Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) – The rush to replace New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has begun, and the first declared Republican hopeful is feeling confident.
"There's so much to do in terms of setting a course for New Hampshire," Ovide Lamontagne told a Republican audience as he launched his bid Monday.
Lamontagne is a powerful conservative figure in the state who had been pondering a bid even before Lynch announced he would not run again. He peppered his speech with promises to preserve the "New Hampshire advantage," a reference to the state's lack of both income and sales taxes.
"We need to have leaders in our state that believe in the people here," he told the receptive audience at a morning meeting of the Bedford Republican Committee.
The personable tea party favorite ran for the GOP nomination for Senate in 2010, but despite a late surge lost to now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
Since the race Lamontagne, a Manchester attorney, has worked to consolidate support in the state. He has also fashioned himself as a kingmaker in the GOP presidential primary, hosting house parties where many of the 2012 presidential candidates have spoken to influential state Republicans.
The race for governor of New Hampshire became a toss-up last week when well-liked Gov. Lynch announced he would not seek a fifth two-year term. Democrat and former state Sen. Maggie Hassan is expected to announce a bid soon.
Republicans who could join Lamontagne in running include head of the conservative Cornerstone think tank Kevin Smith and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
A wave of tea party enthusiasm helped Republicans gain control of both chambers of the state house in 2010, though a series of controversial decisions by state lawmakers has caused some to worry about voter backlash in 2012.
The state Democratic Party has already released an attack on Lamontagne's "reckless ideology."
"Lamontagne is in lock step with Republican Tea Party legislature," said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, in a statement. "Is there even a single instance where Lamontange doesn't agree with the job killing agenda forced on New Hampshire by the reckless Tea Party legislature this year?"
When asked in a February interview with CNN if he considers himself a tea party activist, Lamontagne said he's "been a Republican activist for 25 years." He also touted his stints as legal counsel to the state party and to the New Hampshire state Senate, as well as his winning the 1996 GOP nomination for governor. But he said he would consider his views "to be consistent with a lot of the constitution-based principles that motivate many Tea Party activists."
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.