On one side, it’s endorsements from Gov. Chris Sununu and ReOpenNH. On the other, it’s endorsements from evangelical leader Mike Huckabee and state Sen. Jeb Bradley.
It’s the Republican Executive Council District 5 primary between Dave Wheeler and Bob Clegg, and it’s one of the most hotly-contested races on Tuesday.
Both Republicans say they stand for conservative principles and transparency, and both say they’re feeling confident about the race.
Wheeler, of Milford, is running for a sixth term on the Executive Council. Clegg is a former state senator from Hudson.
Whoever wins on Tuesday will face incumbent Debora Pignatelli in November. The Democrat has swapped seats with Wheeler since she was first elected to the council in 2004.
Democrats currently have a 3-2 advantage on the council. The largest city in District 5 is Nashua, which is the second-largest community in the state.
This Republican primary race has been heated, with both men exchanging blows. Wheeler said on Friday that “Cry Baby Clegg” has unfairly portrayed his votes on contracts and compared Clegg to a schoolyard bully.
Clegg said Wheeler cannot call himself a conservative when he has signed over 1,800 no-bid contracts.
Wheeler said, “I have voted on $60 billion worth of spending in the years I was on the council and approved 75,000 items. 1,800 is only about 3 percent.”
Clegg portrayed Wheeler as the bully on Friday, saying during an interview that Wheeler unfairly insinuated tickets to hobnobbing events purchased for clients he works with at his government affairs firm were personal donations to Democrats.
Clegg said connecting clients with people in power is part of what his firm does, and they spend much more in tickets for Republican events.
“We as a firm will buy tickets to events so our clients can rub elbows while they eat, or maybe have something to drink,” Clegg said. “You can get a lot more one-on-ones that way.”
On Friday, Wheeler was with Gov. Chris Sununu, who has endorsed him, at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis. They were joined by Shawn Jasper, the state’s commissioner of agriculture.
Wheeler explained why he went on the trip to the farm where, as a Christmas tree farmer and maple syrup producer, he learned about new pest management systems and how technology is helping the owners harvest better quality apples.
Wheeler said it is important for executive councilors to meet the people they represent and learn about the challenges of various industries.
Wheeler said if he is reelected back into office he will be working with department heads at the state level and scrutinizing every contract to see if the spending is necessary.
“We really have to tighten our belts to make up these COVID deficits,” Wheeler said.
Rooms and meals taxes, as well as business taxes, continue to be impacted by the pandemic.
Wheeler has the backing of ReOpenNH, which has been highly critical of Sununu and endorsed his primary opponent Karen Testerman.
“I disagree with the governor on some things, but overall, we work together very, very well,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler has also been endorsed by former Gov. Craig Benson and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
“These people know me and have worked with me every day and I think their endorsements are very valuable,” Wheeler said.
Clegg, on the other hand, has the backing of current Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas, GOP Sen. Jeb Bradley and former POTUS candidate Mike Huckabee, a darling of evangelical Christians who Clegg backed in the 2008 POTUS primary.
For more than 25 years Clegg owned construction companies as well as companies supplying the construction industry serving the New England region.
Clegg said if he is elected, he will make it easier for people to bid on state contracts and will stand up to make sure the executive council has more of a say as state officials continue to navigate the challenges of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The governor is supposed to work with the consent and advice of the council, and I haven’t seen that happen,” Clegg said. “They got used to taking a back seat.”
He was one of the few candidates to speak out aggressively against the new Massachusetts policy of taxing former commuters on work they’re doing from home in New Hampshire, telling NHJournal:
“If Governor Baker doesn’t back off of this half-baked scheme, when I am in the Executive Council, I will vote against every single state contract offered to companies based out of Massachusetts. I will make sure that not one, single dollar of New Hampshire’s tax revenue is spent in the Bay State.”
Clegg said on Friday this election is important because it is time for the executive council to resist the pressure of rubber-stamping requests from department heads who are used to getting what they ask for in Concord.
“Remember, it’s our government,” Clegg said. “And the people going up there need to be serving us.”