Boothby campaigns in Tilton as primary race enters final days

TILTON — "What we need is an advocate," declared Christopher Boothby of Meredith, who is seeking to succeed the late Ray Burton to the Executive Council in District 1, told some 40 supporters gathered at the Shalimar Resort last evening.

One of the three Republican candidates to enter the special election, Boothby faces Joe Kenney of Wakefield and Mark Aldrich of Lebanon in the primary for the GOP nomination on Tuesday, January 21. The winner will square off against Michael Cryans of Lebanon, the lone Democratic candidate, in the general election on March 11, town meeting day.

The rally capped nearly six weeks of campaigning that carried Boothby back and forth across the district that sprawls over the northern two-thirds of the state, reaches into six of its 10 counties — Coos, Carroll, Grafton, Belknap, Strafford and Merrimack — and includes four of its 13 cites — Laconia, Berlin, Claremont and Lebanon — 101 of its 221 towns and 19 of its 25 unincorporated places.

For the Republicans, mounting a primary campaign in such a large district and such a short period, interrupted by four holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Martin Luther King Day — has posed a stiff challenge. Moreover, Boothby stressed that apart from New Hampshire's First in the Nation Presidential Primary every four years voters do not expect to go to the polls in the middle of winter.

"Given the parameters of the special election," Boothby said, "it is imperative not only to take our message to voters but also to tell people that there is an election.'' In the circumstances, he said, that the $40,000 he has spent so far in quest of a job that pays $14,341 a year was necessary.

During the past five weeks Boothby estimated he has appeared at more than 100 events, sometimes making 10 stops from one end of the district to the other in a single day. At the same time, his staff, led by Mark Laliberte and B.J. Perry, both veteran operatives, have worked to identify, contact and corral likely voters.

Boothby said he anticipates a low turnout of around 8,000 voters, leaving the victory to the candidate whose voters "come out of their houses and go to the polls." Wherever he has appeared, Boothby has asked his each of his supporters to bring another five voters to the polls on Tuesday. "We have tried to make people recognize how important it is to vote," he explained, "as well as let them know that here is a true opportunity for their vote or their spouse's vote to make the difference."

A former Belknap County Commissioner, Boothby delivered a straightforward message to his supporters — "what we need is an advocate." Pointing to the other four executive council districts, crowded against one another in the lower third of the state between the Lakes Region and Massachusetts border, he noted "they have more in common with each other than they do with District 1 and they have four councilors. We have one," he continued, "and we need to have the right one. We have to make sure it's the right one, because we only have one!"

Of the three candidates, Boothby stands closest to the center of the GOP. He has been endorsed by four Republican state senators, 12 Republican state representatives and 15 Republican officials from five counties and his contributors include many current and former officeholders as well as prominent members of the business community.

Kenney, who served in the Legislature for 14 years — eight in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate — and ran for governor in 2008, has drawn more support from the right of the GOP. Along with his legislative experience, he has touted his A+ rating from the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and lists endorsements from Tim Carter of the Lakes Region Tea Party, Representative Jane Cormier of Alton, broadcaster Niel Young, host of "The Advocates," and "The Weirs Times."

Aldrich, has been the least active and visible of the three candidates, spending just $644 on his campaign. A former aide to U.S. Representative Bob Smith and U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, he also has ties to social and fiscal conservatives. As a candidate, he has emphasized his experience as director of economic development for the city of Claremont.

"Vote," Boothby urged his supporters, who he thanked for their part in an aggressive campaign but warned against complaceny. "Remember," he added, echoing Burton, "we're still two votes behind."