Gregg’s Price: Name a Republican to Seat

Posted February 2, 2009 at 5:00pm

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) announced Monday that he has spoken to New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) and Senate leaders about the need to appoint a Republican to his seat should President Barack Obama tap him to be Commerce secretary.

“I greatly enjoy the constructive and positive working relationship I have had over the years with the Governor as we both have strived to make New Hampshire a better place to live and raise a family,” Gregg said in a statement. “I have made it clear to the Senate Leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the Governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate. The Senate Leadership, both Democratic and Republican, and the Governor understand this concern and I appreciate their consideration of this position.”

Earlier in the day, Lynch indicated he is likely to appoint another Republican to the Senate if Gregg resigns to enter Obama’s Cabinet.

Obama has yet to make Gregg’s nomination official, but an announcement is expected Tuesday. If Lynch nominated a Democrat to fill Gregg’s seat, Senate Democrats could end up with a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority.

“I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in a statement. “Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”

In his statement, Lynch did not explicitly say he would nominate a Republican to succeed Gregg, although speculation has centered around Gregg’s former Chief of Staff Bonnie Newman — a longtime Republican who supported his first bid for governor in 2004.

“If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the U.S. Senate,” Lynch said.

Granite State sources say whomever Lynch names will likely be a placeholder for two years, setting up an open-seat Senate contest in 2010.