Popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch announced last month that he would not seek a fifth two-year term, immediately putting the seat in play for Republicans. Ovide Lamontagne, another popular conservative figure in the state who ran for governor in 1996 and the Senate in 2010 (when he narrowly lost in the primary to now Sen. Kelly Ayotte), was first out of the gate, announcing his run last month. Right after Lynch resigned, Smith released a statement, which included an apparent swipe at Lamontagne's history of running for elected office. "I think Concord needs a fresh, conservative voice and a bold, new vision to fundamentally challenge the status quo in state government," he wrote. "After eight years of stale ideas from the Corner Office, now certainly isn't the time to elect career politicians or candidates." On Wednesday, Smith only had positive things to say about Lamontagne. "Ovide and I have been out to meet a number of time just one on one," he said. "I've had a good relationship with Ovide prior to this and I expect, no matter what my decision is, I will continue to have a good relationship with him going forward." Smith said the following week that he was considering a run and was very close to making a decision. Veteran GOP strategist Mike Dennehy says he will support Smith if he runs. Cornerstone has worked to influence policy, and Cornerstone Action, the 501c4 arm, does issue advocacy and was a player in last year's Senate race, when the group ran ads criticizing the record of moderate Republican candidate Bill Binnie. There are also several Democratic candidates exploring the race, which could quickly become a crowded competition on both sides.