By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
CONCORD — Tea Party leader and former state GOP chair Jack Kimball wasted no time after being named U.S. Senate candidate Bob Smith’s campaign manager Wednesday afternoon to try to bring the battle to Smith’s primary opponents.
Kimball said that he intends to re-issue Smith’s challenge to primary foes Scott Brown and Jim Rubens for a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates, perhaps as many as 10, to allow a free-flowing discussion of the issues.
Kimball said his top goal for the moment is to show that Smith is the only conservative in the Senate race. That, he feels, is the key to Smith winning the primary.
“There’ is no question about it,” Kimball said in an interview with the New Hampshire Journal shortly after being named campaign manager. “Bob is the only conservative in this race. I don’t’ care how they try to spin Jim Rubens, he is not a conservative. There is plenty of information to that effect.
“Everybody knows that Jim Rubens is not a conservative and that’s really all we have to do is show it. Scott Brown is not resonating. They can push him all they want, but it’s not going to work.”
Kimball is the former chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty Caucus, one of the original liberty movement groups in the state. He ran for governor in 2010, losing in a primary to John Stephen, but became recognized as the leading Tea Party advocate in the state.
He became GOP chairman in January 2011, only to resign voluntarily after being asked to do so by the party establishment nine months later.
Kimball has since remained a key player in conservative politics. He initially backed Karen Testerman for the Senate seat but then was instrumental in the series of events that led to her deciding not to file for the Senate last Friday and instead back Smith.
“In all honesty it was a team effort,” said Kimball. “I had met earlier at the request of the Testerman campaign with Bob and the purpose was that at a certain point, both of them would look at certain criteria to make a decision because everyone had agreed only one of them could go forward.
“Bob said he was willing to do it if the criteria were not met. But it turned out that Karen was the one to do it and all agreed that for the good of the state, we would all get behind Bob.”
Now, the state GOP has asked all candidates for top offices to pledge in a “unity letter” to support the GOP nominees in the three federal races and governor in general election.
As of Wednesday evening, Smith, alone has refused to sign the pledge, although he has not ruled out doing so in the future. Smith says Brown has not agreed to enough debates “so that the Republican primary voters can make an intelligent decision as to who best represents Republican values.”
That view held even after Brown agreed Wednesday to two additional debates with Smith and Rubens, bringing the number of planned joint appearances to four.
Kimball said the party’s idea of sending a “Unity Letter” initially “was very misplaced. It caused rifts where there weren’t any and I think it was an attempt to taint Bob.
“As Bob said, it is premature now. We know what’s going on and Bob’s response was a good one.”
As for his outlook, Kimball said, “We conservatives are so united. We feel we’re the front-runner and we’re going to continue down that road. The main focus right now is the primary.”