May 23, 2016 10:08 PM
First on NH1 News: Ayotte, Sununu, Ashooh, and Lawrence Republican straw poll winners
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – Chris Sununu, Rich Ashooh, and Jim Lawrence each came out on top in an early primary straw poll organized by the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women.
And Sen. Kelly Ayotte trounced her long shot primary challenger in a U.S. Senate beauty contest.
The straw poll, held during the organization’s annual Lilac Luncheon, is seen my many an early barometer of a campaign’s organizational strength. NH1 News was first to report the results on Monday.
Ayotte captured 81% of the vote in the Senate straw poll, with former state senator and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rubens at 18%. Rubens attended the annual luncheon, while Ayotte was in the nation’s capital conducting Senate business.
With Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan challenging Ayotte instead of running for a third term, the race for the Corner Office is wide open. Four Republicans are battling for the nomination.
Executive Councilor Chris Sununu won the gubernatorial nomination straw poll, with 36% of the vote. In somewhat of a surprise, state Rep. Frank Edelblut, who’s not well known, came in a strong second, at 32%. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatas was at 21% and state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, the only woman among the major candidates running, finished last at 11%. Sununu, Gatsas and Edelblut all attended the luncheon. Forrester did not attend due to committees of conference at the State House.
Former state Attorney General Tom Rath, a long time top GOP consultant in the state, told NH1 News that “Edelblut’s showing was probably the biggest surprise of the day.”
In the straw poll for the 1st Congressional District, Bedford businessman and 2010 congressional candidate Rich Ashooh topped incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta 57%-43%.
And in the 2nd Congressional District, U.S Air Force vet and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, a 2014 congressional candidate, grabbed 51% of the vote, with state Rep. Jack Flanagan, the former House Majority Leader, at 28%. Eric Estevez was at 14% and Chris Newell at 3%.
Veteran N.H. GOP consultant David Carney told NH1 News that the “results are in line with Republican activists views in general.”
But with the primary not scheduled until September 13, Carney added that “the campaign is early and folks have a lot of work ahead of them.”
The straw poll was open to the approximately 250 people who attended the Lilac Luncheon.
1st Congressional District GOP nomination rivals Rich Ashooh and U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta sit a few feet apart at the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women Lilac Luncheon.