New Hampshire Governor John Lynch officially announced this afternoon that Republican J. Bonnie Newman will replace Judd Gregg in the US Senate if Gregg is confirmed as commerce secretary.
The agreement by Lynch, a Democrat, to appoint a Republican to serve out Gregg's term, which ends in 2010, freed Gregg to accept President Obama's offer to take the helm at Commerce since Gregg insisted he would not leave the Senate if that would change the balance of power.
"I think it is great for the country and for New Hampshire," Lynch said of Gregg's nomination, adding that bipartisan cooperation is needed at a time of economic crisis.
Newman, 63, who has not previously held elected office, was an assistant commerce secretary under President Reagan and also worked in President George H.W. Bush's White House. She also worked for Gregg when he was a US representative and supported Lynch for governor.
"Bonnie Newman is one of the true gems in our state," Gregg told reporters in a conference call today after appearing with Obama.
Lynch said he looked not just for a Republican who wasn't a partisan, but someone of high integrity who would "put the interests of New Hampshire above all else."
Newman fits the bill, he said. "Bonnie Newman will be able to hit the ground running," Lynch added.
Lynch said Newman will not run in 2010, and will not endorse any candidate in that race in a state turning more Democratic.
"In my wildest, wildest dreams it never occurred to me that we would be standing here today," Newman said.
She pledged to keep the state her highest priority for the next two years, and vowed to be not just a "caretaker" but an energetic advocate.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.