Jan 8, 2016 7:36 PM

NH1 News Political Report: January 9, 2016 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet


Here’s how risky the roll call snafu was in the New Hampshire House this past week.

You have to feel bad for the national contractor who was charged with installing a replacement to the electronic voting system that’s been in place at the State House since the Watergate Era.

That’s because they advised House leaders they would need several weeks of testing to make sure all the bugs were out before it could go live.

But as everyone knows by now, this was not a typical, off-election year session when lawmakers go home in late June or July not to be seen of again in the House or Senate chamber until the following January.

First you had Gov. Maggie Hassan’s veto and the three months of private and public negotiations that followed.

Then you had the fight between Hassan and the Republican-led Legislature over whether there was going to be a special session to deal with the heroin crisis.

Ultimately there was a one-day meeting to set up the task force but all of this prevented any extended time for them to do proper testing.

Now here’s how the plot really thickens. At one point Thursday when the system crashed, some staff just wanted to junk the new one for a time and go back to the old ``wired’’ network.

Oops. Couldn’t do that because the New Hampshire Political Report has confirmed none of the information backing up the more than 800 bills put in for the 2016 system were copied onto the old system. Estimates are it would take as much as a week to do that.

So all House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, could do was pray for the software glitch to go away and after nearly an agonizing two hours, it did just that.


We’ve got an inside look at a new poll by the Democratic pollster, Public Polling Inc. and it’s got some alarming news for Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH.

On the fifth anniversary of the Tuscon shooting that severely wounded former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, New Hampshire likely voters were again asked the question if they support a criminal background check before all purchases of guns.

The answer: 83 percent say yes and only 11 percent say no.

Now we’re here to remind folks that the Giffords shooter got his weapon after a criminal background check.

But count on Gov. Maggie Hassan’s campaign taking this information and running with it big time during the 2016 campaign.

They watched former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s-led gun control group spend $2 million to seriously drive up Ayotte’s negatives two years ago.

The freshman, New Hampshire Republican has recovered though in this survey 41 percent had a favorable view of the incumbent while 43 percent were unfavorable.

Not surprisingly, Hassan had a better positive split, 48 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable.

Now in the all-important horse race even with in this Democratic poll, Ayotte edges Hassan, 44 percent to 42 percent.

As for early on the race for governor, Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu has his own "image’’ issues, with 33 percent unfavorable to 32 percent favorable.

Still, Sununu defeats his potential Democratic challengers including fellow Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, 39 percent to 35 percent

Here’s my personal favorite. Remember when the region was Red Sox Country?

No more? Asked for their favorite sports team, 42 percent picked the New England Patriots compared to 24 percent who chose the Sox.

The Boston Bruins (9 percent) and Boston Celtics (6 percent) trailed far behind.


The opioid/heroin crisis isn’t about 400 deaths, it’s about individual stories of tragedy and New Hampshire’s political elite seems to be getting that message.

So while it was very uncommon prior to recently now all are talking openly and publicly about their personal connection to the epidemic.

For Congressman Frank Guinta, it’s speaking about his ``family member’’ who suffers with mental illness.

"As a family we agreed it was important for me to talk about it to give a voice to the many who struggle with this every day,’’ Guinta told the New Hampshire Forum on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic at Southern New Hampshire University.

For Congresswoman Annie Kuster, it’s spilling the fact someone in her extended family is ``living with substance abuse and co-dependent mental health issues.’’

"Your family stories are important,’’ Kuster said. "Diseases of the brain are stigmatized in our society, it’s not your failing and people need to hear that.’’

And Attorney General Joe Foster talks about how his wife, Dr. Marissa Baltus, was called away dinner recently only to report a family friend of hers had an overdose in the family.

Gov. Maggie Hassan embraces Kriss Blevens, mother of overdose victim and says the survivors deserve their best.

"Our future shrinks before us,’’ Hassan says of the mounting carnage and pays tribute to the families.

"Their bravery needs to be matched by our action.’’


Defeat snatches the jaws of victory and Open Democracy wants some answers.

Campaign finance reform advocates are livid at what also happened to them in the House Thursday when their hopes at making history were dashed.

New Hampshire could have been the first to have a Republican-led Legislature approve a commission calling on Congress to repeal the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited, unreported money in campaigns.

Dan Weeks and Co. thought they had it when the House voted initially, 156-152, to pass the bill.

Then the roll call system died, the House had to vote orally to reconsider the vote at the request of critics.

The move to reconsider passed, 160-149. Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, rushed to the microphone urged the House to kill the bill and the House agreed on a voice vote.

Weeks told The New Hampshire Political Report the group is considering a formal complaint to House leaders.

"Our understanding was that people had to remain in their seats while the reconsideration vote was going on and members told us that a lot of arms were getting twisted,’’ Weeks said.

We did our own investigation and here’s our list of six House Republicans who voted first for the bill but moments later changed their minds let the issue be reopened and then killed:

- Rep. James Coffey, R-New Ipswich;

- Rep. Allen Cook, R-Brentwood;

- Rep. Robert Fesh, R-Derry;

- Rep. George Hurt, R-Gilford;

- Rep. Thomas Laware, R-Charlestown and,

- Rep. Peter Varney, R-Alton.


The attack ad from the Super PAC backing Marco Rubio attacking Chris Christie brings us into the next phase of this stretch run.

The worst kept secret is five of the top six in the GOP primary all understand the number one imperative right now.

That’s to eliminate the others as the alternative to Donald Trump.

The only way the entertainer/frontrunner gets taken out in the first-in-the-nation primary is for the voter herd in the final weeks to move as a group to someone else.

Now all signs point to these candidates each offering a different strategy. John Kasich appears to be trying to nail down the nice guy’s role declining to go negative even on policy issues against the field.

Keep this one in mind. They all have the ego to believe they will get there but most of them also know if they play their cards right, they have a fair shot at a place on the ticket, that’s if they play nice.

This will be put to the test over the final month.


Breaking up is hard to do and the 603 Alliance is not having a good divorce with Andrew Hemingway, the 2014 Republican candidate for governor who jumped the Cruz campaign bandwagon and went with Donald Trump.

Former State Rep. Fran Wendleboe, is a co-founder of the alliance and says they are sticking with Cruz.

"He’s looking to advance himself,’’ Wendleboe says. "We’re disappointed in Andrew but it’s a blip.’’


If you are looking for an entertaining and informative time you might try the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Jan. 19.

That’s because Secretary of State Bill Gardner and Institute Executive Director Neil Levesque will be co-hosting the "Lesser-Known Candidate forum.’’

The New Hampshire Political Report first reported the date for this event which Gardner has championed since 1972.

It gives all 50 candidates on the Feb. 9 ballot including fan favorite Vermin Supreme their 15 minutes of fame at the microphone.


Nice pickup for Democratic candidate for governor Colin Van Ostern who picked up endorsements from the mayors of Concord, Keene, Nashua and Rochester.

What’s key here is Keene’s Kendall Lane, now an independent but a former Republican whose wife, Jane, is a longtime and prominent GOP figure.

The others are Democrats, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess who is officially back in the corner office after a 25-year haitus, former State Sen. Caroline McCarley in Rochester, and Concord lobbyist and mayor Jim Bouley.


Quote of the Week:

"My comments to a colleague is I don’t want to see any of my colleagues’ breasts and I stand behind that; no apologies whatsoever.’’ A defiant, State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, says he’s not backing down from his comments at Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D-Manchester, who Baldasaro said would be the "last nipple’’ he would want to see.


"Representative Kappler, you are out of order, Representative Kappler you are out of order. Please stand down; move away from the podium.’’ - An exasperated House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, getting testy in the heat of the voting machine meltdown.


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