Apr 7, 2016 7:31 AM
Steinhauser: O'Connor says state Sen. Pierce confirms allegations against Shea-Porter; her campaign calls charges a 'desperate attack'
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – It appears to be getting ugly in the Democratic battle in the 1st Congressional District between first time candidate Shawn O’Connor and former longtime Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
O’Connor’s accusing Shea-Porter’s campaign of repeatedly calling him “a perpetrator of domestic violence.”
And Thursday the O'Connor campaign said that state Sen. David Pierce confirmed that Shea-Porter's campaign was the source of the rumors.
A spokeswoman for Shea-Porter described the charge from O’Connor as an “untruthful” and a “desperate attack.”
In an email to supporters sent on Wednesday and on his campaign website, the Bedford businessman’s campaign writes that “the Shea-Porter campaign has spread this lie so extensively that ‘Shawn O’Connor domestic violence’ is the third search suggestion that comes up on Google. Ms. Shea-Porter and her campaign have known since, at least mid-2015, that Mr. O’Connor is, actually, a survivor of domestic violence (this is also supported by extensive medical/legal records).”
The O’Connor campaign goes on to claim that the Shea-Porter’s team “has continued perpetuating this well into 2016.”
And they ask “one must wonder if Ms. Shea-Porter would have undertaken such a strategy to brutally attack a straight female, rather than Mr. O’Connor, an LGBT male. It is absolutely unacceptable to knowingly lie about domestic violence to gain political advantage, and anyone who does is unfit to serve in any public position.”
The O’Connor campaign’s asking supporters to sign a petition calling “on Ms. Shea-Porter to immediately end her congressional candidacy.”
And a source close to the O’Connor campaign told NH1 News that on Thursday, the campaign will publicly demand that all organizations that supported Shea-Porter rescind those endorsements and refund any campaign contributions. Among the organizations that have backed Shea-Porter are EMILY’s List, the Teamsters union, and Democracy for America.
In a statement provided to NH1 News, Shea-Porter spokeswoman Naomi Andrews responded, saying “this is just a sad, untruthful, and desperate attack. Nothing more needs to be said.”
The O'Connor campaign on Thursday released a statement from Pierce, who's backing O'Connor's congressional bid.
"After endorsing Shawn for Congress, I spoke to a member of Team Shea Porter who told me a number of allegations against Shawn, including that he was a perpetrator of domestic violence. I was shocked to hear this; this was not the Shawn I knew,” stated Pierce. “So I did my homework to learn if the allegation was true.”
“As a result of probing into the evidence behind these allegations, I determined that they were, in fact, false,” Pierce continued. “I then, again, spoke to the same member of Team Shea Porter and related what I had learned. The member of Team Shea Porter admitted to me that, although several staunch members of Team Shea Porter had been repeating these allegations about Shawn, the evidence this individual had gathered, since our first conversation, did not appear to support the allegation that Shawn was a perpetrator of domestic violence, but was, in fact, a survivor.”
One of O’Connor’s allegations is that the Shea-Porter campaign reached out to Julia Barnes, the New Hampshire state director for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, in hopes of preventing O’Connor from introducing Sanders at a campaign rally in early January in Newmarket.
O’Connor did attend that event, speaking at the rally, as he became the only Democratic statewide or federal official or candidate in the state to endorse the senator from Vermont, who ended up crushing Hillary Clinton in the February 9 primary.
NH1 News reached out twice to Barnes, but she did not respond. But in a Facebook post from Wednesday evening she was very supportive of Shea-Porter.
“So there is no confusion for my NH friends – I am proud to have worked for Carol Shea-Porter on the coordinated campaign in 2010. Proud to have voted for her and proud to be able to vote for her again when I return home to Manchester,” Barnes wrote.
“She is a strong voice for NH residents and I am looking forward to helping return her to office with my vote in 2016,” she continued.
But the Facebook post doesn’t refute O’Connor’s claims that Shea-Porter representatives reached out to Barnes to try and to prevent O’Connor from speaking at the Sanders rally.
Shea-Porter first won election to Congress in 2006, winning re-election in 2008 before losing to Republican Frank Guinta in 2010. She defeated Guinta in the 2012 rematch but lost to him again in the 2014 midterm election. Shea-Porter announced last September that she would run again in 2016 to win back the seat in the state’s 1st Congressional District.
O’Connor’s a test-prep entrepreneur who moved from New York City to Bedford nearly five years ago. Last summer he launched his bid for Congress.
Guinta, the Republican incumbent who last year survived a campaign contribution controversy, is being primary challenged by Bedford businessman Rich Ashooh and state Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland.