Mar 5, 2015 5:10 PM

NH1 News Political Report: The must-read, weekly political column debuts


Editor's Note: This is the first installment in what will be a weekly political column from NH1 News' Chief Political Correspondent Kevin Landrigan. For more than 30 years, Landrigan won state and New England awards for weekly political columns he authored for New Hampshire and Masssachusetts daily newspapers.

The re-election campaign of Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, is well underway but The Tip Sheet has her first major fund-raising mail to New Hampshire supporters.

As a targeted Republican who may need to raise $10 million to prevail in 2016, Ayotte doesn't mince words about the challenge she faces.

"Twenty-four Republicans are up for re-election in 2016,'' Ayotte writes. "Of those, a national, non-partisan political analyst ranked me among the top five Republicans targeted for defeat.

"Don't forget: President Obama carried New Hampshire twice! So we have our work cut out for us.''

Ayotte also reminds that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control political action committee spent a bankroll attacking Ayotte's opposition to gun background check legislation.

"If you want proof, look no further than the past two years, when a liberal billionaire spent $2 million of his personal fortune to attack me for voting to protect our cherished constitutional freedoms,'' Ayotte adds. "And I wasn't even on the ballot!''

Ayotte doesn't mention the elephant in the room: the scary prospect of having to beat popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan to keep her six-year seat.

"You and I both realize that neither political party controls our state. Any race in New Hampshire is tough, and that will be true in my campaign for re-election.''


The latest, two-casino bill is off and running.

As NH1News first reported, Manchester Democratic Sen, Lou D'Allesandro tried to improve the odds of ending nearly a half century of opposition to expanded gambling in the New Hampshire House.

He added a second casino to curry favor with the libertarians who object to a monopoly of one business operating in the state.

Then he went after the many House members who also serve on municipal boards by sweetening the pot with $25 million in revenue sharing grants to cities and towns.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee endorsed the bill; the only disappointment for casino backers was the inability to win over Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord.

Feltes replaced former Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, who despite voting for casinos on occasion was never a fan for that method of raising revenue.

She went for it because Governor Hassan was championing it.

Once this bill passes the Senate - and it surely will - the fight shifts to the House Ways and Means Committee, the place where casino bills have always gone to die.

The chairman is Plaistow Republican Rep. Norm Major, a trusted, casino foe. The ranking Democrat is ex-Chairman Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, one of the most vocal opponents for this method of raising new revenue.

Place your bets but insist on much longer odds than even money to make any wager worth your while.


House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, knows he's got a target on his back.

During every session, Jasper wonders as the House pours through the calendars whether this is the bill where former Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, is going to strike.

Jasper placed nearly all of O'Brien's lieutenants seated near their mentor in the middle of a way-back row in the third section of historic Representatives Hall.

Each time the House meets, they quietly confer with O'Brien at his seat.

No real fireworks have gone off just yet.

But sources tell The Tip Sheet O'Brien is merely biding his time waiting for the best issue on which to strike.


Meanwhile, Jasper continues to make overt appeals to keep the conservatives in his caucus on board.

His first act as House leader was to reinstate the aborted-GOP rule that allowed members and the public to carry a concealed weapon in the House chamber and surrounding rooms.

This was a clear play to the Second Amendment fans in the House GOP caucus which number many. Keep in mind there are some gun ownership groups that don't trust Jasper as one of their own and cite some isolated votes over his near, 20-year career to prove it.

Then, Jasper schedules the most anti-abortion bill in the entire pile this year - defining life as beginning at conception - on the same day that is the anniversary of the abortion rights, Roe vs. Wade decision of the Supreme Court.

This was to signal to anti-abortion followers among House Republicans that he could be trusted on that issue as well.


O'Brien continues to be a rock star for conservatives nationally.

Last month he was on the guest speaker list for the Freedom Summit in Iowa.

On May 9, O'Brien is on the A-list of those coming to the microphone at the South Carolina Freedom Summit.

"Now more than ever, is the time to really set the path for 2016,'' O'Brien said.

By the way, he confirmed giving some assistance to planning the first trip of Donald Trump later this month.

"My advice to him was simple; do not try to win over voters in New Hampshire unless you intend to invest not just the money but the time here,'' O'Brien said.

It's much too early for O'Brien to come aboard any candidate - if he ever will - but the ex-House speaker praised Trump's early move of hiring on Corey Lewandowski, a nationally-known GOP operative who lived in Windham.

"My other demand was don't ever land your airplane on my front yard."


Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, is well in charge of the upper chamber but even he gets marching orders.

They have not come in demanding detail but trust me, they are on the way.

They go like this: Don't let Governor Maggie Hassan be able to claim any big success on her own.

The Ayotte supporters are watching every move Hassan makes and it's clear they believe Morse and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, are best positioned to block her progress.

Keep in mind, this strategy works. As now U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen who as governor was frustrated at every turn in 2001-02 as she prepared to run for the U.S. Senate.

It surely didn't help and played a role in her defeat to then Republican Congressman John E. Sununu. Shaheen got her revenge by winning the seat six years later.

Back to Morse, NH1 News reported this week the Senate leader picked the first big budget fight with Hassan over the cut in aid to nursing homes to balance the current state budget.

Hassan is not just turning the other cheek.

On Thursday, her staff clearly armed Senate Democrat Dan Feltes of Concord among others with information.

Feltes took on Morse over what NH1 News had first reported at the end of last summer that Senate Republicans made expensive purchases in furniture and also didn't meet their target to return unspent money to the treasury.

Bradley had his own comebacker.

"The Senate spent 82 percent of its budget while the governor's office spent 93 percent of theirs last year,'' Bradley said.

"I think that sort of settles the argument.''


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