May 27, 2016 7:49 PM

NH1 News Political Report: May 23, 2016 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

Who is the biggest surprise candidate to not emerge when filing period begins next Wednesday?

That would be former, Mass. Sen. Scott Brown.

Yes indeed, Brown would have considered running for the State Senate seat being vacated by Hampton Republican Sen. Nancy Stiles who on Thursday confirmed she was hanging it up after a dozen years in the New Hampshire Legislature.

There was one big obstacle: Brown could not be elected under the New Hampshire Constitution.

Brown was able to seek the US Senate seat against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2014 even though he had only just moved into their retirement home in Rye.

That’s federal office, where there is no residency limit.

There is one when it comes to state office, and it’s seven years. You may recall in 2014 this residency issue came into play when Democrats challenged the right of Republican candidate for governor Walt Havenstein being on the ballot after we had disclosed that he had sought and obtained residency property tax breaks while living in Maryland.

The Ballot Law Commission decided by a 3-2 margin that Havenstein had never relinquished his state residency and a decisive point in that case that Havenstein never registered to vote in Maryland.

Brown would not have been the first former US senator to enter the state Senate chamber. Ex-Senator Gordon Humphrey did just that more than a decade ago.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, and Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley now will have to practice triage when it comes to trying to take over the Senate this fall.

With six Senate Republicans retiring, both now realize they don’t have to win all of them in order to win the majority.

They also need to consider which seats could be represented by Republicans who are more acceptable to Democrats than others.

A good example is in the Stiles district which leans Republican.

If 2014 congressional candidate Dan Innis were to become the nominee, he’s a pro-abortion rights and pro-gay rights Republican and clearly one who could work with the Democrats especially on social issues.

But Innis is by no means a shoo-in to grab this nomination; businessman Steve Kenda is likely to run along with Rye activist Ray Tweedie.

So let’s explore some of their opportunities for pick-ups.

[-] Dist. 16: retiring Republican Sen. David Boutin. Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, has already declared he’s in the hunt and someone in the GOP from Manchester or Hooksett is bound to emerge. A moderate Manchester Democrat has a good chance of scoring an upset but it’s important to keep in mind that this seat is more GOP-leaning now than it was before the 2011 Senate redistricting.

[-] Dist. 12: Republican Sen. Kevin Avard. This first-term Republican unseated Hollis Democrat Peggy Gilmour in 2014 and this election will feature a rematch. The Democratic chances in this district are much better in a presidential year than in a state election. A cautionary tale for Democrats here; Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, rolled up big numbers in this district when she first won in 2010.

[-] Dist. 2: Retiring Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith. This is a rock-ribbed GOP district. The Democrats have identified a very solid candidate, Warren Democrat and former County Commissioner Charles Chandler. But once again, this isn’t a race that state party leaders should invest large sums into; if they win this one, they’ll get more than 13 senators on Election Day.

[-] Dist. 8: Retiring Republican and Banking Commissioner to be Jerry Little, R-Weare. Back in the day Democrats have held this seat with the likes of former House Democratic Leader Rick Trombly of Boscawen. This seat has also become more red thanks to redistricting but it’s possible.

[-] Dist. 6: Retiring Farmington Republican Sen. Sam Cataldo. This one was a surprise since only a few weeks ago Cataldo had told NH1 Political Director Paul Steinhauser that he definitely was going to seek re-election but then abruptly changed his mind. As a result, the Democrats have real prospects here as it was not a seat that was on the GOP leadership radar until recently.
One thing is clear about this upcoming filing period. There will be some surprise candidates and it’s very likely that both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats who have not asked for permission to run will nonetheless show up to file believing that with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders primary wins here, this is the year of the outsider.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, is one of the ablest legislators at this time of year.

The House Finance Committee chairman knows how to use what state senators want as leverage to get what he really desires.

But 2016 will not go down as his most successful.

It looked like after three years and a lot of dissent along the way, Kurk was going to get his way and secure state regulation of drones. He had managed over time to get many, past opponents for this idea to climb aboard including state regulators.

Yet House and Senate negotiators could not find common ground in part because Kurk was not willing to accept the many exemptions to regulation that the Senate had carved out in its version of the bill.
Kurk and House budget writers also ultimately lost out to the Senate in how the final version of the opioid spending bill turned out.

Only a few weeks ago it looked like gay and transgender rights supporters were going to score a rare victory in the Republican-led Legislature.

The State Senate had late in this session given support for banning the practice of conversion therapy which is used to try and reverse someone’s predisposition to be a homosexual or to change their gender identity.

This also became an issue on which what looked like a compromise fell apart.

Why? Legislative leaders aren’t speaking publicly on the topic but it sure looked like an issue on which House and Senate GOP figures decided was one best not to be accomplished. And for good reason.

Cornerstone Action New Hampshire and other socially conservative groups had mobilized since the Senate action and were urging GOP leaders to back off.

If this agreement were reached, it was feared that more veteran Republicans could face primary challenges.

State Democrats have to be pretty pleased with their keynote speaker now that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has confirmed she will kick off the June 18 event.

Count on Warren to step up her attacks on Republican nominee to be Donald Trump who the GOP candidate won derision for after referring to her as ``Pocahontas.’’

Both Democratic and Republican chairman from New Hampshire will be busy at their nominating conventions. Democratic Chair Buckley has been practicing shuttle diplomacy with Clinton and Sanders campaigns to try and keep the peace and prevent the event from turning into a slugfest.

Meanwhile GOP Chairman Steve Duprey knows now he will have to refight the New Hampshire primary position battle as the national GOP committee considers rules changes that would urge the first primary state to share its position with a neighboring state such as Vermont or Massachusetts.

Well that was quick.

Gov. Maggie Hassan asked for and pretty quickly got the bill to repeal the permit needed to carry a concealed gun.

There was no surprise here. Hassan had vetoed a near-identical bill last year and left little doubt she was going to do the same.

The timing for this veto was opportune, i.e, late Friday afternoon entering a sleepy holiday weekend.

"Nothing has changed since last year’s attempt to repeal the license requirement for carrying a concealed firearm – our current law continues to work well, public safety officials have the same concerns and the elimination of this responsible, common-sense law would still compromise the safety of our citizens,’’ Hassan wrote. "Therefore, I have vetoed House Bill 582.”

The other thing that hasn’t changed is the ultimate outcome. The move to override Hassan’s veto of this bill will fail and her veto will be sustained.

Who says the Concord political clout is on the wane?

Take a look at what the Capital City lawmakers just accomplished pulling off the move to keep a new Merrimack County Superior Court downtown.

Senate Capital Budget Chairman Gary Daniels, R-Milford, said they made a compelling case.

"The Capital Budget Committee listened closely to the many stakeholders and heard how critically important it is to the people and small businesses in Concord to keep the Merrimack County Superior Courthouse in the downtown area.’’

"I am pleased that we were able to come together and make that happen.”

Daniels said the renovation on site will save the state taxpayers $1 million. It was also a big win for GOP Chair Duprey whose firm just won the bid to do the work.

Quote of the Week:

"We are disappointed that the KC-46A program is experiencing development problems, but we are confident that Boeing and the Air Force are working hard to address these challenges as quickly and effectively as possible. The most important thing is to provide our combatant commanders and airmen the best possible tanker that will help them accomplish their missions and protect our country for decades to come.’’ Senators Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, comment on reports that initial movement for the new Air Force super tanker development at bases in Oklahoma and Kansas have been pushed back several months in 2017. The schedule still calls for development at Pease to take place in the spring of 2018.

Here’s the link to that report:

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