Shea-Porter, Hodes Eye Challenge to Gregg in 2010

Posted December 15, 2008 at 8:27pm

Both New Hampshire Democratic House Members are considering a bid for Senate in 2010, according to sources close to each Member.

Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes are looking at challenging Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) this cycle, while popular Gov. John Lynch (D) is also said to be looking into the race.

At least two sources close to Shea-Porter acknowledged that the Congresswoman is at least looking at the statewide race, but said she is far from making a decision or planning a bid. However, an official spokeswoman for Shea-Porter, Jamie Radice, denied the Congresswoman was exploring any future political ventures beyond the state’s 1st district.

“I spoke to the Congresswoman, she laughed about it,” Radice said in a statement, referring to a possible Senate bid. “She said politics is the New Hampshire state sport. As soon as a campaign ends, speculation starts anew. She did not hire a consultant. She’s not roaming around the state, she’s not actively pursuing it and she certainly is not about to announce anything except her legislative agenda for the people of New Hampshire’s First District.”

Hodes spokesman Mark Bergman acknowledged in a statement that the two-term Democrat is looking at the race.

“The Congressman has been approached about the race and he is seriously considering it,” Bergman said. “But in the near future, his focus is on doing his job to stand up for the people of New Hampshire by protecting jobs and working to fix our economy.”

According to a Democratic operative who supports Hodes, the 2nd district Congressman “has been thinking about this for some time,” but Shea-Porter’s interest in the seat has come as a surprise to some Granite State operatives. National Democrats are wary about Shea-Porter running statewide, especially compared to the possibility of a Lynch or Hodes candidacy.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said any of the three Democrats would be “terrific members of the U.S. Senate. There are key supporters of all three of these leaders who would very much like to see each one of the three be a U.S. Senator. What a great treat that we have three such excellent leaders that would be considering this.”

Despite Buckley’s enthusiasm, New Hampshire’s late primary could prove troublesome for a crowded Democratic field. The state traditionally holds its primary about two months before the general election, which would leave a minimal window of time for the party’s nominee to campaign against Gregg.

If he decides to run, Lynch could likely clear a primary field: The Democratic governor boasts one of the highest approval ratings in the country. But if Lynch decides to run for a fourth two-year gubernatorial term in 2010, Shea-Porter and Hodes could potentially be in a primary with each other. The relationship between the two Members, both of whom were elected in 2006, is said to be very good.

Another potential problem for Democrats would be fundraising. While Gregg only had $879,800 in the bank at the end of September, Shea-Porter and Hodes each reported having less than $100,000 in their campaign accounts after wining their respective competitive re-election contests last month. As a state office holder, Lynch would have to start fundraising from scratch to wage a bid against Gregg.