Sep 21, 2016 11:50 PM
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – It’s over.
And in its final decision, New Hampshire’s Ballot Law Commission decided Wednesday to keep independent candidate Shawn O’Connor on the ballot in the race for the state’s 1st Congressional District.
The 4-1 vote by the commission to uphold their ruling from last week and keep O’Connor on the ballot is a defeat for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which argued for two straight weeks that the candidate didn’t have the required 1,500 nomination papers needed to get on the ballot.
State Democrats argued that O’Connor did not use the proper nomination papers, saying that the type he submitted missed a page that explained that state law dictates that no voter can sign more than one nomination paper for each race. NHDP attorney William Christie said that 26 of the nomination papers were signed by people who also signed nomination papers for other candidates for the same office. If those 26 papers were dropped from O’Connor’s count, he would have failed to reach the 1,500 threshold.
But Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan told the commission that the missing page is inconsequential.
“On its face I think this is a frivolous argument. I think it is unfortunate that they question our ability to give a correct answer. I know the Democratic Party has a political objective here and that's to have a certain candidate not appear on the ballot,’ Scanlan argued.
Speaking to reporters later, O’Connor agreed, saying “I think Dave Scanlan, the deputy secretary of state said it right, that this was simply an effort by the Democratic Party for political reasons to take me off the ballot and I’m glad that the commission didn’t buy that argument.”
From Democrat to independent
Last year O’Connor launched a Democratic congressional campaign. A few months later former Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter announced she would run for her old seat in the 1st CD. Earlier this year, as first reported by NH1 News, O’Connor alleged that Shea-Porter and her supporters spread false rumors about him. She and her campaign denied the allegations. At the time, O’Connor threated legal action against Shea-Porter and the NHDP, which he accused of favoring Shea-Porter.
Two months later, in June, O’Connor said he was leaving the Democratic Party and would run as an independent.
Some Democrats worry that if O’Connor’s on the ballot, he could pull votes away from Shea-Porter. The Republican incumbent in the race, Rep. Frank Guinta, talking to NH1 News last week at the New Hampshire GOP unity breakfast, twice mentioned that he was running against both Shea-Porter and O’Connor.
And in a statement minutes after the commission’s ruling on Wednesday, the Guinta campaign wrote “last week, fearing O’Connor will draw significant support from Shea-Porter, Democrats tried unsuccessfully to invalidate petition signatures from Granite Staters unhappy with their party’s choice for New Hampshire’s First District congressional seat. The state party’s appeal to the Ballot Law Commission failed again today.”
O’Connor told NH1 News that “I think the winners today of this four to one decision upholding the ballot law commission are the people of the first district. Finally after eight years they will have a viable choice other than Frank Guinta or Carol Shea-Porter.
Asked by NH1 News if he’s still considering any legal action, O’Connor answered “we have no immediate intentions to file any type of legal actions. Fortunately the integrity of the Ballot law Commission is such that they both times saw that I met all the legal requirements. I have no interest in suing anyone right now.”
New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District is one of the most closely watched swing districts in the country. Shea-Porter won the seat in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008. Guinta defeated her in 2010, but she won the 2012 rematch. Guinta defeated Shea-Porter again in 2014.
O’Connor now becomes the fifth candidate on the ballot, joining Guinta, Shea-Porter, Libertarian Robert Lombardo, and independent Brendan Kelly.
O’Connor vows to run a vigorous campaign, telling NH1 News that “you can expect to see us on TV, radio, direct mail. You can you expect to see canvassers, a lot of them are volunteers. I have a very strong and growing volunteer base.”
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