Ex-House Speaker Bill O'Brien goes after Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, after her state director was arrested for pornography charges

Apr 9, 2015 10:48 AM

NH1 News Political Report: April 9, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet


There's one thing you always get with former House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, is he'll speak his mind.

And like any good conservative in the party with the elephant mascot, he never forgets.

Yes it might have been shocking but not out of character for O'Brien to go native on Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, this week on Facebook.

The arrest of Ayotte's state director, Dan Wihby, on prostitution charges and his apparent, attempted suicide to follow had most senior Republicans taking cover.

Some of Wihby's strongest allies came forward to praise his service like Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and former mayor and executive councilor Ray Wieczorek.

But most wanted to stay as far away from this controversy as possible and hope Ayotte survives any fallout.

Not so with O'Brien.

"Perhaps Dave Wihby can persuade Sen. Ayotte and her pals to circulate a letter on his behalf. Sort of an endorsement / character reference,'' O'Brien writes.

He then goes on to mock some of other more senior Republicans in the state.

"Now, let's see, whose signatures should be on that letter?

"Certainly Ayotte. No sense in ducking her involvement now.

"Sununu and Merrill, characters from the last century that they are, wouldn't miss the opportunity for relevance.

"Bass may be hard to find (is he in Washington or New Hampshire?), but he would sign if asked or hired as a lobbyist.

"And Scamman and Sytek would be thrilled to remind people that they are still with us.

"If Wihby is a little too distracted at the moment to come up with an effective letter, his good friend Terry Pfaff could help him. He has before.''

O'Brien said this is Ayotte's scandal.

"But in the end, Ayotte owns this one,'' O'Brien concludes.

Why is O'Brien so peeved at Ayotte? That's easy to answer.

It was Ayotte who led the charge for New Hampshire Republicans last November to nominate not O'Brien but former House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, for speaker.

O'Brien barely won that caucus vote and surely the support of Merrill, Scamman, Bass and Ayotte for Chandler helped make it too close for comfort.

You can be sure that it was about 20 or so supporters for Chandler who switched on the House floor to Rep. Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, to deliver his stunning upset of O'Brien for speaker.

Here's the link to O'Brien's post.

The more interesting question going forward is whether this animosity could translate into a primary challenge of Ayotte in 2016.


The Fish and Game Department will soon lose one of its top-notch professionals.

Martin Garabedian, the agency's longtime chief of law enforcement, will be retiring early next month, NH1 News has confirmed.

The move comes at a difficult time for an agency that continues to struggle with financial self-sufficiency.

Gov. Maggie Hassan tried to assist with that by giving the agency the authority on its own to set future hunting and fishing license fees.

The House-approved state budget gives the agency that power as well but it's likely to come under tough scrutiny as t he Senate puts its budget together.

Many senior legislators don't like the idea of giving any bureaucratic group the power to create its own revenue structure without legislative oversight.


For those following the Senate-passed casino bill, all eyes are on the House Ways and Means Committee.

This panel has a long history of recommending death for casino legislation and the odds are this year's bill is likely not to get a favorable report.

But the vote of three House freshmen depending on where they go could make it close and that can make a difference.

Two years ago, the House Finance and Ways and Means Committee jointly heard this bill and voted 24-23 against the single-casino bill Gov. Maggie Hassan supported.

This surely helped the cause on the House floor and the bill fell just one vote shy of staying alive.

Fast forward to now and these are the three who lobbyists on both sides of the issue are badgering since everyone else has a track record on casinos.

- Rep. Tom Southworth, D-Dover

- Rep. Dan Leeman, R-Rochester

- Rep. Brian Gallagher, R-Sanbornton


I guess it was to be expected but the elbows are flying early in this Republican presidential primary campaign.

Two weeks ago it was Rand Paul who dissed Ted Cruz as ineffective in the Senate in the days leading up to Cruz' announcement.

Now that Paul has his announcement tour we have a different group out with both barrels for Rand.

The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America sponsored the TV ads airing in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina linking Paul's views on Iran to President Obama's.

The group is headed by Rick Reed, a veteran Republican media strategist who has worked for South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham - a hawk who is considering a presidential bid of his own.

Reed is known for his role in the "swift boat" ads attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 on his security record.

During an interview with NH1 News Political Director Paul Steinhauser, Paul dismissed the ad noting that PolitiFact has already concluded the charges against him were false.


There are several signs Rand Paul will not be a conventional candidate, someone who deftly tries to make it through the political mine field without taking big risks or making bold statements.

So much for low expectations.

The tradition for several election cycles has been for candidates to not raise the bar they must clear in New Hampshire to move on. So very few have acknowledged the obvious, that they have to do well in the first primary state much less win it.

Paul surprised some observers by acknowledging just that saying it was very important for him to win here and that in fact he would.

By the way, this outside-the-box style of Paul's is precisely what attracts many activists to his candidacy.


Gov. Maggie Hassan is moving quickly on filling key spots in her administration.

Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon has retired ending a long career that took her from filling some key agency roles in the Department of Health and Human Services before becoming what effectively is the state's chief financial officer.

Hodgdon won high marks from legislators and executive councilors alike both for her competence and her willingness to speak frankly about issues of the day.

Then there's Assistant Transportation Commissioner Jeff Brillhart who is also retiring. He served as acting commissioner last fall after Commissioner Chris Clement left to take a financial post with the University of New Hampshire.

But Brillhart never openly sought the top post but instead was a reliable second in command who not only worked well.


Rest in peace for former State Planning Director Jeff Taylor, 67, who died earlier this week.

Taylor made his name by helping the North Country rebound economically during the 1980s as its planning director.

Former governor Jeanne Shaheen made Taylor the state's top planner and he held the post for 15 years before leaving to form his own consulting firm.


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