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John Gregg: Replacing Ray

OK, folks, the holidays are over, and we’re in an election year.

In fact, most New Hampshire voters in the Upper Valley could head to the polls as early as Jan. 21 for the primary in the District 1 special election to replace the late Ray Burton on the Executive Council.

There’s a three-way primary among Republicans, and candidates have already been meeting voters and raising money.

Among the GOP, former Belknap County Commissioner Christopher Boothby of Meredith last week reported a campaign warchest of $35,417 and has also racked up endorsements from several prominent legislators, including state Sens. Bob Odell, R-Lempster, Jeanie Forester, R-Meredith, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.

Also running hard is former state Sen. Joe Kenney, a Wakefield Republican and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kenney, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2008 against Democratic Gov. John Lynch, boasts that he is the only candidate with Statehouse experience and reported a campaign fund of $16,336.

Among his backers is former state Rep. Paul Mirski, an Enfield Republican who served with Kenney in the New Hampshire House for four terms. “I think he has very high standards, he’s principled, and he’s very down to earth,” Mirski said of Kenney. “He has a good, strong history of constituent service.”

Rounding out the field is Lebanon Republican Mark Aldrich, who has been light in the fundraising department — just $85 cash on hand — but is hoping his contacts around the district will help in what is likely to be a very low-turnout primary. Aldrich, who recently moved back to Lebanon from Wilmot, N.H., served as state director for U.S. Sens. Gordon Humphrey and Bob Smith for two decades, and also served as economic development director in Claremont almost a decade ago.

Aldrich, whose 89-year-old father, Frederick, is a former mayor of Lebanon, said he was the least political of the candidates, but had the necessary experience for the Executive Council, which oversees gubernatorial nominations and state contracts over $10,000.

“I’ve got good qualifications for the job because of my experience in government,” Aldrich said.

On the Democratic side, Grafton County Commissioner Michael Cryans, a Hanover Democrat who grew up in Littleton, is unopposed, and has the strong backing of party stalwarts. Cryans, who reported $17,914 in his campaign account, this week picked up the endorsement of Teamsters Local Union 633, which has more than 6,000 members in the state. The Teamsters Local said Cryans, who worked for years as a banker and teacher in the Littleton area, has “the strongest North County roots of anyone in this race.” The general election will be held on March 11, New Hampshire’s Town Meeting Day.

County Seat

Meanwhile, Grafton County lawmakers plan to interview five finalists among the 12 applicants who are seeking to replace Burton as a Grafton County commissioner. State Rep. Andy White, the Lebanon Democrat who chairs the delegation, said interviews planned for Monday were postponed until Jan. 20 because of the icy weather. White said the five finalists are Michael King, a North Haverhill resident and former head of the North Country Council; Richard Long, a Bath resident and former Belknap County commissioner; state Rep. Linda Lauer, D-Bath; Dennis Ward, a dairy farmer and town moderator in Monroe; and Peter Glenshaw, a former Lyme School Board chairman who ran against Burton in 2006.

The full Grafton County delegation is slated to vote on a successor to Burton on Jan. 27, and White said he doesn’t think lawmakers will make party affiliation an issue. “Nobody was asked their party affiliation, and I don’t think anyone disclosed it,” White said. “We’re looking for a candidate who most closely resembles the traits that voters had chosen (in Burton).”

Briefly Noted

∎  Humphrey, the former U.S. senator, is backing Etna Republican Jim Rubens in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

∎ Ron Bublat, a former Croydon r esident now living in Tennessee, captured the crazy weather this week with an email that read: “(Tuesday’s) temp on your website at noon showed +8 degrees F. In Greeneville, Tenn., at the same time, it was +5 degrees F. There is something wrong with that picture. And I thought moving south was going to be warmer!”

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.