CONCORD, N.H. — Republican Senate candidate Bill Binnie rejected a call from New Hampshire's GOP chairman Tuesday to avoid negative campaigning, saying he won't walk away from defending himself.
In a message posted on his website Tuesday, Binnie said he has run a positive campaign, but negative attacks on him supported by his opponents can't go unanswered.
The chairman of the state party, former Gov. John H. Sununu, wrote to candidates for governor and Congress, urging them to stick to the issues.
"It is a great idea, but sadly too late," Binnie said on his website.
Binnie pointed to an outside group's recent television ad calling him "shockingly liberal." He filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission this month against rival Kelly Ayotte, alleging that her campaign played a role in the ad.
The ad was paid for in part by New Hampshire-based Cornerstone Action, whose director once worked for former Gov. Craig Benson, as did Ayotte. Cornerstone Director Kevin Smith reiterated Tuesday that the complaint is baseless.
Binnie launched television ads this week attacking Ayotte for failing to pursue a now-closed New Hampshire mortgage firm at the center of a Ponzi scheme when she was attorney general. The ads features victims critical of Ayotte.
Ayotte's campaign immediately denounced the ads as false and "taken straight out of (Democratic Senate candidate) Paul Hodes' dirty playbook."
"Apparently Binnie and Hodes have a lot more in common than just the same liberal positions. They both know the only way they can win is to false attack Kelly Ayotte," spokesman Jeff Grappone said.
Hodes also has run ads hammering at Ayotte, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, for not pursuing the case.
Ayotte was attorney general when complaints surfaced about the mortgage firm now accused of swindling investors out of millions of dollars. But the complaints were sent to the state banking department, which has jurisdiction over such matters.
Attorney General Michael Delaney issued a report in May that faulted the attorney general's office, the Bureau of Securities Regulation and the Banking Department for not doing a better job of investigating complaints against the company.
Ayotte told legislators in June that her heart goes out to those who lost millions of dollars to a failed mortgage firm, but she said she was not involved in the matter.
Hodes jumped on her testimony to legislators, running ads critical of her for not doing more to stop the scheme.
In his letter, Sununu told Republican candidates that attacking each other could help Democrats in November.
"That tactic will not help you win the general election, and in fact, can even destroy your primary chances. I urge all the campaigns to be smart, and not let this escalate into a Democrat-benefiting spectacle," wrote Sununu.
Grappone pointed out that Ayotte's just-released ad is her talking about her conservative roots and not attacking Binnie.
"The contrast between the two campaigns couldn't be more clear," said Grappone. "While Kelly Ayotte is talking positively about herself, Bill Binnie is launching more false attacks against her."
New Hampshire's primary is Sept. 14. Republicans Jim Bender, Ovide Lamontagne, former state Rep. Tom Alciere, former stockbroker Dennis Lamare and Gerard Beloin also are competing for the GOP nomination.