LePage, Poliquin strategist to run NH gubernatorial campaign

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine's 2nd District (center) talks with political adviser Brent Littlefield (right) in June 2014. (BDN file photo)

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District (center) talks with political adviser Brent Littlefield (right) in June 2014. (BDN file photo)

The Republican strategist behind the rises of Gov. Paul LePage and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has been hired to run an underdog gubernatorial campaign in New Hampshire.

Brent Littlefield will be Republican state Rep. Frank Edelblut’s general strategist, Manchester’s WMUR reported on Tuesday. The campaign said the move “signals that a formal launch” of Edelblut’s campaign will come soon.

With Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan leaving office to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016, the swing-state race will be one of the most-watched this year. Republicans have won just one governor’s race in the last two decades.

But Executive Councilor Chris Sununu — the son of former Gov. John H. Sununu and brother of former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu — enters the Republican race as the favorite, with a December survey from Public Policy Polling showing Sununu with 60 percent support to Edelblut’s 12 percent.

However, the primary isn’t until September and in an email, Littlefield, who lives in Maryland and is based in Washington, D.C., said “the race is just beginning.”

It’s a familiar situation for Littlefield: When he joined LePage’s primary campaign in 2010, the candidate was a little-known Waterville mayor, but he steamrolled six other GOP primary candidates before a general election victory and a 2014 re-election.

Poliquin, who had a Wall Street background and had never run for office, lost to LePage in 2010. He became Maine’s treasurer and used it as a bully pulpit for conservative policies before losing a U.S. Senate primary in 2012.

But he rebounded to win the party’s nomination for Maine’s 2nd District in 2014 in a Littlefield-run campaign over former Senate President Kevin Raye, who Poliquin attacked as a “liberal” career politician. Poliquin went on to beat Democrat Emily Cain, putting the seat in Republican hands for the first time in 20 years.

Littlefield’s stamp is already evident on Edelblut: The strategist called the candidate a “proven job creator” in a statement to WMUR, a phrase often repeated in Poliquin and LePage messaging.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.