The campaign to decide New Hampshire’s next governor got a bit more crowded yesterday. Democrat Mark Connolly of New Castle officially jumped in the race, making him the second Democrat, and third candidate overall, to join the field.
Connolly, the former head of the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation who now runs his own investment firm, said he would run a campaign focused on improving education and economic innovation. He pitched himself as a “pragmatic, progressive and independent leader” who would govern in the tradition of Democrats like former governor John Lynch and current Gov. Maggie Hassan – who’s not running for reelection.
Connolly also touted a handful of prominent establishment supporters in rolling out his candidacy, including state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro and Mary Rauh, a longtime Democratic activist and donor.
But Connolly’s moment alone in the spotlight was brief. Colin Van Ostern, currently the only other Democrat running for the corner office, managed to push his own bit of campaign news, in the immediate wake of Connolly’s announcement.
Van Ostern rolled out endorsements from 50 legislators and two labor unions, hours after Connolly’s press conference. He also announced a schedule of nearly a dozen house parties and fundraisers across the state over the next month, including events hosted by Democratic heavyweights like Kuster and Gary and Meg Hirshberg.
It was an example of the savvy political timing Van Ostern has already displayed in the early stage of this campaign. An executive councilor who currently works in marketing at Southern New Hampshire University, Van Ostern made much of his business background in crafting his candidacy. But his start in New Hampshire politics came behind the scenes – working on campaigns for politicians including Jeanne Shaheen and John Edwards, and eventually managing Rep. Annie Kuster’s first bid for Congress.
That experience as campaign operative has been put to work with a number of well-timed press releases, responding quickly to news, such as Gov. Maggie Hassan’s announcement earlier this week that she would call the Legislature for a special session later this month. A half hour after Hassan’s announcement, Van Ostern shot an email to reporters reminding them “I raised the need for a special legislative session in a prior meeting of the Governor & Council in Cornish this summer.”
This kind of experience in political chess -- anticipating opponents' moves, parrying attacks, lining up supporters well in advance -- will certainly prove useful as the campaign progresses.