By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Rich Ashooh spent last night shaking hands and making small talk with those who gathered at The Halligan Tavern to get to know the First Congressional District a little better.
“It won't take you long to figure out who I am and what I've done,” said Ashooh, speaking quietly to the small gathering invited by the Derry Republican Committee for a meet and greet.
Born and raised in Manchester, the 45-year-old Bedford resident and father of five is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. After 17 years at BAE Systems, Ashooh recently left his job as VP of government relations to devote himself to campaigning.
His years in the manufacturing business and lifelong political activism are his strengths, said Ashooh.
Briefly touching on his key issues – jobs and the economy – Ashooh wasted no time zeroing in on his Democratic opponent, incumbent Carol Shea Porter, and the missteps he says the current administration has made in the midst of a failed economy.
“Carol Shea Porter and President Obama, are the same. In many ways, we hired the same people, with no experience in fixing the economy or getting the job done,” Ashooh said.
“In manufacturing, if you want to change what you're making, you retool the machine,” said Ashooh. “What President Obama has been doing is retooling the message.”
Avoiding the politics as usual will mean bringing some strong and proven ideas to the table, Ashooh said.
“ I will bring ideas to Washington, ideas that will work. Ideas that will transcend the factions. I'm ready for this. I know what can be done and know how to get it done,” Ashooh said.
Ashooh will face former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta and Newmarket businessman Bob Bestani in the GOP Primary.
Katherine Prudhomme-O'Brien of Derry was among those who came out to hear Ashooh because she hasn't made up her mind who to vote for yet.
“I'm leaning in his direction right now,” O'Brien said. “I liked what he said, about opposing tolls here in New Hampshire, and I definitely want someone with experience in manufacturing – that's very important to our state economy.”
Jill Domosh and her daughter, Melissa Blasek, were also interested in Ashooh.
“I liked him,” said Domosh. “I really just wanted to have the chance to see him and hear him speak on the issues.”
Her daughter, currently a student at Berkeley School of Music, said she is a huge believer in home schooling and small government.
“That's one reason I'm such a staunch Republican – I was home schooled, and I want the same thing for my kids someday,” Blasek said.