Judd Gregg, Citing Commute, Quits Lobbying Firm

Nashua, n.h. — Former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., spiked viral speculation Thursday that his departure as top executive with a high-powered Wall Street lobbying group signaled that a political comeback was in the offing.

Gregg’s decision to step down as CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association did come as a surprise for its timing.

But the former senator and governor told associates he was stunned by the amount of travel he had to do between Washington, New York and elsewhere since taking the $3-million-a-year post last May.

“My decision to step down ... only reflects my personal need to spend less time commuting to Washington from New Hampshire and slowing a hectic schedule,” Gregg said in the statement.

Gregg will remain with the firm as an associate.

The announcement touched off rampant speculation on the Internet that the timing of Gregg’s announcement meant he was ready to launch a political comeback.

The obvious place for that would be back in the U.S. Senate, where he served three terms before leaving of his own accord in 2010, being replaced by his hand-picked successor, Nashua Republican Kelly Ayotte.

“Been there, done that,” Gregg said, quoting his longtime friend President George H.W. Bush.

Gregg’s associates said the former New Hampshire senator was happy to return to semi-retirement, which he had been in before taking the Wall Street post.

“He loved his career in public service but has no plans ever to return to it,’’ a close Gregg insider told The Telegraph. What made the speculation all the more juicy is it came six days after Gregg’s former colleague, previous U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, stunned some of his own aides by confirming that he would move back from Florida to mount a bid for the GOP nomination here.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, of Hanover, and Franklin conservative activist Karen Testerman are already seeking the GOP bid for the right to face off against Shaheen.

Gregg’s defection comes at a time when SIFMA was gearing up for a broader investor-first initiative in an effort to help rebuild investors’ trust in financial services industry. Former chairman Chet Helck, a major force in developing the new initiative, has repeatedly said Gregg was a linchpin in moving the program forward.

Gregg made a major speech to the National Press Club last month with a new education initiative to help investors on their rights and how to attract a successful relationship with a financial adviser.

The former senator also stepped back into the Capitol Hill debate with a stinging op-ed commentary condemning the move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to end the right to filibuster presidential judicial nominations.