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Gov. Maggie Hassan's team pushing the environment, Senator Kelly Ayotte emphasizing women's health in a lot of issue shadow boxing within the 2016 Senate race.

Oct 23, 2015 6:24 PM

Landrigan: Governor and Executive Council huddle behind closed doors, banking connection?


It’s curious, and the amount of public information is limited but something appears up at the upper echelon of the New Hampshire Banking Department.

The clear signal was Wednesday’s meeting of Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council in the small town of Mason.

The New Hampshire Political Report observed Hassan and the council adjourning their regular business meeting to go across the street to meet privately in a classroom of the Mason Elementary School.

The agenda is not public but it sure looked to be about Banking Commissioner Glenn A. Perlow.

Well, the council, Hassan and legal counsel can meet on personnel matters under the Right to Know Law but they aren’t allowed to legally bring in all kinds of parties to discuss with them unless they are connected to the case.

And inside the private meeting for more than 45 minutes was Perlow and his lawyer, Russell Hilliard.

Hilliard, a former, longtime chairman of the Legislative Ethics Committee, has represented both the government and private targets of ethics and public integrity charges.

After the session he quickly escorted his client to his car and drove away.

Hassan and the council then voted in public to seal all minutes of the executive session.

Asked if this private matter may ever become public Hassan only added, "All I am going to say is this is a personnel matter. Period."

Another observation: Attorney General Joe Foster stayed studiously outside the building while the governor and council met.

Sometimes in the past when the council has considered "public integrity" charges, past AGs have stayed out of executive sessions since it’s the AG unit that investigates these matters.

That’s all we know for now.


With a little over a week before both major outcomes let’s take a look see at the mayoral race in the Queen City.

This one is clearly a barnburner. There is no doubt that less than 5 percent will separate incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas, a Republican, and challenger/Alderwoman Joyce Craig, a Democrat.

As we have written before, Manchester voters have a penchant for deciding their mayor are like old dishrags and should get thrown out every four to six years whether they are still useful or not.

Gatsas has done a lot to fight this trend staying very much on the offensive during this fall run-off during both their forums and some stinging mail pieces.

Craig’s team has responded in kind with their own hit mail that attacks Gatsas for failing to deal quickly enough with the heroin/opioid/fentanyl crisis.

Color this one all about turnout and with time still left the slightest of edges right now goes to the challenger.


Then there’s the mayor’s race for a vacant spot in Nashua where outgoing Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is departing but by no means retiring.

During her final weeks in office, Lozeau remains very politically active and many see a campaign for higher office in her future with a bid for governor the most likely option.

Now to the final choice between Democrat and former Mayor Jim Donchess and Republican/former Nashua Chamber CEO Chris Williams.

Who wins this one?

Again, not easy. Donchess won the preliminary going away and has already attracted the endorsement of Alderman-at-Large David Deane, a Republican and third-place finisher.

Now Deane and Donchess, an alderman-at-large, are colleagues but Williams had clearly hoped to get the support of all four other competitors who are card-carrying Republicans; no such luck.

You have to give the momentum edge to Donchess since after eight years with the moderate Republican Lozeau in charge, Nashua Democrats are hungrier.

But despite his youth, Williams, 40, has been associated as a strategist with many GOP campaigns that exceeded expectations and this one could too.

Williams does have the backing of three former Nashua mayors. Could he pick up a fourth? Will Lozeau weigh in during this final week?

The New Hampshire Political Report has learned Lozeau’s mother has a "Williams-Move Nashua Forward" sign on her front law, for what that’s worth.


Count on Republican activists and Super PACs to climb all over Gov. Maggie Hassan the first time the Senate Majority PAC aka outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid’s Super PAC

That came this week with Hassan’s team making much out of a Democratic-leaning poll (Public Policy Polling) that had the Democratic challenger a point ahead of Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH.

Here’s their e-mail.

America Rising PAC mocked Hassan for slamming Reid over his anti-New Hampshire primary comments last week.

"There’s no time for hurt feelings when there's money to raise! Governor Hassan has reached a new height of hypocrisy by bemoaning Senator Reid's comments and complaining about outside spending while Reid-backed special interest groups raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up her campaign," said Amelia Chasse, the PAC’s press secretary.

Another sign this race at this early stage has reached prime time: America Rising has dispatched a full-time tracker to shadow Hassan wherever she goes.


Meanwhile, Hassan is on the environment and not so subtle fashion trying to put her Republican Senate foe on the defensive.

Hassan pressed for support of Obama’s Clean Power Plan and uses it to emphasize her support for the state’s own target to use 25 percent of energy from renewables by 2025.

As state senator she also supported the state’s Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Renewable Portfolio Law.

Don’t figure on Ayotte sitting back and taking the beating; her team no doubt will point out some of these ``green’’ proposals raised electricity rates that already are among the highest


What does Jack Flanagan’s exploring a bid for Congress say about the future of House Speaker Shawn Jasper after the 2016 elections?

In any other time could you imagine the House’s top Republican looking to take out a popular two-term incumbent Congresswoman in a presidential year (read Democratic leaning electorate)?

Sure it could happen but begs the question does Flanagan think he’s likely to be bounced as House majority leader even if Republicans keep control of the New Hampshire House.

We’ve confirmed that has had nothing to do with Flanagan’s thinking and furthermore while former Speaker William O’Brien would like nothing better than to knock off Jasper, no prominent House Republican conservative has yet emerged to say I’ll do it.


What’s behind the timing of Mark Connolly confirming that he would be a Democratic candidate for governor in 2016?

It’s all about the Anybody But Colin Caucus in the Democratic Party.

The New Castle Democrat has an interesting story to tell, Connolly served as director of securities regulation and was a whistleblower in the aftermath of the Financial Resources Mortgage that swindled more than $30 million from unknowing investors.

Connolly wrote a tell-all book that didn’t mince words and criticized both the Banking Department and the Attorney General’s Office (under now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte) for falling down on the job.

Now there remain some critics who say it was Connolly who refused to consider FRM’s dealings were securities that his office should have cracked down on.

But back to Colin, the worst-kept secret in the Democratic Party is there remains a faction that is not fully behind Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern’s candidacy.

To be sure, Van Ostern has built an impressive, grassroots organization already and will raise the money.

But as a former campaign operative turned councilor, Van Ostern sometimes blazed his own trail and ruffled some party leader feathers.

Consider the 2014 election when Van Ostern got behind a little-known, legal aid laywer (Dan Feltes) who buried the party’s darling for an open State Senate seat (Kass Ardinger).

So Connolly had word leak out a day before he was meeting with another Democrat eying a race for governor, Stefany Shaheen, the eldest daughter of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

Connolly will take the pledge to veto a sales or income tax when he gets into the race which could be in the next week or so. Look for an announcement in Concord.


Former State Rep. Maureen Mann didn’t win back a seat in the House but that doesn’t mean conservatives are done looking for someone to blame for a campaign worker indicted for voter fraud this week.

Carl Gibson had put out the false press release claiming Republican Yvonne Dean-Bailey had dropped out of the race.

The Super PAC Gibson worked on, Credo, had launched a $3 million campaign and supported then-candidate Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, who upset Congressman Frank Guinta in 2012.

Guinta returned the favor in 2014.

"Carol Shea-Porter loves to trumpet her opposition to PACs, but her hollow claim is downright laughable. The reality is the former congresswoman is only opposed to those organizations that are not working to further her own ambitions," said Derek Dufresne of Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire.,

"The indictment of embattled Carl Gibson, an ally of the former congresswoman who worked for a group that spent millions of dollars to benefit liberals like her, is the perfect reminder of her blatant hypocrisy."


The New Hampshire Democratic Party began an Accountability Project on Ayotte this week focusing a lot on women’s health where they believe Hassan has an overwhelming advantage.

Ayotte and her allies have been working hard on building the firewall and the incumbent continues this week with the Senate taking up her legislation on health risks to unborn children whose mothers have done heroin.

She’s also helped lead the campaign to oppose the Obama directive that is reducing the use of mammograms.

Privately Democratic insiders love Ayotte trying to improve her women’s health chops.

"This is our field and the more they want to try and play on it, it’s fine with us. It’s a contest she can’t win," one key Shaheen operative said.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"There’s never been anyone elected mayor who’s never served in any way in city government on the board of alderman, in the Legislature, on the Executive Council." Nashua mayoral candidate Jim Donchess in a slam at rival Chris Williams.

"I also think we’ve done the same thing for too long. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results." Williams says concluding the time for longtime pols like Donchess is over.


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