Guinta Looks For Fresh Start In Third Bid For CD1 U.S. House Seat

Oct 23, 2014

Republican Frank Guinta speaks to a group of people at a home in Rochester.
Credit NHPR / Michael Brindley

The 2014 election marks Republican Frank Guinta's third try at the 1st Congressional District seat.

The former mayor of Manchester won in 2010, riding a wave of anti-government, Tea Party sentiment to a resounding 54-42 defeat of Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter.

Two years later, in a big year for Democrats, Shea-Porter returned the favor.

The two are now locked in a tight rematch.

At a house party in Rochester, Frank Guinta works the room, shaking hands with roughly 20 people gathered in the kitchen.

“How are you? Good to see you again. Everything good?”

“Hi, Frank Guinta. How are you?”

It’s safe to say most people here are well aware of who Guinta is and where he stands on the issues.

Still, it was clear he wanted to present a new version of himself.

“Barney Frank and I found common ground on something that was very important to Massachusetts and to New Hampshire.”

He says the two worked on a bill to help ease federal regulations on the fishing industry.

Guinta went on to say he didn’t agree on with the liberal Massachusetts Congressman on much.

And vice versa. But we found one thing that we could work on together.”

All night long, Guinta stressed cooperation and finding the best in others.

Bob Jaffin, who hosted the house party, says Guinta didn’t talk this way in the past.

“My gut is he’s changed. I think that loss humbled him in a good way. Maybe every politician needs to lose a big one once if they continue. So in that sense, yeah, I think he can hold it.”

And that’s the big question for Guinta.

“It’s not great for us to have it flipping back and forth every election cycle,” said Fergus Cullen, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

He supported Dan Innis in the primary, and questions Guinta’s staying power.

“Even if Frank is elected this year, and he very well may be, if 2016, a presidential year isn’t going the Republican way, is he going to get swept out again?”

That’s certainly possible, though that may say more about the 1st District than it does about Guinta.

CD1 is one of the biggest swing districts in the country; it’s split down the middle politically and has gone with the national political tide for years.

Guinta says he’s out to restore stability to a district that had been a Republican stronghold.

“We’ve been in wave elections in New Hampshire essentially since 2002. I’m trying through every kitchen that I can get to between now and the election to change this from wave election to merit-based election because I think ultimately that’s what we deserve and that’s what people truly want.”

As former GOP chair Fergus Cullen points out, Guinta is certainly no stranger to taking advantage of those political surges.

“Frank skillfully rode the Tea Party wave up and now that the Tea Party is not as politically advantageous, of course he’s putting a little bit of distance there.”

Since his loss to Shea-Porter, Guinta has worked as a consultant, according to financial disclosure statements.

That includes a salary from 603 Advisors, a company run by his former congressional chief of staff.

Guinta also launched his own venture: the Independent Business Council of New Hampshire.

He’s described it as a start-up business with a single employee, with a mission of advocating for small business.

Back in Rochester, Guinta joked somewhat awkwardly about what he called his forced retirement two years ago, and told the crowd Shea-Porter needs to go.

“When you give someone a long enough period of time to try to fix it and if they come up short, I think we deserve to give someone else an opportunity to implement their ideas and their perspective.”

And that’s really the issue for Guinta; he already had that opportunity.

Bob Jaffin, the party host, now sees Guinta as the best choice, but he wasn’t always so sure.

“Those of us who are active Republicans looked at him as a greasy politician the last time around. Having run into him, primarily at the veteran events where we all show up in any case, my opinion changed. I became a Frank believer.”

Another person who showed up to see Guinta was Mark Canney.

In his 30s, he was one of the younger people in the room.

He says he wants Guinta to win, but worries the back and forth in the district will continue, regardless of what happens in November.

“Why is it that that can’t be sort of captured and moved in a direction that’s a little bit more permanent and a little bit more principle-based, rather than something that seems kind of fickle? That’s what’s kind of frustrating.” 

Polls indicate this will race will likely be close again, and while it’s premature to contemplate, these two candidates could easily face off again two years from now.