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John Gregg: Odell May Face Primary Challenge

Newport-area state Sen. Bob Odell, one of the most influential lawmakers in Concord over the past decade, may be facing a primary challenge from a conservative Republican.

The reason: challenger J.P. Marzullo, a former Deering, N.H., selectman who is vice chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, doesn’t think Odell is conservative enough.

Marzullo, who referred to Odell as a “liberal senator” in his announcement, said he is especially disappointed that Odell and two other top Republican senators supported Medicaid expansion as part of a compromise with the Hassan administration earlier this year.

“They really were not listening to the base of the (GOP) committee,” Marzullo said Wednesday. “I think mostly I was disappointed they didn’t listen and they put together their own plan.”

A Connecticut native, the 70-year-old Marzullo moved to New Hampshire nine years ago (he briefly lived in Lyme), and had a career in sales and marketing.

His wife, Donna, recently was featured in a television ad for Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-brothers funded group, attacking the federal Affordable Care Act.

For his part Odell, also 70, is hardly a RINO, or Republican in Name Only.

He has long been a quiet but key player in Republican politics. He spent much of his career as a national GOP fundraiser, starting during the Nixon administration, is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and also serves on the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Odell, who lives in New London, also has worked across party lines on a number of bills. He was a frequent ally of longtime Democratic Gov. John Lynch, but also has close ties to Senate President Chuck Morse and former Senate President Peter Bragdon.

Odell, a New Hampshire native, said he has promised to let Morse know by Friday if he intends to seek a seventh term in the Senate.

Odell noted that he has backed budgets with no new taxes or fees, and “sailed to reelection” in 2012 in a Republican-leaning district that both President Obama and Democrat Maggie Hassan also carried “handily.”

“You throw it at risk if it’s not someone who can reach out to a diverse group of voters,” Odell said.

Claremont was cut out of Odell’s district in the most recent round of redistricting, and it 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.

Fundraising Forecast

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., spent about $100,000 in the last three months but still has a campaign war chest of almost $1.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings through March.

That compares to $259,000 cash on hand for Republican Gary Lambert and $58,684 for state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, the Salem Republican.

Whatever their totals, national money is sure to pour into the race in independent ads targeting Kuster and the eventual Republican nominee.

Garcia earlier this week put out a campaign press release calling on Kuster to “stand up for the American people and demand a criminal investigation” into the actions of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who Republicans say improperly targeted Tea Party groups.

For their part, New Hampshire Democrats earlier this month put out a press release tying Garcia, Lambert and other GOP congressional candidates to the Koch brothers and Republican strategist Karl Rove for opposing Medicaid expansion.

They “continue to prove they are members of the Republican establishment who have drunk the Kool-Aid, running on a Koch-Rove agenda at the expense of New Hampshire’s families,” Democrats asserted.

Health Care Politics

Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has made clear his major campaign theme will be the repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act, and here’s one reason why. A WMUR Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed that only 37 percent of New Hampshire adults support Obamacare, while 51 percent oppose it. In the key graphic of independents, only 26 percent say they support the measure.

Of course, Brown may have to explain more clearly why he supported the so-called Romneycare bill approved in Massachusetts when he served in the Legislature there, and which helped form the basis of the Affordable Care Act. Brown in a Fox News interview last fall rejected such comparisons and said of the reforms in Massachusetts, “we rolled out incrementally.”

CORRECTION

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster’s campaign spent $99,546 in the first quarter of 2014. An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect figure.