Former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta won the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, and will face off against Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter in November.
Guinta, considered the front-runner heading into yesterday's Republican primary, defeated seven other Republicans in yesterday's primary, edging out Rich Ashooh, who called Guinta after midnight to concede. Sean Mahoney, Bob Bestani, Peter Bearse, Andrew Kohlhofer, Richard Parent and Kevin Rondeau also were on the Republican ballot.
The 1st District includes Danville, Derry, Hampstead, Londonderry, Newton, Plaistow and Sandown.
Guinta, 39, who started campaigning a full year before some of his challengers, focused on his government experience as a former mayor and state lawmaker, taking credit for Manchester's first tax cap and its first tax cut in a decade. While he tried to keep the focus on the 50 federal budget cuts he proposed, totaling more than $827 billion, his challengers kept the spotlight on his personal finances after he amended a disclosure form to list a previously unreported bank account holding between $250,000 and $500,000. He updated the form after lending his campaign $245,000, raising questions about where the money came from.
Though Guinta said it was a simple mistake, Mahoney used the issue to suggest Guinta was unethical, while Bestani suggested he was incompetent if he couldn't understand the disclosure form instructions.
Ashooh, 46, who is on leave from his job as an executive for the defense contractor BAE Systems and once worked for former Sens. Gordon Humphrey and Warren Rudman, cited his business expertise and government experience while offering himself as a fresh face.
Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said Ashooh's strong showing might have been a result of the fighting between Guinta and Mahoney, just as Republican Ovide Lamontagne benefitted from the Kelly Ayotte-Bill Binnie spat in the U.S. Senate race.
"When candidates go negative against one another, it leaves a bad taste," he said. "Ashooh ran a positive campaign."
Mahoney, who spent more than $900,000 of his own money on his campaign, was making his second try at the nomination after coming in third in an eight-way primary in 2002. A former Republican National Committeeman who resigned his position in April to protest what he called the party's "out-of-touch, free spending culture of Washington," he emphasized his experience running a small business as publisher of Business NH Magazine.
Now that the primary is behind him, Guinta should stand a pretty good chance of unseating Shea-Porter, Smith said. Shea-Porter, 57, of Rochester, did not have a primary opponent.
"Her favorability ratings have not been good over the last year," he said. "If the incumbent's not breaking 40 to 45 percent against unknown Republicans, that's an indication of real weakness."
A poll conducted in July by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed that in a potential matchup with Guinta, Shea-Porter led by 5 percentage points, which is considered a statistical tie.
"I think it's fair to say it's gonna be a challenging race for her," added Dean Spiliotis, a political science professor at Dartmouth and Saint Anselm colleges. "I would expect it to be close."
I don't think she's a sitting duck as some people have said, but I think it will be a tough race."
Still, he said Shea-Porter is "very consistent" as a candidate, and will likely run a strong campaign, just as she has in the last two elections.
"A lot of it is going to depend on turnout," Spiliotis said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.