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Union Leader: Ayotte to be honored

February 23, 2012 J

By JOHN DiSTASO, Senior Political Reporter – February 23, 2012

HONORING AYOTTE. The conservative issues group Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire is looking to duplicate the successful “Conservative of the Year” banquet it held last April, honoring current candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne.

With several presidential candidates on hand, the event was viewed as the unofficial kickoff of the first-in-the-nation primary campaign. It also turned out to be the unofficial launch of Lamontagne’s campaign.

This year’s event, set for April 20 at the Grappone Center in Concord, will honor U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who narrowly defeated Lamontagne in the 2010 September primary and has emerged as a key player, especially among freshmen Republicans, in the Senate.

“It’s very hard for people to question Kelly Ayotte’s conservative credentials,” AFP-NH president Corey Lewandowski told the Granite Status. “She has been a great leader in the Senate and a great asset to New Hampshire. This is a chance to recognize all of her work.”

AFP-NH has invited presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as well as Ayotte colleagues U.S. Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Marco Rubio of Florida.

If the two senators do appear, both (especially Rubio) would get special attention as a potential GOP vice presidential candidate this year and possible future presidential hopeful.

The event’s co-chairs and host committee members are a “Who’s Who” of state Republican politics.

Co-chairs include U.S. Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta; former Govs. Steve Merrill and John H. Sununu; and former U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu.

The host committee includes House Speaker Bill O’Brien, House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, RNC member Steve Duprey, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, former state Sen. Bob Letourneau, conservative leader Jennifer Horn, Lamontagne, fellow GOP candidate for governor Kevin Smith, former RNC member Sean Mahoney, Deputy House speaker Pam Tucker, AFP-NH honorary chairman Tom Thomson, former state GOP Chairman Wayne Semprini, Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek and former U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff.

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