Apr 8, 2016 8:00 PM

Landrigan: NH Political Report. Gov. Maggie Hassan has mixed bag week

Source: NH1.com

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN

This week was clearly a mixed bag for Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Sure, she got to sign the signature bill of the 2016 session, keeping in place for at least another two years the New Hampshire Health Protection Program that provides health insurance for nearly 50,000 low-income adults.

But she also endured days of questions and second-guessing about her handling of the sexual conduct scandal at Phillips Exeter Academy linked to her husband, Tom Hassan who at that time was principal at the school.

As the New Hampshire Political Report foreshadowed last week, Hassan needed to and did apologize for the fact her first campaign for governor in 2012 and since failed to recognize history teacher Richard Schubart had been forced to resign for having confessed to having sexual contact with two students.

My colleague, Political Director Paul Steinhauser, reported Schubart not only gave to Hassan’s campaign for governor and her State Senate campaigns but also to the New Hampshire Democratic Party ($500 in 2014) and prior to these allegations to Senator Jeanne Shaheen ($450 in 2008) and Councilor and Democratic candidate for governor Colin Van Ostern.

All have committed to donate their Schubart checks to charity.

In response, the Washington Post dropped this race from its 7th to 6th most competitive Senate battle this fall.

"What has the potential to make this race slightly less competitive is Hassan’s ties to a disgraced prep school teacher, who admitted to sexual misconduct while Hassan's husband was principal at the time,’" the newspaper concluded.

Hassan has apologized for keeping him on a list of supporters, even though she said she didn't know why the teacher abruptly retired, and her husband has apologized for not being as forthright about the misconduct when he found out about it, even though he went to the police right away. This could be a blip on Hassan's radar, but Republicans are closely watching how she handles it to see if they can make it a potentially damaging campaign issue in November.

This is called hedging one’s bet but speaks to why even at week’s end Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte’s campaign and GOP officials continued to keep the heat on Hassan suggesting there remained "unanswered questions’" about what Hassan knew, when did she know it and what should she have done about it.

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Count on both Sen. Ayotte and Gov. Hassan to not give any quarter when it comes to supporting New Hampshire veterans. That’s why Hassan was at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen Saturday to honor ex-POW service members.

Then on Sunday, Ayotte and likely Hassan too was to be at the welcome home ceremony for the 3-197th Field Artillery Regiment returning from a Middle East deployment at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

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Almost on cue, the Hassan campaign issued a stinging memo about Ayotte’s own liabilities as a GOP candidate.

"Ayotte voted with the Koch Brothers nearly 90% of the time in her first four years in office – and she has repeatedly followed her party leaders while New Hampshire’s families and businesses pay the price," wrote Hassan campaign director Marc Goldberg.

Special interests like the Koch Brothers have already spent $8 million to benefit Ayotte because they know she will continue to be a reliable vote for their agenda in Washington. Hassan’s memo claimed that Ayotte backed Big Oil, opposed Planned Parenthood and tax breaks for the middle class.

"In Washington, Kelly Ayotte is putting her party and special interests ahead of hard-working families and small businesses in New Hampshire," Goldberg concluded. "Ayotte's record proves she is more concerned with following her special interest backers like the Koch Brothers than having the independence necessary to represent New Hampshire. Granite Staters deserve better."

The Ayotte campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The other shoe dropped regarding the State Senate retirement of Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston.

As many suspected, Prescott confirmed he wasn’t going quietly into the night kicking off his announcement party Thursday night that he was seeking the Executive Council District 3 seat Newfields Republican Chris Sununu is leaving to run for governor.

And both Sununu and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, endorsed Prescott’s bid.

"Tonight, we begin the campaign to ensure that constituent service and a business approach to government remains true to the people of District 3," Prescott said.

Both Prescott and Morse ran for and lost the same Executive Council seat that former Senate President and Hampton Democrat Beverly Hollingworth won a decade ago.

Portsmouth Republican businessman Sean Mahoney won that GOP primary only to lose to Hollingworth in the general election.

Since then, the 2011 redistricting has made Dist. 3 even more Republican giving Prescott an even bigger leg up on replacing Sununu on the council.

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At week’s end, US Rep. Annie Kuster and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, both D-NH, kicked off companion bills to protect seniors and those with disabilities in danger of losing their homes due to the maturing of rent subsidy mortgages.

The dilemma facing residents at Pine Tree Lane, a 50-unit affordable housing complex now known as the Village at Crafts Hill, learned that their homes would no longer qualify for federal rent subsidies through the USDA-Rural Development Section 515 housing program.

Kuster and other stakeholders engineered the sale of the complex to the Twin Pines Housing Trust that allowed the subsidies to continue.

But across the country a similar fate faces more than 11,000 additional properties across the country with loans that are set to mature over the next ten years, putting another 344,000 individuals in jeopardy of losing their homes.

"I urge my colleagues in Congress to act swiftly to pass this crucial piece of legislation into law. The livelihood of thousands of Americans across the country could depend on it," Kuster added.

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Saint-Golbain in Merrimack sought to enhance its role in resolving the tainted water in that town and neighboring Litchfield.

The firm plans to install point-of-entry filtration systems on all private wells near the Merrimack plant that are detecting elevated levels of contamination.

Saint-Gobain CEO Tom Kinisky says it will attempt to reach every deadline requested by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to fix the water contamination problem discovered recently in southern New Hampshire, regardless of the cost.

"Bottled water is clearly not the answer," Kinisky said.

Rather the firm’s priority is to clean up the private wells within a one-mile radius of Merrimack's Saint-Gobain facility that are detecting perfluorooctanoic acid, of PFOA, at 100 parts per trillion or more.

The Union Leader of New Hampshire reported that in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., where elevated levels of PFOA were detected near a separate Saint Gobain plant with 11 facilities.

The company opted to install a filtration treatment system to the town's municipal water system at a cost of about $4.5 million, which included the price of bottled water, a temporary treatment system and a permanent system Here in southern New Hampshire, Kinisky said the highest amount of PFOA detected within the municipal water supply - Merrimack Village District - is 90 ppt, below the state's threshold of 100 ppt to qualify for bottled water.

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Olivia Zink, a recently-elected Franklin City Councilor, took over this week as executive director of the Open Democracy, the campaign finance reform group that predecessor Dan Weeks left recently to launch his Democratic bid for Executive Council.

Weeks, a Milford Democrat, will oppose the re-election of Councilor Dave Wheeler, R-Milford.

“We are so pleased to welcome back Olivia and so fortunate to have someone of her incredible expertise, accomplishments, energy, and commitment leading the way in restoring the right of political equality and an equal voice for all NH citizens,” said Gordon Allen, co-chair of the board.

Open Democracy, part of the New Hampshire Rebellion that sponsored the statewide walks for reform, recently moved its office from Manchester back to its 4 Park St. office in Concord. Zink replaces Daniel Weeks, who is running for a seat on the N.H. Executive Council from District 5.

Zink had been program director for Open Democracy for four years and most recently worked for the American Friends Service Committee in Concord.

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Congressmen Frank Guinta, R-NH, and Kuster preside over a Capitol Hill hearing on the opioid crisis Tuesday. The two helped found the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force.

Among those to testify will be Dr. Edward Michna, former chairman with the Pain Care Coalition and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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State Democratic leaders pounced on national news reports that Republican senators including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, were agreeing to ``sham meetings’’ with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland with no intention of putting that choice to vote in the full Senate.

“It’s been clear all along that Kelly Ayotte puts her party bosses and special interest backers ahead of doing her constitutional duty, and this report is just the latest proof,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “Rather than waiting for permission from Mitch McConnell and outside special interest groups, Kelly Ayotte should listen to her constituents and do her job.”

Ayotte Campaign Manager Jon Kohan says Ayotte is doing what the people of New Hampshire want namely to let the next President and elected Congress make the choice.

"Kelly will continue to stand up for the people of New Hampshire to have a voice in this nomination, unlike Governor Hassan who is doing the bidding of Harry Reid and Washington Democrats who are flooding the airwaves right now with attack ads on her behalf,’’ Kohan added.

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Quote of the Week:

"When I was in the Senate we had a serious and immediate concern over fuel assistance for the elderly and low-income families. The issue was urgent and we managed to work together and get it passed in one day. I hope we see the same urgency out of Concord for this critical legislation." - Manchester Mayor and GOP candidate for governor Ted Gatsas calling for the New Hampshire Legislature to act even quickly than it is on legislation to finance drug courts for all counties in the state.

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