CONCORD, N.H.—Ovide Lamontagne, who narrowly lost the GOP U.S. Senate primary, is holding a party rally a week before the election, but the timing caught campaigns who already had jammed schedules off-guard.
The free event titled "Return to Red in 2010" lists as special invited guests: Kelly Ayotte, who defeated Lamontagne in the primary. Ayotte has another event scheduled at the same time and won't be there.
Also on the list of invitees: GOP Party Chairman John H. Sununu; gubernatorial nominee John Stephen; 1st District nominee Frank Guinta; 2nd District nominee Charlie Bass and Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek. State House and Senate candidates and local candidates also are invited.
A few campaigns learned of the event from The Associated Press, which received notice in an e-mail Thursday.
Some Republicans privately told the AP they aren't sure if the last-minute effort is a sincere promotion of the Republican ticket or Lamontagne's way of promoting himself for a future campaign.
Lamontagne insisted Friday he is just trying to elect Republicans.
"That's what this is about. There is no draft Ovide effort here. This is about supporting the Republican ticket," he said.
Last month, Lamontagne participated in a Washington fundraiser for Ayotte -- who beat him by 1,667 votes in the primary -- but the rally is the first he's organized in New Hampshire. Lamontagne said the event came together over the last two weeks.
"It's very difficult to schedule. There is not one night when everyone is free," he said.
The rally is scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Alpine Club in Manchester. That's the same time Bass meets Democrat Ann McLane Kuster in an hour-long television debate in the 2nd District contest.
"I did not know about it," Bass spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said. "If the rally is still going after the debate, we'll consider stopping by. I don't know what to say but it's unfortunate timing."
Tranchemontagne said Bass isn't slighted by the date selection.
"In the final weeks, there's something going on every night," he said.
Stephen also has a conflict, but plans to come late, said spokesman Greg Moore.
Sununu was trying to rearrange his schedule, said party spokesman Ryan Williams.
Guinta spokesman Brett Bosse learned of the event from the AP. He said Guinta would attend.
Though it may not be a rally for him, Lamontagne acknowledged he is interested in running for office in the future. He intends to form a political action committee over the next couple weeks, keep in touch with supporters, work on policy initiatives and then see if that leads to another campaign.
"I'm not going away," he said.