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With Another Entrant, Republican Primary to Unseat Annie Kuster Heats Up

Concord — State Rep. Marilinda Garcia announced Monday she’ll run for Congress in 2014, teeing up a contested Republican primary for the seat held by first-term Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster.

Garcia, 30, a Salem Republican serving her fourth term in the House, is running in the 2nd District, which stretches from the Massachusetts border to the North Country and includes the cities of Concord and Nashua.

“I’m running because, like most of New Hampshire’s citizens and the wider U.S., I’m very frustrated with the inability of our current political leadership to solve pressing problems. It’s why the majority of Americans, for the first time, are less confident that their children and grandchildren can achieve the American dream,” Garcia said Monday. “So I’m running because I believe America is the last great hope on Earth, and that this is a nation worth fighting for, and I believe I have the skill-set and can benefit from a new generation of ideas and help bring America back on the right path again.”

Garcia is the second Republican to kick off a campaign against Kuster. Gary Lambert, 54, an attorney and former state senator from Nashua, announced in September he would seek the seat.

“Gary welcomes Rep. Garcia to the race and is looking forward to a spirited campaign,” said Ethan Zorfas, Lambert’s campaign consultant, in a statement. “Col. Lambert has served his country in the Marine Corps for over 34 years and wants to bring real leadership to Washington. As a small business owner, husband and father of two daughters, Gary is running to represent the 2nd District because Congresswoman Kuster and political insiders have abandoned the middle-class.”

Democrats Monday dismissed Garcia by linking her to Bill O’Brien, the Mont Vernon Republican and lightning-rod former House speaker who passed on a run for Congress in the district earlier this year.

“The right wing has found yet another reliable rubberstamp who will carry on Bill O’Brien’s Tea Party torch that caused so much damage to families in New Hampshire,” said Marc Brumer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement.

“With two of O’Brien’s loyal rubber-stamps seeking the Republican nomination, New Hampshire voters should brace themselves for Garcia and Lambert’s inevitable reckless race to pander to the same extreme right fringe of the Republican Party that forced the federal government shutdown,” said Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in a statement.

Kuster, 57, an attorney from Hopkinton, ran for Congress in the 2nd District in 2010 but lost narrowly to Republican Charlie Bass, who had previously held the seat for six terms. Two years later, in 2012, she defeated Bass in a rematch.

A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll taken last month showed Kuster tied with Lambert for 2014 — 34 percent for Lambert, 33 percent for Kuster and 31 percent undecided, with a 5.4 percent margin of error. The poll of 333 residents of the 2nd District was taken Oct. 7-16.

“Clearly they think Ann Kuster is in danger, so they’re starting to attack me today, apparently,” Garcia said. “They see she’s weak.”

Garcia was first elected to the state House in 2006, when she was 23. She sits on the powerful House Finance Committee and serves in the House with her sister, Rep. Bianca Garcia, also a state representative from Salem.

Marilinda Garcia is vice president for client relations at Axon Global Services, a cybersecurity firm. A harpist, she also teaches the instrument at Phillips Exeter Academy — the private school where Tom Hassan, husband of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, is the principal.

The Republican National Committee in August named Garcia a “rising star,” and she’s a member of the Future Majority Caucus, a GOP group that seeks to recruit and support women and candidates of color.

Garcia said Monday her youth is an asset to her campaign.

“I do think that I’m uniquely poised to help a younger generation of people that, frankly, need to be involved and obviously are most concerned about the future of our country,” she said. “I think it’s about time we stepped up and had a voice, so that’s why I’m stepping up.”

A Republican primary also is expected in New Hampshire’s 1st District, where Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter is seeking a fourth term. Former congressman and Manchester mayor Frank Guinta, who defeated Shea-Porter in 2010 but lost a rematch in 2012, is squaring off against Dan Innis, who recently stepped down as dean of the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.