PRIMARY ELECTIONS AMONG challengers for a House seat held by the other party aren't normally of great political interest. But the race for the Republican nomination in a New Hampshire district is an exception. The reason: Jennifer Horn, a conservative talk radio host, is running. She's the first member of the talk radio tribe, so far as I know, to give up her radio perch to run for Congress.
Horn, the mother of five, has proven to be an impressive campaigner in her first bid for public office and no slouch at the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics. When one of her four Republican opponents, Grant Bosse, accused her of misusing campaign funds, she fired back with a press release headlined, "Grant 'Make Up the Facts' Bosse Strikes Again." She denied the charge.
Horn's breakthrough in the race came last week when she won the endorsement of the state's most influential newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader, after being grilled by publisher Joe McQuaid and editorial page editor Drew Cline. "She is smart, likable, energetic, and solid on the issues," the paper wrote. "She stands the best chance of beating [Democrat] Paul Hodes this November, and if elected, she would vote the way a New Hampshire representative ought to--for smaller, more responsible government, a strong national defense and low taxes."
Hodes defeated Charles Bass, a 12-year Republican incumbent, in the Democratic landslide in 2006 in New Hampshire, once considered a reliably Republican state. Now Republicans regard the other freshman House member in New Hampshire, Carol Shea-Porter, as particularly vulnerable, Hodes less so.
Nonetheless, Republican officials in Washington and state party chairman Fergus Cullen went to trouble of meeting with Horn last fall and urging her to run against Hodes. Her two-hour radio show on a Nashua station, 1590 WSMN, had made her a popular figure in southwestern New Hampshire. The district reaches from the Massachusetts border in the south to Canada in the north and includes the towns of Nashua, Concord, and Keene.
Horn's radio career began in 2005 when she heard that the new owner of the station was eager to put locals on the air. "Filling time with talk had never been a challenge for me," Horn says. She applied for the job, got it, and insisted her show not interfere with her tasks as a mother and wife. Horn arranged for the show to run from 10 a.m. to noon daily, while her kids were in school.
She is a latecomer to both politics and New Hampshire. Horn grew up in upstate New York in a family with 10 children. She moved to Nashua in 2001 when her husband, Bill, took a job there with Fidelity Investments. She quickly became involved in civic activities.
Her radio show focused on both local and national issues. She was remarkably successful in getting national political figures and Washington journalists to be guests on the show. Jackie Mason, the comic whose humor often involves politics, not only was a guest but he has fervently endorsed her candidacy. "She is not a political operative or a career politician," Mason wrote. "Jennifer is a real person."
Horn is a conservative. "It doesn't bother me to say it at all," she told me. But she's not a conventional Republican. She's critical of congressional Republicans. "People were disappointed how far Republicans had strayed from their core values," she says. As a result, "tens of thousands of traditional Republican voters stayed home in 2006."
She is especially hostile to the idea that an elected official should be a seasoned politician. "I got the point on the radio that I felt there were so many reasonable people out there and the folks in Congress weren't so rational," she says. "It wasn't about the people any more. We need some non-politicians representing the people."
Horn stresses her aversion to partisanship. "What drives voters in New Hampshire is independence," she says. "Paul Hodes' biggest weakness is his lack of independence. He's an ultra-liberal in a moderate district." She believes she can beat him, but she's got to win the Republican nomination first. The primary is September 9.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.