Retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R) hosted a fundraising lunch Wednesday for former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, whom the National Republican Senatorial Committee recruited to run for his open seat in 2010.
Some New Hampshire Republicans have criticized Ayotte for being handpicked by Senate Republicans to run for Gregg’s seat, so Ayotte has been careful not to appear as the establishment candidate — even declining to ask NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) for an endorsement. Since her announcement this summer, several Republicans — the most prominent being 1996 gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne — have announced they will run for the seat in next September’s primary.
Although Gregg has not officially endorsed Ayotte, this is not the first time he has asked his donors to help her out. Gregg penned a fundraising letter last month asking donors to give to the candidate, whom he described as a “common sense, conservative voice from New Hampshire.—
“It is critical that New Hampshire send a strong, conservative and effective individual to the United States Senate in 2011,— Gregg wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Roll Call. “Fortunately we have such a candidate in Kelly Ayotte.—
Wednesday’s fundraiser had ticket prices from $500 to $2,000.
Rumors were rampant this week that Ayotte would also meet with former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), the head of the conservative group FreedomWorks, while she was in Washington. But Ayotte angrily shot down that rumor and accused the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes, of making up the meeting.
“Paul Hodes and the Democrats just can’t seem to get their facts straight. Their claims of Kelly’s meeting are about as factual as Paul Hodes’ claim that his trillion-dollar health care bill is deficit-neutral,— said Brooks Kochvar, Ayotte’s campaign manager. “Hodes and the Democrats are desperate and continue to launch their false attacks because they know Kelly Ayotte will beat Paul Hodes.—