Smith becomes third Republican to say he's in for Senate run

Jan. 12—LONDONDERRY — Londonderry Town Manager and social conservative activist Kevin Smith will become the third Republican to seek the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2022.

Smith, 44, chose to make the decision public in low-key fashion, taking to social media late Monday night to release his letter of resignation as municipal executive, effective March 11.

"As it has been speculated in various media outlets over the last few weeks, it is my intent to formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate in the not-too-distant future," Smith said.

"As such, I believe that offering my resignation at this time is the most prudent way forward for the town and myself. To say that I will miss serving the residents of our community in the capacity of town manager, would be a gross understatement."

Smith joins Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and 2020 Senate candidate and retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc of Stratham in the GOP primary field.

It's worth noting both Smith and Morse waited until after the first of the year to confirm they would be running for the seat Democrat Maggie Hassan now holds.

The timing means Morse and Smith now have until mid-April before they have to reveal how big of a campaign war chest they have put together to compete.

Hassan's campaign announced this week that during the last quarter of 2021 she raised $3 million and finished the year with $5.3 million in the bank.

Thus far, Hassan has raised $14 million.

Young guy with long political resume

Smith has been involved in various roles in and out of government for more than two decades.

Yet in this race he's likely to emphasize the past eight years, managing one of the state's fastest growing communities.

Since taking over, Smith said, the town has added more than $250 million in property tax base and the town's value of assessed property has gone up by $2.2 billion.

"Our municipal tax rate is at a historic low, and we've returned over $11 million dollars to property taxpayers during this period through prudent fiscal management and a balanced budget each and every year," Smith said.

He was viewed as having helped lead the campaign in town to convert Londonderry's Woodmont Orchards into the planned community of Woodmont Commons, slated to bring more than 1,000 homes along with commercial and retail space over the next several years.

Smith said his family moved to Londonderry in 1986.

He and his wife, Suzy, have three children.

Will be second statewide run

"The phrase 'Londonderry Leads' is not just a motto, it's a work ethic; a way of life," Smith said.

"Lastly, this is not good-bye. I'll still be around whether it's shopping at Market Basket, attending our kids' sports, announcing the football games; and maybe, with some hard work and a little luck, I'll have the opportunity to serve you all again in a different capacity."

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, said Smith's decision sets up a very competitive GOP primary that could only get bigger.

"Senator Morse is a proven fundraiser and that makes him a serious candidate to be sure, but Kevin Smith has shown himself to be a go-getter, someone with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," D'Allesandro said.

Smith's only other statewide campaign came in 2012 when he ran for the GOP nomination for governor and lost to Manchester lawyer and two-time nominee for governor Ovide Lamontagne.

Though Smith lost by better than a 2-1 margin to the known commodity Lamontagne, his low-funded campaign actually out-performed expectations.

In 1996, Smith won and served one term in the New Hampshire House and was also on the staffs of former Gov. Craig Benson and ex-U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H.

After leaving Benson's office, Smith became assistant director of the state Division of Juvenile Justice Services, where he worked for a few years.

Then he left to head up Cornerstone Action, a socially conservative interest group that had been struggling to remain politically viable.

During three years at the helm, Cornerstone's membership grew four-fold to 8,000, and there was also a big gain in revenue.

Soon after stepping down from that post, Smith announced his run for governor.

On the issues, Smith has been a vocal opponent of legal abortions and also had opposed the law legalizing same-sex marriages.

klandrigan@unionleader.com