John Gregg: N.H. Republican Establishment Weighs In on Candidates

Two mainstream New Hampshire Republicans are lining up support from some known quantities in the GOP establishment as they face primary contests this summer.

Former defense contractor Walt Havenstein this week released the names of seven sitting state senators — a majority of the 13-member Republican caucus — who have endorsed him in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Havenstein, the former CEO of BAE Systems, faces a primary against libertarian-leaning Republican strategist Andrew Hemingway of Bristol.

But Havenstein’s campaign said the state senators, including Bob Odell of New London, Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, are endorsing him.

“I’m proud to endorse Walt for governor,” Morse said in a news release from the Havenstein campaign. “We need someone in the corner office who will be proactive in setting the agenda, and I know Walt will do that. He is exactly the leader New Hampshire needs to address the challenges we face.” Also backing Havenstein is state Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who grew up in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Weare Republican Jerry Little, who hopes to take over from the retiring Odell in the Newport-area Senate District 8 seat , says 20 prominent residents in the district have backed his candidacy.

Little, the former president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, is in a primary against former Deering Selectman J.P. Marzullo.

Among the activists backing Little are state Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican who also represents Deering; and state Reps. Skip Rollins of Newport, Steve Smith of Charlestown and Jim Grenier of Lempster.

Although Odell himself isn’t on the list, he said this about Little in a recent email to the Valley News: “When I made my firm decision (not to run) in February, Jerry was one of a couple of people on my list to call to see if they were interested in running. He and I discussed it and I encouraged him at that time to run. I believe Jerry will be an excellent candidate and will be a fine, capable state Senator.”

State Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, is also running to succeed Odell in the district, which includes the Upper Valley towns of Newport, Grantham, Sunapee, Croydon, Unity, Springfield and New London.

Education Politics

Newly elected Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, is joining a slew of Republicans for some election-year politics, calling on Hassan to withdraw her nomination of New Castle resident Bill Duncan to the state Board of Education. Duncan is head of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education and has sued to overturn a GOP-backed law that gives tax credits to businesses that provide money for scholarships to private and religious schools.

“Mr. Duncan has been an active antagonist to charter schools and has been very active on many other educational issues in a way that indicates he is a poor choice for a board that should be taking every parent and family’s opinion into consideration,” wrote Kenney, whose district includes the Upper Valley. An Executive Council vote on Duncan’s nomination is possible today.

Don’t look for Hassan to cave to the GOP agitation. She filed a friend of the court brief earlier this year, urging the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision that diverting taxpayer dollars from public schools to religious schools violates the state constitution.

“Happy” Dartmouth

Given all the bad publicity about drinking and sexual assaults on campus, Dartmouth College may finally have caught a public relations break.

Dartmouth sophomore Jake Gaba, and some fellow students have created an on-campus video that depicts dozens of students, and some faculty members, lip-syncing and grooving to the popular song Happy by Pharrell Williams.

“Very happy” might be an apt description for the reaction in the Admissions Office, since the video shows a multicultural sweep of campus — and some students who can really dance. (The video is viewable on the Upper Valley Dispatch blog at

Dartmouth’s PR machine highlighted the video in its Dartmouth Now email and noted that outgoing Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson and senior lecturer Charles Wheelan, along with his dog, make cameo appearances. What Dartmouth didn’t say is that Keggy the Keg, Dartmouth’s unofficial drinking mascot, also shows up — three times.

To his great credit, perhaps, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon does not appear in the video. It’s easy to imagine that former President Jim Yong Kim, never shy when it came to feel-good publicity, would have made a point of being there.

“Our goal with this video was to make everyone on campus feel happier and more like a community,” Gaba said in a college release. Gaba made headlines earlier this year with a YouTube video that showed him dancing across parts of China in 100 days.