Apr 30, 2015 5:29 PM

NH1 News Political Report: April 30, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

Source: NH1.com

What are we to make of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s decision to veto gun lobby legislation to repeal the permit to carry a concealed weapon?

The two-term Democrat choreographed the decision very well making her announcement before a group of gun control advocates in the Executive Council that loudly cheered the move.

She also had a well-timed letter from the police chiefs that arrived early Wednesday morning urging her to take this step.

What does this say about Hassan’s interest in running for the US Senate next year against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte?

At least one Democratic insider suggests it’s a small sign that Hassan may not be moving on after all.

Polls do show a majority of New Hampshire residents support keeping the gun permits in place. But there’s no question a veto for Hassan would put her at risk in the federal campaign of being a big target of the National Rifle Association and assorted other groups.

Ayotte has already earned her bona fides with Second Amendment supporters by opposing the background check legislation last year.

If Hassan seeks re-election, her veto increases the likelihood that the law enforcement community would stay solidly in her corner during a third run for governor in 2016.

Assuming this is always a zero sum game, that’s what makes the veto all the more appealing.

We’ll know soon enough but it’s food for thought.


The size of the vote against legalizing casino, 208-156, was surprising to both sides.

Opponents came into the debate much more confident of their numbers than supporters.

The issue fell victim to an important process defeat.

Backers appeared ill prepared when House members fought the Ways and Means Amendment to require a performance audit be done before a second casino license got awarded.

This language became important as it was the justification for Hassan to say she’d be for this bill even though she believed the state’s market only supported one casino.

Once that amendment was struck by a 20-vote margin, the cause was a goner.

Several House members who favored the casino then voted against it led by Concord Democratic Rep. Paul Henle who had authored the idea in committee.

The size of the victory was really owed to the GOP whose party platform still opposes expanded gambling.

Republicans broke 135-94 against the casino while Democrats were much more competitive, 73-62 against it.

Among the more prominent backers of the casino in the end were House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, former House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon and House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord.

Most of House Speaker Shawn Jasper’s extended leadership went against the casino while the Democratic power elite was split on the idea.

This was a devastating loss as its size means there is no way a grand design by Senate casino backers to package it with a state budget plan could possibly succeed.


No one should be surprised that retired Alton defense contracting executive Walt Havenstein would pass on running for governor again in 2016.

Havenstein and his wife, Judy, invested more than $3 million of his own money to face down Gov. Hassan.

And Havenstein made clear during the campaign he didn’t see himself as a career politician.

One thing is certain: Republicans do not likely take over control of the New Hampshire House last November without Havenstein getting 47 percent of the vote.

Obviously, Scott Brown’s strong performance in the US Senate race contributed to that as well but history has shown the races down ballot for the Legislature are more closely tie to governor than federal offices.


It’s a moot point but this year’s casino debate saw a new site player enter the mix.

To this point, the obvious front-runners for the casino were the Rockingham Park race track in Salem (larger license) and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (smaller one) in Loudon.

Enter the Rochester Fair with 56 acres that has been the scene for harness racing over the years.

And like Rockingham Park with Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming, the Rochester prospect has a corporate partner.

The Eureka Casino Resort of Mesquite, Nevada is willing to invest in the community if the Legislature ever legalizes casinos and the Rochester City Council votes in support of it.


It’s easy to get cynical about why well-meaning legislation comes up short.

Thursday was a different kind of story as a three-year campaign to ban tanning booths for minors had a surprising happy ending in the State Senate.

Even Michael Rollo, a New Hampshire Cancer Society lobbyist and former House member, was not optimistic about the bill and why should he have been.

A Senate panel was recommending, 4-1, the bill be killed and the Senate had rejected the same idea a year ago.

But Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said in the past month a person-to-person campaign from family members of melanoma victims finally broke through.

"I would have said a month ago this bill was going nowhere but those supporting it would not give up,’’ Bradley said.

"The fact is we change restrictions as we learn more as a society. We used to let 18-year-olds drink alcohol and allowed smoking in restaurants but over time we realized those weren’t the right choices,’’ Bradley said.


Conservative opponents of Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, have created a web site aimed at convincing former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, to mount a primary challenge against her next year.

Since its start last week the Facebook page has attracted only 375 likes.

But there were nearly 4,500 who have watched a video criticizing Ayotte’s vote for President Obama’s pick of Loretta Lynch as attorney general.

O’Brien has told associates he’s not inclined to run for higher office next year principally because he’s been busy running the US operations of a German-based software security company.

Recently, O’Brien engineered the purchase of the US operations of the firm.

This campaign is likely aimed at getting some other conservative Republican to try and do the impossible [-] beat a popular, well-financed incumbent in a GOP primary.

Here’s the link to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Obrien4senate.


It’s early to talk about legislative races but Senate Finance Chairman Jeannie Forrester, R-Meredith, could for the first time be facing a very tough re-election fight.

Ex-State Sen. and candidate for governor Wayne King of Rumney confirmed he’s seriously considering a bid for the State Senate Dist. 2 seat.

And King came out firing accusing Forrester of being hypocritical by standing up for human service programs while in the past backing cuts in spending.

“We do not expect that our legislators in Concord will always agree with us.
What we do expect, however, is for our legislators to engage in a thoughtful and honest conversation about the issues that matter most to our communities and our state,’’ King said quoting articles critical of Forrester.

The district is clearly leaning Republican but King is a proven vote-getter in this part of the sate so it clearly would be competitive.


Quote of the Week:

"The chiefs of police have just sent me a letter asking me to veto it and I will veto it if it reaches my desk.” - Gov. Hassan saying she would veto the concealed carry bill setting off a loud celebration among gun control advocates Wednesday morning.



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