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Mar 17, 2016 9:16 AM

Steinhauser: Gatsas launches gubernatorial bid; NH1 News first to report Nate Lamb to manage campaign

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas made it official on Thursday, launching a campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination

A Gatsas for Governor Facebook page went up on-line moments after midnight and a couple of hours later Gatsas confirmed his bid for the Corner Office in an interview with NH1 News. Later in the day the campaign will file paperwork at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord

Gatsas said that the fight against heroin and opioid abuse would be one of the major themes in his run for governor.

"It’s a big issue in the state of New Hampshire. There’s no question. There’s parents who are losing children. We need to talk about it. We need to do something about it. We can’t wait. Every month, the number gets bigger. We’re ahead of last year and we haven’t even ended the quarter yet," Gatsas said in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News.

When it comes the fight against the drug epidemic, Gatsas has been a vocal critic of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Asked if Hassan's doing her job, Gatsas said "I don’t think anybody at any level is doing enough because people are dying."

But the issue of substance abuse could negatively affect Gatsas on the campaign trail, as Manchester's often in the media spotlight when it comes to the state's drug epidemic.

But Gatsas pushed back, saying "there were 200 adults that were in a room in Bedford, to talk about this issue in the town of Bedford. Four deaths in the last week in Bedford. So I think that everybody’s talking about it. There was an arrest up in Laconia. There was another arrest in Franklin. There was an arrest in Lebanon. This is happening across the state."

NH1 News was first to report on Thursday morning that Nate Lamb, who served as state director for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination, will run Gatsas’ campaign. And NH1 News also learned that Alicia Preston will serve as a top adviser and steer communications for the Gatsas for Governor campaign. Preston, a veteran political communicator and operative, most recently was a top adviser for former New York State Gov. George Pataki’s Republican presidential campaign.

The 65-year old Gatas, who last November won his four term as Manchester mayor, is a former five term state senator who spent two years as state Senate president (2005-2006). Gatsas becomes the third Republican to announce a bid for the Corner Office, joining Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and state Rep. Frank Edelblut. State Sen. Jeanie Forester is also seriously considering a run for governor.

Sununu welcomed Gatsas' entry into the race.

"A good primary’s always a good thing. It gets people out talking about the issues this summer. Good debate makes better candidates. I look forward to having a great primary and ultimately a great general election," Sununu told NH1 News.

Exeuctive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and former state Rep. Mark Connolly, the state’s former top financial watchdog, are running for the Democratic nomination. Former Portsmouth city councilor Stefany Shaheen announced she would not run for governor. Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand told NH1 News he’s mulling a bid.

Hassan is challenging GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte this year instead of running for re-election to a third term in the Corner Office.

Gatsas, a graduate of Manchester Central High School and the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, was elected to the city’s Board of Aldermen in 1999. He narrowly won re-election last year over Democratic Alderman Joyce Craig, edging her by just 64 votes.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party was quick to criticize Gatsas.

"The Republican field for governor just got even more out of touch with the entrance of Ted Gatsas. From vilifying workers to defunding education to blocking investment in renewable energy, Gatsas has consistently put his own political agenda and personal ambition ahead of what's right for hardworking Granite Staters," NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.

Former Democratic mayor of Manchester Bob Baines told NH1 News that "when you’re mayor of Manchester you’re sort of a big deal in your town but when you get outside of the city people say ‘who the heck are you.’ So it’s a very difficult thing for somebody who’s mayor of Manchester to go state wide."

But Gatsas isn't concerned.

"I can tell you that we’re putting a heck of a team together. I’ve been in a lot of parts of this state talking to people. We’re going to go out on a listening campaign and find out what’s really really want to see happen in this state. And I can tell you that we will be known before this campaign finishes, we’ll be well known in the state," he told NH1 News.

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