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Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, may face a crowded primary for governor but chose a good fortune spot for his campaign headquarters

Oct 9, 2015 6:29 PM

Landrigan: NH Political Report: Campaign headquarters, special sessions and the Hassan-Ayotte showdown


Campaign headquarters can be like haunted houses. There’s only so many prime locations in New Hampshire and invariably a candidate sets up shop where someone else has been.

How about Democratic candidate for governor Colin Van Ostern? Announcing he would run for the corner office only three days after Gov. Maggie Hassan says she’ll leave for the seat, Van Ostern rented space in The Alpha Loft.

The brick-owned building on Elm Street in Manchester is home to incubator space for some of the state’s fastest growing entities including Dyn, Newforma and Southern New Hampshire University.

Well back in the day it was the McQuade Building and its past occupants including Republican Craig Benson’s 2004 campaign.

Now Van Ostern and Benson don’t share much politically but Benson’s karma isn’t bad in this case; he’s the last one to get elected governor when the incumbent (then Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen) last left to run for a US Senate seat.

"I guess there are some ghosts in the building," Van Ostern quipped.

This is not uncommon. Take Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s spot further south on Elm Street.

It’s full of both good and bad vibes.

Past campaigns to live in the same space include 2014 Republican Senate nominee Scott Brown, 2010 Democratic Senate nominee Paul Hodes and the 2008 Democratic coordinated campaign.


Okay it wasn’t a shock and the New Hampshire Political Report had been predicting it for weeks but we had an inside source in Gov. Maggie Hassan’s bid for the US Senate that became official Monday.

Our makeup consultant, Kriss Blevens, did the same for Hassan in highly professional Youtube video Hassan had produced to announce her run.

Don’t worry, gov, Kriss kept her secret and she hasn’t even told reporters since she was involved; we had to learn from other independent sources about her involvement.

No surprise here; Kriss is a New Hampshire treasure having made up numerous future presidents and traveling across the country for CNN during previous campaign cycles.

Meanwhile, Hassan has made some predictable but very solid moves for her Senate bid.

Longtime confidante and recent, first-time father Marc Goldberg has never left Hassan since leaving the Maryland lieutenant governor’s office to join Hassan prior to her first election in 2012.

Goldberg managed Hassan’s re-election campaign last fall.

Democratic Party Communications Director Aaron Jacobs is leaving that perch to take on the same job for Hassan’s Senate race.


It’s been kept on the down low but Gov. Hassan did approach Republican legislative leaders about having a special session this fall to deal with the opioid crisis.

The reason it’s not gone public in a big way? The state’s chief executive couldn’t get to first base.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, was vocal in tomahawking the idea, insisting there was no reason the Legislature if need be could not right out of the starting gate act on legislation to beef up New Hampshire’s response to illegal drugs and the epidemic of overdoses.

Of course, the Constitution gives Hassan another route; she could seek a petition to call lawmakers back into session even without leadership support if she got a majority on the Executive Council to support her.

No chance of that happening now with all three Republican councilors not at all inclined to give Hassan a high-profile special session on drugs since she’s become a candidate for the US Senate.


How does Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, try to turn the tables on Gov. Maggie Hassan by making the Democrat a creature of Washington?

She does it by insisting Hassan’s campaign is only taking place because "Washington politicians" have demanded she seek the Senate seat. That’s what Ayotte said Friday during a radio interview with WGIR-AM talk show host Jack Heat.

As for broadening the issue portfolio, Ayotte has been talking up tax reform though she has yet to embrace any design for altering the IRS code.

"I know overall tax reform has to accomplish three things. We have to simplify the code and make it fair. Then we have to make sure it’s competitive," Ayotte told the NH Political Report.


One thing about both these women - Hassan and Ayotte - they will remain on message.

And here’s the three talking points from Hassan against Ayotte right out of the gate; get used to them.

- Hassan claim: Ayotte opposed making it easier for students to refinance their college loans;

- Hassan claim: Ayotte voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program and,

- Hassan claim: Ayotte voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

There will be plenty of time to air out in detail whether Hassan has a leg to stand on with her charges - there is some basis for all of them - but the point of emphasis is the constituencies.

Hassan is appealing in order to young voters, senior citizens and women; clearly if she can open up an advantage at the polls among the last two groups against Ayotte, Hassan will be the next U.S. senator.


Why would Ayotte in relative terms go somewhat soft on Hassan’s rollout?

By now Ayotte could have jumped all over Hassan’s veto of the state budget and the fact she largely caved in to get a final deal so she could end the controversy and go for the Senate seat.

And Ayotte could have had a field day with Hassan’s criticism of business tax cuts she ultimately would sign which the governor said in the main were going to "out-of-state millionaire" business owners.

That’s easy. To begin with as we pointed out this week there’s a massive proxy war in this campaign that will go unmatched in New Hampshire history. This means an unlimited number of GOP partisans are perfectly happy and will go ugly on Hassan for Ayotte.

More importantly there is a time and a place. Ayotte politically right now is on solid footing, much stronger than she was say 18 months ago after $2 million in attack ads from Michael Bloomberg.

She doesn’t have to mount an offensive against Hassan right now.

In time, she certainly will.


With Chris Sununu campaigning feverishly, will any of the three leading senators pull the trigger and join him in a primary race for governor?

Sununu says to the trio: C’mon in, the water is fine.

"Look, Chuck Morse, Jeb Bradley, Jeanie Forrester did an amazing job writing one of the best budgets this state has ever had. They are an incredible team in the Senate. If they want to get into this race that’s fine. I’m a big believer that good primaries are good," Sununu said.

"They are all good friends of mine; it would stay positive, it would stay about the issues, there is nothing negative about that."

Okay, well these odds could change but here’s how each three privately assess the race according to those who know them.

- Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith: 3-1. Until recently it was thought the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee would not seek the promotion in her third term. That all changed when she began making a renewed round of telephone calls to GOP activists gauging their interest last week.

- Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro: 5-1. Having lost his last race for Congress, Bradley knows the next race for major office for him could be his last if it ended badly. Bradley has reached out to money interests and gotten a good response that if he did jump in the campaign cash would be there.

- Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem: 10-1. He’s the least likely and for good reason. Morse already has a good gig not just running the Senate but holding onto a chamber that for the future looks solidly GOP thanks to redistricting that really slanted towards the Grand Olde Party.

In addition, Morse’s interest is split; at times he looks even more favorably at a run for Second District congressman rather than for governor. Taking on two-term Democrat Annie Kuster in a presidential year would be a tall order, however; Morse would be better off to stay put and look to move up in 2018.


What do we make of President Obama’s pick of the next U.S. attorney?

A quality choice but yet another sign this lame duck POTUS is fulfilling his own desires in the final 14 months in office not trying to win bipartisan friends.

Obama doesn’t have to answer to anyone and it’s becoming increasingly clear his public comments and public appointments reveal his true desires.

Emily Gray Rice is not a partisan but she’s been a fan of past Democratic governors. A former state prosecutor, Rice also was named to the state Ballot Law Commission.

She most recently has been with Bernstein Shur which has a stable of both Democratic and Republican actors from Democratic lawyers Terry Shumaker and Andru Volinsky to longtime GOP operative Jim Merrill.


The last thing Eversource Energy needed was a national critic of Northern Pass.

That’s what they earned this week with the National Trust for Historic Preservation insisting that places along the 200-mile power project route be considered a national treasure.

This is no attempted veto of the project.

And Eversource has already shown its willingness to make all kind of accommodations to try and win friends and mute opponents. The last alignment move, burying more than 50 miles of power line, was no minor move and attracted plenty of support.

But the national trust and its state partner, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, are not groups to trifle with and the trust doesn’t take this step at the drop of the hat.

In fact it’s interceded in this fashion and played the ``national treasure’’ card only twice [-] to preserve the Daniel Webster Farm and the Wentworth-By-The-Sea Hotel.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"I have a five-year-old going to kindergarten this year in one of half the school districts in our state that lack full-day kindergarten. I am determined that by the time my two-year-old ends up in kindergarten, we will not just in Concord but in towns across our state." - Democratic candidate for governor Colin Van Ostern weighing in on the kind of public education reform he’d pursue if voters send him to the corner office in 2017.

"The Democrats like to coronate and try to keep just one candidate at the face and front of the ticket which frankly I don’t think is going to happen but that’s for the Democrats to decide." - GOP candidate for governor Chris Sununu suggesting that Democratic rival and fellow Councilor Van Ostern will get plenty of company in that primary for governor.


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