There are four candidates in the 2016 gubernatorial Republican primary, most with several years’ experience in New Hampshire politics. Then there’s Frank Edelblut. The first-term state lawmaker from Wilton is casting himself as a business-savvy outsider who understands the evolving economy.
Name recognition is key for any candidate looking to win an election. But for Frank Edelblut, there’s an even more basic step: name pronunciation.
At a recent meeting of the Bristol Rotary Club, Edelblut corrected the woman introducing him as she misprounouced his name: "Edel - ‘blue’ – the ‘t’ is silent."
This type of exchange is common. In fact, the Edelblut campaign features a phonetic pronouncing guide to his last name on his website.
But Edleblut said voters have time to get familiar with his surname, and the candidate himself.
“I am 100 percent confident that by the time we get to September 13, name recognition won’t be my problem," Edlelblut said. "And for no other reason because I would have met every individual person in New Hampshire if I can."
He’s off to a good start. During the recent presidential primary race, Edelblut was a frequent attendee at candidate events, handing out more than 7,000 business cards to voters. And he hasn’t stopped since.
When Edelblut does get hold of a voter, they’ll hear some version of this pitch:
“We need a problem solver in Concord who is going to move the state into the 21st century and actually fix the structural issues that the state has," Edelblut said. "Not just rearrange the deck chairs and tell us everything is ok."
To make his case, Edelblut is leaning heavily on his private sector resume: a stint as an auditor at Pricewaterhouse Coopers; CFO of a small public manufacturing company; founder of his own investment business.
This experience, Edelblut said, shows he knows where the economy is heading – something he’s highlighted in one of his first campaign ads where he’s using the ride sharing app Uber outside the State House in Concord.
“For too long we have been grasping at solutions from the past but there are solutions for the future," Edelblut said. "And again that is part of being an entrepreneur; you are always moving forward and looking to the future for ideas and options of how to fix things. And when I hear some of the candidates speaking, they are pulling tools from the past that aren’t going to be effective in the 21st century.”
Edelblut’s emphasis on his private sector experience, and his limited political background, also set him apart from his opponents in the race for the Republican nomination, all with several years in politics on their resumes: four-term Manchester Mayor Ted Gastas, three-term Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee Jeanie Forrester.
In his year and a half in the Legislature, Edelblut has kept a pretty low-profile. He’s put together a pro-life, pro-gun rights voting record. He also voted against New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid program, which provided health insurance to 40,000 low-income individuals.
Recently he was tapped to join the powerful House Finance Committee, a rare thing for a first-term lawmaker.
Edelblut is also Water Commissioner in his hometown of Wilton, where he sits with Kermit Williams, who’s also a state rep.
Although Williams is a Democrat and doesn’t see eye to eye with Edelblut on a lot of issues, he said Edelblut cares about his community.
“You would think someone who is running for governor would not be interested in small-town affairs as much," Williams said. "He’s made an effort to make sure that the water system is adequately funded, and he actually went out and got a grant to do some asset management, which I think is going above and beyond.”
Closer to home, Edelblut has seven children, whom he and his wife of 30 years home-schooled. His children are the reason Edelblut said he wanted to get into politics in the first place.
“My kids are graduating, and they are applying for jobs all over, and they are trying hard to find economic opportunities in New Hampshire and there is not good opportunities and I’m like 'Ah, this is terrible.' It’s a great place to live; they would love to be here, and I need to do something to help them.”
With only three months left in his job application for governor, Edelblut will have a pretty busy summer campaigning across the state before GOP primary voters cast their ballots this September.