Primary Source: Kuster Has a New Challenger

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The field of Congressional candidates in New Hampshire keeps growing.

Former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, R-Concord, this week announced that she, too, will attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., who has represented the 2nd Congressional district for three terms.

“The people of #NH02 are looking for a high quality candidate to run for Congress and I am flattered that they believe I have the right combination of skills, knowledge, and experience that would bring our New Hampshire values to D.C.,” Blankenbeker said on Facebook.

She formally announced her candidacy on Wednesday at a pub in downtown Concord.

The 53-year-old Blankenbeker went to high school in Fort Walton, Fla., and to what was then known as Troy State University in Alabama, where she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Now a captain in the Navy Reserve, she has been deployed three times to the Middle East, according to her campaign biography, including Afghanistan in 2011-12. She recently moved back to New Hampshire after working on health care policy at the Pentagon and Defense Health Headquarters. She also has a law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center, a precursor to the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

As a legislator, Blankenbeker helped pass a GOP bill that sought to force the state’s attorney general to join a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, maintaining in 2011 that the mandate to buy health insurance “is just the tip of the nanny-state iceberg.”

Blankenbeker this week voiced support for President Donald Trump, telling the Concord Monitor: “I think the president’s done a lot of really good things for our nation. ... Just the tax reform alone. It’s going to bring great relief to our state.”

Two other Republicans in the race are Dr. Stewart Levenson, the former regional director at the Veterans Administration in Manchester, and state Rep. Steve Negron, a retired U.S. Air Force officer from Nashua.

Former WMUR anchor Josh McElveen, who had a brief stint as a vice president at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center last year and also was considering a run, told reporters earlier this week that he would not enter the race.

Meanwhile, over in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, at least seven Democrats are running to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea Porter, including Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, of Manchester. At least two Republicans have announced their candidacies, including state Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican who grew up in Lebanon.

Ayotte to Dartmouth

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will be in Hanover periodically this year. Dartmouth College this week said she has been named the 2018 Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.

A former attorney general who narrowly lost her Senate seat to Democrat Maggie Hassan in 2016, Ayotte will start with a visit to a public policy class at Dartmouth on Feb. 19, have lunch with students, and make other campus visits this spring. She’s also expected to be a Constitution Day speaker at the Rockefeller Center on Sept. 17.

“As a recognized expert on foreign policy, private sector revitalization, and tax reform, Sen. Ayotte will be able to provide students a real-life glimpse into work that spans both the private and public sector,” Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick, a Dartmouth economics professor, said in a news release.

Started in 2013 and named for a former New Hampshire congressman and 1934 Dartmouth graduate, the Perkins Bass program has brought four other visitors to campus, including former Gov. John Lynch, who now is a senior fellow at the Tuck School of Business.

The 49-year-old Ayotte, who grew up in Nashua, graduated from Penn State and earned a law degree at Villanova. Following her Senate loss, she was named to the News Corp. board of directors and also helped introduce Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to her former colleagues.

Briefly Noted

Hang onto your hats. A 2020 presidential candidate will soon be in our midst. U.S. Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat from Maryland who has announced his candidacy, will be meeting with Upper Valley activists and Dartmouth Democrats on Monday. Delaney, who notes he is the only former CEO of a publicly traded company in the House, was a self-made financier. The Washington Post says he is one of the wealthiest members of the House.

Six Upper Valley lawmakers voted no in last week’s 81-63 Vermont House vote to legalize recreational marijuana. They were Democrats Tim Briglin, of Thetford, and Kevin Christie, of Hartford; Republicans Bob Frenier, of Chelsea, Jim Harrison, of Chittenden, and Rodney Graham, of Williamstown; and independent Ben Jickling, of Randolph. State Rep. David Ainsworth, R-Royalton, who has been battling health problems, was absent with leave.

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