Team Morse on the GOP Gov Race: We're just getting started

Republican gubernatorial candidate Chuck Morse is betting that a state lawmaker will appoint him to the corner office in Concord.

He's also betting that Kelly Ayotte will stay where she is because of his primary opponent's election results to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.

The conventional wisdom is that Ayotte, the well-funded front-runner, is a prohibitive favorite for the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination. But at a Morse campaign rally Thursday night in Atkinson, he and his supporters said they see a path to victory.

“There’s an old saying: You are what your record says,” Morse told about 400 supporters during a fundraiser at Atkinson Country Club. “This race comes down to who Republicans trust as a conservative to get results, and I think the choice is pretty clear.

“We cannot trust anyone who has voted for Democrats more than 260 times in the U.S. Senate,” Morse added.

Morse, the former state Senate president, never mentioned Ayotte by name. The most recent poll, conducted in mid-January by the UMass-Lowell Center for Public Opinion, gave Ayotte one 32 points lead. The Democratic Governors Association submitted one daily Series of attacks against Ayotte while largely ignoring Morse.

The only time Ayotte was mentioned by name was during remarks by one of the sponsors, Glenn Gidley of Salem Manufactured Homes, who called her “Corporate Kelly.”

Present at the fundraiser were several Republican state senators who support Morse's campaign, including current Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro). Bradley attended the event just hours after he announced he would not run for re-election.

Bradley, an avid fan of his former Senate colleague, called Rockingham County “Morse Country.”

“There's a theme in this race – and I have to say it's a good theme – that New Hampshire shouldn't become Massachusetts,” Bradley said, a subtle nod to the Ayotte campaign's ongoing focus on anti-Massachusetts. Embassies.

He then talked about Morse and the work he did as a state legislator – and who hasn't?

“From getting up at 4 a.m. to run his business to getting to the State House at 7 a.m. for $100 a year, this guy is the real deal, Chuck Morse,” Bradley said. He then reported on New Hampshire's high ratings for quality of life, safety, employment and more. “So let me not talk about how to stop New Hampshire from becoming Massachusetts — it’s a lot of damn hard work.”

“Chuck Morse delivered and that’s the difference in this race.”

At a GOP fundraiser in Cheshire County last Thursday In Keene, Morse told NHJournal he was committed to “telling the truth” about both his record as a state lawmaker and Ayotte's record in the U.S. Senate. A week earlier, the state's GOP leaders released a statement calling for it “Decency and respect” According to party insiders, this move was a response to an escalating series of attacks by Morse against Ayotte.

Morse has several current state senators in his corner as supporters, including Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry).

When asked about the status of Ayotte and Morse's campaigns, Carson said there is no argument about who is working harder.

“Chuck works hard for every single vote,” she said. “He'll do anything, and he's everywhere, talking to Republicans – anyone who wants to talk – doing the right thing, campaigning the right way.”

Morse's record in New Hampshire state government continued to be the topic of discussion Thursday night. When asked about her support for Morse, Carson told NHJournal that “the right tone was set under Chuck's leadership” when he was Senate president between 2013 and 2018.

Ayotte has a long list of his own supporters, including former governors Craig Benson and Judd Gregg and current House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. It has also shown significant fundraising benefit.

Speaking to his supporters, Morse reiterated some of the criticisms of Ayotte he has made in recent media appearances, referring to her immigration and her troubled relationship with former President Donald Trump.

“If you want a governor who has always opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, I will be that governor,” Morse said at one point during his remarks. “Now is not the time to vote for someone who talks a good game. I will compare my conservative results with those of others because I not only cast votes, but also achieved results.”

Morse also criticized Ayotte's refusal to support GOP candidate Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“We can’t trust anyone who is afraid of putting Joe Biden back in his basement and Donald Trump back in the White House,” he said.

House Majority Leader Joe Sweeney (R-Salem) told NHJournal after Thursday night's event that Morse “has the leadership skills to really shine as our next governor.”

Asked whether Democrats are significantly more focused on Ayotte than Morse, Sweeney said: “There are 400 people in this room tonight who don't believe this is a done deal.”

“These are high turnout areas for Republican primary voters. It's far from a done deal. We’re just getting started.”

Anna Harden

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