So you’re thinking of running for President of the United States and your attention has lately turned to the “Live Free or Die” state. Who should you call if you’re serious enough to start building a team? We here at NH Journal have assembled the list of the top strategists, operatives, interest group leaders and grassroots activists; fifty in all.
The caveats and criteria. First, we decided to include no state elected officials on the list. New Hampshire has an unusually large House of Representatives, of which almost three-fourths will be Republicans when the new session begins. We couldn’t put them all on a list, but suffice to say, it’d be a good idea to get to know each one, especially the incoming Senate President Peter Bragdon and Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien. Second, we left the federal delegation off the list, as well. If you didn’t call Kelly Ayotte, Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta on November 2nd to congratulate them, stop reading this right now and pick up the phone! Finally, we left the big endorsers off the list: The Steve Merrills, Ovide Lamontagnes and John H. Sununus. These folks are in a different stratosphere altogether.
We had numerous disagreements while compiling this list. And we surveyed state leaders outside of our editorial board. Sad to say, we probably overlooked some great names. And no doubt we’ll see new stars emerge from this cycle. So we want to hear your ideas, as well. Use the comment section below this article to add folks we may have (inadvertently) ignored. Or suggest names using Facebook or Twitter (be sure to include the #NHJ hashtag).
Operatives and Strategists
Charlie Arlinghaus – Arlinghaus is a veteran of Republican Party politics and campaigns. He also heads the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, the state’s premier free market think tank. Arlinghaus is widely respected for his policy expertise and his deep Rolodex.
Mike Biundo – Amid the will-he-or-won’t-he run for state party Chairman drama is one undeniable fact: Biundo was the undisputed leader of Frank Guinta’s successful Congressional campaign. Biundo is a campaign operative with unique grassroots talents – the very talents an aspiring president needs on the ground in New Hampshire.
Brett Bosse – The Guinta campaign came under intense media scrutiny in both the primary and the General Elections. Bosse, Guinta’s comms guy, was unflappably on message throughout it all. He weathered the storm and came out victorious. There will be many storms to weather during the presidential primary. Bosse is in fighting trim.
Jamie Burnett – This veteran of the First District Congressional primary (he headed up Rich Ashooh’s campaign) has an intuitive and strategic mind and great relationships with all the state’s players. He’s also known to be very close to the Sununu clan. In fact, his business partner James Sununu may run for state party Chairman.
Liz Christofferson – Liz ran John Stephen’s recent campaign for Governor. While not successful the campaign did something no one else had been able to do, make John Lynch fight for every vote. The 19 to 5 Republican majority in the State Senate is a direct result of Stephen running an effective campaign against a very popular incumbent Governor. Christofferson was the one keeping the trains on time.
Paul Collins – This top-shelf strategist is thrifty with his words but not his institutional knowledge of Granite State politics and Republican players. Collins was Sen. John E. Sununu’s right hand man for years and is known to be exceptionally tight with the whole Sununu clan.
Sarah Crawford – Crawford is a veteran of the McCain battles in ’00 and ’08. Consequently she has established tight relationships with just about every Republican leader in the state. She’s smart, works extremely hard and has the Internet savvy to help expand a campaign’s presence online. Crawford ran Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s PAC during the midterms.
Mike Dennehy – Winning matters and Mike Dennehy wins presidential campaigns in New Hampshire. Dennehy is already being heavily recruited by prospective candidates. Whoever lands him will have a leg up on the competition. [Note: Dennehy serves on the editorial board of NH Journal.]
Steve Duprey – Duprey has been a mainstay within New Hampshire Republican politics for years. He has the strategic sense, business ties and press savvy to play a major leadership role on a national campaign, to say nothing of a statewide effort. Duprey may be pegged to be the state’s Republican National Committeeman.
Tom DeRosa – In his second stint with the NH GOP this year, Tom brought a new sophistication to their online and social media programs. In 2008, Tom was a respected field manager for Romney for President and then became the political director for the state GOP. In just a few years, Tom has built a breadth of experience that will benefit any campaign.
Jay Flanders – Flanders is currently serving as Chief of Staff to Senate President Peter Bragdon, but he’s also worked on numerous congressional and statewide campaigns. Not only is he hard working and experienced, but in his current position he‘ll have unprecedented access to the thinking of key State Senators.
Jeff Grappone – There are many operatives who do a good job communicating a message to the media in New Hampshire and Washington, but Jeff Grappone stands head and shoulders above the rest. As the Communications Director for Kelly Ayotte, he was masterful at assembling a message – positive or contrast – and disseminating it in the most appropriate fashion. A campaign with Jeff Grappone is a campaign that has a great chance of victory.
Erin Hass – No one understands the fundamentals of a campaign better than Erin Hass. Her expertise helped guide Mike Downing through a crowded six-way primary to become the new County Sheriff of Republican-rich Rockingham County.
Patrick Hynes — Hynes is a national player with deep ties in the Granite State. An early leader in Internet communications, Hynes now has a strong reputation among business and political leaders in Washington. Hynes ran online outreach operations for John McCain in 2008 and serves as a consultant to Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s PAC, as well as a number of national Republican committees. [Note: Hynes serves on the board of NH Journal.]
Periklis Karoutas – Periklis showed that he can step into a difficult situation and make the best of it after joining Bill Binnie’s campaign for US Senate. Periklis has also worked as the right hand for Deb Vanderbeek when she ran Jeb Bradley’s campaigns for Congress. Karoutas is a smart, young operative who will bring a steady hand to many campaigns in the future.
Rich Killion – Killion was brought in to provide direction and strategic advice for John Stephen’s gubernatorial campaign and deserves much of the credit for making that such a competitive race. In addition, Killion is a veteran of Romney’s 2008 campaign and numerous other statewide efforts.
Andy Leach – The soon-to-be former Executive Director of the state party is going to work for Kelly Ayotte’s state operations for her new US Senate office. Ayotte’s deft recruitment of Andy Leach gives her a solid staffer in a key role. How long will Leach stay on the federal payroll with every presidential candidate knocking down his door?
Kerry Marsh – Few people on this list have her combination of grassroots connections and campaign experience. She’d be an asset to any presidential campaign. Marsh is a dynamo who has worked for everyone and everything Republican since when she was in college. Marsh has the passion and energy to be a MVP for any campaign. She will be a player in 2012 and beyond.
James McKay – McKay, from Salem, has worked in Republican politics at the highest levels for twenty years. His company, Norway Hill Associates, has worked with or for nearly every Republican player in the state. Precious few understand better how campaigns work and how they succeed. You can count on McKay for clear-eyed analysis and strategy. [Note: McKay serves on the editorial board of NH Journal.]
Jim Merrill – Merrill shepherded Ovide Lamontage’s oh-so-close second-place finish against Kelly Ayotte. Ovide is making aggressive moves to leave his impression on the state party and Merrill is his man. Merrill ran Mitt Romney’s effort in New Hampshire in 2008 and is expected to do so again, should Romney seek the 2012 nomination.
Jayne Millerick – Millerick, a former Chair of the state party, understands image management and communications as well as, if not better than, anyone in the Granite State. And when others lose their cool, Millerick can be relied on to make sober judgments and smart decisions. [Note: Millerick serves on the editorial board of NH Journal, oh and she’s my wife.]
BJ Perry – Perry, who ran the Republican victory program in 2010, is a trusted program manager. He has an encyclopedic knowledge on the grassroots players in NH and understands GOTV operations. The next party Chair will most likely peg him to stay on as party Executive Director, but the presidentials will be sending their holiday greetings well in to 2011. We’ll all see soon enough where BJ ends up but it will be a key role for sure.
Samantha Piatt – Piatt runs the political machine that Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas has developed over his very successful tenure in competitive electoral politics. Its doubtful that she would leave the Mayor’s side – rumors abound that he has bigger races in his future. But a mayoral loan of Sam to a presidential campaign would be a huge asset and provide a leg up for any candidate.
Tom Rath – It wouldn’t be a presidential cycle without Tom Rath. No one can remember a time when Rath wasn’t front-and-center in the process, whether defending New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status or advising frontrunners. 2012 will be no exception. Rath was a senior advisor to Romney in ’08 and is expected to be so again in ’12 if Romney runs … but he hasn’t actually said so.
James Sununu – How many Sununus are there? We’re not even sure, but they all have common traits: They’re smart, aggressive and good at winning. James Sununu is being recruited by many Republicans to run for Chairman of the state party, which would take him off the table for a presidential. But if he declines to run or someone else gets in, expect the candidates to camp out on his doorstep.
Deb Vanderbeek – Vanderbeek is former Congressman and current State Sen. Jeb Bradley’s right hand. She’s battled with and against just about everyone in the state and has survived to tell about it. Expect Vanderbeek to be heavily recruited by the presidential candidates … and expect the one she lands with to do really well.
Rob Varsalone – After getting Craig Benson elected Governor in 2002, Varsalone went overseas and all but disappeared from the Granite State Republican scene. This year he returned to save Kelly Ayotte’s Senate campaign from brutal attacks in the primary. That’s two huge statewide victories. His phone is probably ringing off the hook.
Ryan Williams – The state party mouth piece this past cycle. The man the Democrats said, “earned his degree in gutterball politics.” Williams served as much more than a name at the top of a press release. Add his presidential campaign experience (Romney 2008), and Williams is a player now. Ryan will be a big presence in the national media this upcoming cycle and there may be Brady Press room podium exposure in his long and bright future.
Chris Wood – “Woody” has been involved in over a dozen or more political cycles in New Hampshire. While he often operates well behind the scenes, voters have always seen the works of his hidden hand whether they knew it or not. “Woody” is an operatives’ operative, respected not just for his work ethic but his endless Rolodex. He is one of a handful of folks that anyone in a NH ground war who would welcome in the fox hole.
Will and/or Jen Wrobleski – Will most recently managed Ovide Lamontagne’s US Senate campaign and is a staunch conservative activist. Jen is a past Executive Director of the state GOP and maintains strong connections with Republican women across the Granite State. They are an important duo who can make the difference in a campaign
Paul Young – Big time players wanted Young to serve as Chairman of the state party. He’s not running, but expect to hear his name associated with one of the top-tier campaigns next year. Young has been a senior advisor on five presidential campaigns over the years, beginning with Jack Kemp. He’s a conservative with strong ties to the business community and many civic and religious leaders.
Interest Group Leaders
Andrew Hemingway – The founder of the Liberty Caucus, which now numbers 107 conservative Republican state representatives. Under Hemingway’s leadership the Liberty Caucus is credited with electing Bill O’Brien as Speaker of the New Hampshire House. What’s more, he’s a social media whiz. Hemingway’s business expertise is in building online communities, a valuable asset to any presidential campaign.
Corey Lewandowski – Corey heads up the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity and is widely believed to have the most vibrant and up-to-date lists of conservatives in the New Hampshire. He was instrumental in getting Granite State tea parties organized throughout the state. Presidential campaigns will be making a run at this conservative with a broad network.
Shannon McGinley – As Chairman of the Board of Cornerstone Policy Research, Shannon has built a network of social conservatives that is second to none. She is a force to be reckoned with in the conservative movement and brings immediate credibility to anyone running for office.
Ed Naile – The ubiquitous head of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers has spent well over a decade fighting for taxpayers in New Hampshire, at the local, state and federal level. Ed has seen it all and his leadership would give a solid seal of approval to any fiscal conservative thinking of a White House run. A no nonsense hard driving grassroots leader.
Kevin Smith – The star of 2010 election cycle in NH. He took a morbid, feeble organization, Cornerstone Policy Research, and turned it into the 800 pound gorilla of the midterms. He had a superb supporting cast with his board of directors who strongly backed Smith at every turn. They were the most active New Hampshire-base organization in the 2010 cycle and he will be heavily recruited for 2012.
Fred Tausch – Jumping in to the statewide scene in February of 2009, Fred made an instant name for himself by starting, and solely funding, a grassroots organization (NH Steward) to fight President Obama’s stimulus program. Fred held several high level events this year including the day-long conference that attracted Newt Gingrich and conducted the first US Senate primary forum. NH Steward now boasts of having over 10,000 members.
Jack Tulley – Most people know that Jack Tulley has the most successful automotive dealerships in New Hampshire but the respect he commands goes well beyond the Nashua business community. When he signs on with a campaign he brings money connections, smart ideas and a strong network.
Paul Chevalier – Paul has been a leader in the Veterans community for decades, but began weaving politics and veterans together in 1999 as Chairman of Veterans for John McCain. Paul single-handedly pulled together a 1,000 veteran network that built a strong foundation for John McCain’s upset victory in 2000 and again in 2008.
Peter Angerhofer – Angerhoffer came out of nowhere to run an extremely credible State Senate campaign in one of the most Democratic districts in the state. He personally helped the state party fund a victory office in Dover during the midterms, after the RNC’s resource commitments fell through. It’s that kind of dedication that might just help one campaign for president rise above the others.
Rich Ashooh – Ashooh is coming off a respectable Congressional primary campaign losing to Congressman-elect Frank Guinta in his first run for public office. A former staffer to Senator Warren Rudman and University System of NH Trustee, Ashooh has developed a strong network of contacts in the business and higher education community.
Jennifer Horn – A former (and potentially future) radio talk show host and mother from the Nashua area as well as a two time congressional candidate from the western Congressional district. Horn has a loyal following and she is as Right on the issues as anyone. Her lack of fundraising has been her only real hurdle to her electoral success, but presidential candidates don’t need her for fundraising, they need her for grassroots organizing. Horn will be sought after and she will be worth the pursuit.
Jack Kimball – A strong voice for the Tea Party movement in New Hampshire, Kimball would be a valuable addition to any campaign looking to appeal to Tea Party voters and conservative constitutionalists. He ran unsuccessfully for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010 and may seek the Chairmanship of the state party.
John Lyons – Lyons, a former McCain supporter represents the independent maverick wing of NH’s seacoast. He served on the state Board of Education and runs a successful law practice while staying involved in a variety of political issues from education to energy policy. Lyons was heavily involved in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s state PAC.
Sean Mahoney – The owner of Business NH Magazine, Mahoney is a leading party fundraiser with strong conservative roots. The state’s former Republican National Committeeman and twice a candidate for Congress, he has earned the respect of many activists across the state.
David McLaughlin – Anyone who wants to learn the importance of going door-to-door should seek out former Nashua alderman Dave MacLaughlin. He has the pulse of Ward 8 – and beyond – and is one of the most respected leaders in the entire city of Nashua.
Leann Moccia – A longtime Seacoast-area activist, Moccia is deeply involved in GOP women’s groups across the state. She is the kind of leader presidential candidates will need on board if they want to break from the pack.
Maureen Mooney – A former state representative and Catholic pro-life activists, Mooney possesses a database of conservative pro-lifers that any conservative Republican campaign would like access to.
Doug and Stella Scamman – This husband and wife team has helped launch the successful campaigns of many a candidate with their famous lobsterfests at their quintessential New England farm in Stratham. Doug is the former Speaker of the New Hampshire House and Stella served as a state representative. If you need references, you can always call a couple of former presidents who have great things to say about Doug and Stella.
Sharon Sykas – The matriarch of the Sykas family, Sharon was mentioned as a potential candidate for state party Chair, but she turned away requests to run, presumably because she’s interested in a presidential campaign.