Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Ovide Lamontagne, the one-time Tea Party favorite for the Senate seat that Kelly Ayotte eventually won. Lamontagne immediately endorsed Ayotte and campaigned for her after barely losing the primary in New Hampshire, which Ovide worried at the time would alienate his Tea Party followers. The opposite happened; they saw, as Ovide did, that with the primary over, the critical task was keeping liberal Paul Hodes out of the Senate. With Lamontagne’s help, Ayotte succeeded.
After a year to consider his options, Ovide has returned to electoral politics, this time seeking the governor’s office from which John Lynch will retire at the end of the year. I spoke with Ovide at his office yesterday for quite a while, away from the presidential horse-race events that have dominated my visit to New Hampshire, to discuss his gubernatorial bid. He tells me that he sees this as a natural extension of his mission from 2010, which was to use a Senate seat to get the federal government out of the business of the states. It’s at least as important, Ovide argues, to have governors willing to stand up to Washington and fight jurisdictional incursions as it is to have conservatives in Congress trying to rein in those impulses from the opposite direction.
When asked what state-level issues will drive his election, Ovide says they’re not that different from the national issues — jobs and the economy. The state’s relatively low unemployment level (5.2%) masks a lot of pain, and Ovide made a point of telling me that he doesn’t want to govern to the averages. He wants to roll back job-killing regulatory interference in the state as well as from Washington DC, and ensure that enough economic growth occurs to include everyone who wants and needs an opportunity to earn a living. Ovide was pretty gracious with his time despite me twice mispronouncing his name on tape (even after I asked him before the tape rolled!), so this runs a little longer than most interviews, but it’s worth it. I interviewed Ovide two years ago at CPAC, and it’s good to see him continuing his efforts in public service.