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Jul 16, 2015 7:06 PM

NH1 News Political Report: July 16, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet


As speculation swirls over whether Gov. Maggie Hassan will take on Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, another sign that re-election in 2016 could be in her future.

Hassan’s 2016 gubernatorial political action committee is up and running.

Campaign finance reports confirm that less than three weeks after her 2014 victory over retired, Republican businessman Walt Havenstein, Hassan closed her re-election campaign account and created Friends of Maggie Hassan 2016.

After paying leftover bills, the campaign moved over about $23,500 to the new PAC.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Political Report has learned Hassan’s PAC has done some fund-raising in this past spring, the extent of which remains pretty murky.

Those close to Hassan insist there have been no recent fundraisers but there were "Friends of Hassan" events some time earlier.

All this becomes relevant thanks to state and federal campaign finance laws.

Hassan can’t move money raised from her state account directly into a new, federal campaign. Should she decide to run for the Senate, she could flip at least some if not most of it into a third-party PAC that would support her candidacy.


Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s declaration that she’ll seek a third, two-year term to the US House and pass on her own Senate bid wasn’t at all surprising.

While plenty of Democratic activists view Kuster as the party’s best hope if Hassan opts not to run for the Senate, the Second District incumbent has been acting as if the status quo would be her course of action.

Kuster would love nothing better than to convince Hassan to go after Ayotte.

But going public now only increases the pressure that will be put on Hassan to move full speed ahead.

What if she says no as many observers believe she will?

Here’s a sample of who else might step forward.

- Ex-Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter: She’s focused now on getting back the First District seat Frank Guinta took away from her last November. But in the past, Shea-Porter has expressed some interest in making the move up and she remains a popular figure among the party’s very liberal base.

- Executive Councilors Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, and Chris Pappas, D-Manchester. Both would rather make a different, next move up than this one and not simply because beating Ayotte is such a tall order. Van Ostern’s eyes are more on the governor’s chair if and when Hassan vacates it.

Pappas is widely seen as a serious contender for Guinta’s congressional seat given nearly all of his sprawling city/suburban district is contained in the First District.

- Self-funded businessman. Here’s the most intriguing and potentially ideal choice. Much like Havenstein last year, Democratic leaders might be wise to turn to someone with enough means of their own to at least stake the early part of the campaign. Again like Havenstein, this would be someone without political baggage (i.e., a voting record) who could cast a centrist Democratic image for her or himself.

What you would need especially at this relatively late date, however, is a past or current executive who’s knowledgeable on the issues and preferably active in the party like Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt.

In the past, Hirshberg has thought about runs for governor and senator and opted not to run, but he’s the type of business executive/activist leading Democrats could turn to if the usual suspects don’t emerge.


The competing furor over Right to Know requests for e-mails, telephone calls, calendars of Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican legislative leaders reminds us how weak our open records are at the State House.

Republicans went after Hassan’s records to determine the extent of contact between the governor and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid over a Senate run in 2016.

Democrats sought documents, emails etc. of GOP budget writers and top Republicans to buttress their accusation that Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, was meddling in State House affairs to try and put more political pressure on Hassan.

Let’s start with the obvious which thankfully the Legislature doesn’t apply across the board. It’s specifically exempt from RSA 91-A.

Then there’s the 2011 advisory opinion of then-Attorney General Mike Delaney right on point. At that time, House Speaker William O’Brien wanted Delaney to rule that the List Serv where legislators can engage in online chats with one another are private communications.

This came after no doubt Democratic lawmakers decided to start leaking some of the more colorful comments from conservative Republicans to the liberal blog, Huffington Post.

"We conclude that with certain exceptions many emails sent or received by legislators do not constitute governmental records as that term is used in RSA 91-A as they are not created, accepted or obtained by or on behalf of the General Court," Delaney wrote.

On July 8, Hassan Legal Counsel Mary Ann Dempsey gave the same response regarding the governor’s records.

"The Attorney General’s Office has opined that RSA 91-A does not apply to the governor’s office," Dempsey wrote in the memo the New Hampshire Political Report obtained.


Welcome to New Hampshire, Hillary.

The Democratic front-runner may have had her first uncomfortable and spontaneous moment Thursday when environmental activists broke out in "Act on Climate" chant after they were unhappy that she would not commit to banning extraction of fossil fuels from public lands.

Next Gen Climate organizers say they weren’t behind the chanting or banner waving at her first town hall in Dover.

Clinton came off pretty well in the exchange getting a standing ovation and loud cheer when she declared her determination to "speak directly" on issues even if it doesn’t make everyone happy.


The gloves are coming off over the temporary state budget and the ammunition is substance abuse.

To this point, Hassan has been playing nice in public with GOP legislative leaders believing that a "bad cop" role is not helpful as she tries to get legislative leaders to come back to the table and seriously negotiate following her budget veto.

But the drumbeat from state GOP leaders that Hassan’s veto put at risk more money to fight the state’s heroin epidemic got a rise from the always cautious incumbent.

Hassan’s speech to substance abuse providers Thursday was meant to underline the fact that her proposed budget offered back in February had $3 million more than what had been in the Republican-backed budget the governor vetoed.

Then Executive Councilor Chris Sununu poured gasoline on the fire jumping with both feet on the complaint of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas that he’s been unable to meet with the state’s drug czar.

Sununu said it reveals a "pattern of mismanagement" by Hassan on substance abuse issues.

The pattern, of course, refers to the fact Hassan admitted to WMUR earlier this week she had been unaware that New Hampshire was in line to receive a three-year, $12 million federal grant that Vermont’s governor had just publicly celebrated.

Clearly state agency bureaucrats dropped the ball in failing to brief Hassan on the matter since the grant wasn’t anything new and was in fact simply a renewal of federal money support the state had already been getting for the past several years.

State Democratic leaders pushed back that A) Sununu opposed spending the money to financially support the drug czar position and B) Gatsas hasn’t shown up at meetings the state anti-drug official has hosted in the state.

What’s notable is Sununu’s critical coming out since for the past several months he’s publicly stayed under the radar and opted not to take shots at Hassan even as he explores his own run for governor in 2016.


Quote of the Week:

"Ever heard of Kelly Ayotte? She'd be a helluva attorney general.''

- 2016er Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who told Hooksett workers he was glad Eric Holder was gone as AG and also mentioned Congressman Trey Gowdy, R-SC, as another good prospect.


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