” the 59-year-old Little said. “I decided that this was the way to pay it forward to the state of New Hampshire.”

Little worked for the bankers association, where he was also a registered lobbyist in Concord, for 23 years before retiring in 2011. He was working as press secretary for then-Gov. John Sununu in 1988 when Sununu was named White House chief of staff to incoming President George H.W. Bush.

Little praised Odell’s tenure, saying, “I think Sen. Odell has been a wonderful senator in that he listens to all sides before he makes a decision. I think that’s invaluable, and that’s the kind of senator I will be,” Little said.

His comments stood in marked contrast to those last week of former Deering Republican J.P. Marzullo, who said he planned to challenge Odell in the Republican primary and called Odell a “liberal senator.”

Marzullo said he was especially concerned by Odell’s vote in favor of Medicaid expansion. Little said he likely would also have opposed Medicaid expansion, but said he wants to find a bipartisan alternative to the federal Affordable Care Act.

“The individual mandate baffles me, and I think that when people say ‘repeal Obamacare,’ I say ‘replace it with what, what we had before, which was failing?’”

“We need a bipartisan group to replace it with something. My concern is that the Medicaid expansion creates a level of inertia that makes it very hard politically to make the kind of fixes we need to get the right system in place,” Little said.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Linda Tanner, a first-term Sunapee Democrat who represents a Sullivan County floterial district comprised of Plainfield, Grantham, Cornish, Springfield, Sunapee, Newport, Unity and Croydon, also confirmed yesterday she is looking at a potential Senate bid.

“I’m considering it,” said Tanner, 68, who taught health and physical education at Kearsarge Regional High School for 35 years. “I haven’t made a final decision yet.”

State Rep. Virginia Irwin, D-Newport, who earlier had expressed interest in the seat, said she was deferring to Tanner, who appears to have the backing of Democratic party officials.

District 8 now comprises Newport, Grantham, Sunapee, Croydon, Unity, Springfield, New London, Goshen, Newbury, Sutton, Bradford, Lempster, Acworth, Langdon, Marlow, Washington, Hillsborough, Windsor, Stoddard, Antrim, Deering, Bennington, Francestown and Weare.

With a population of 8,785 in the 2010 Census, Weare is the largest town in the district; Newport has about 6,500 residents, Hillsborough a little over 6,000.

Around Campus

Seen a familiar political face around Hanover this year? That would be none other than former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, the four-term Democrat, now teaching at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

The 61-year-old Lynch, the former president and CEO of furniture maker Knoll, Inc., is teaching a second-year elective course on the similarities and differences between being a CEO in the private sector and holding the same type of job in the public sector.

“The students are so bright and so engaged,” said Lynch, who teaches two sections of about 70 students apiece. “They have the experience that helps with a classroom (discussion).”

Lynch is no stranger to business school campuses. He holds a master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School and a law degree from Georgetown, and also previously served as director of admissions at Harvard Business School.

U.S. House Race

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., will be in Hanover today for a “women’s business leadership roundtable” at Dartmouth, but it’s not open to the general public. Kuster has been targeted by camera-wielding Republican activists in the past — and fared poorly on the screen.

A UNH Survey Center poll released last week found the first-term Democrat “continues to struggle with poor favorability ratings” and said Kuster was in a “dead heat” with would-be Republican challenger Marilinda Garcia, a Salem state representative who is a Tea Party favorite.