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State Rep. Al Baldasaro under fire after Clinton ‘shot for treason’ comments

  • Al Baldasaro is interviewed by the Daily Caller on Wednesday in Cleveland. (Allie Morris / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Al Baldasaro paced outside the GOP convention media space Wednesday, a cell phone to one ear and a half-smoked cigarette in his hand.

His voice rising, the 59-year-old told a reporter that Democrat Hillary Clinton should “be shot” for her handling of classified material.

“It’s treason,” said Baldasaro, a U.S. Marines veteran who wore his trademark camouflage “Make America Great Again” hat.

Baldasaro’s comments, first made Tuesday, have gone viral. As he moved on to a radio interview, his cell phone continued to blow up. They’re “hate calls,” said his wife, Judy, who got on her own cell phone to call their children in Londonderry and tell them to lock the doors.

Baldasaro, one of New Hampshire’s 400 state representatives, has become known locally for his controversial statements – from commenting on a female colleague’s nipple to suggesting the state sells adopted children to same-sex couples. But he has largely been dismissed as a party outsider by New Hampshire Republicans.

That is now changing. Baldasaro is one of several low-level state officials whose star has risen as their candidate, Donald Trump, takes the helm of the Republican Party.

Baldasaro is facing the additional scrutiny that comes with his new role on the national stage. The backlash was especially harsh Wednesday, and it came from all political parties.

“People in New Hampshire are sort of inured to Al’s comments,” said Fergus Cullen, a former state GOP chairman. “But there’s going to be people around the rest of the country who are going to be completely appalled by this.”

Baldasaro signed on as an early supporter of Trump, the bombastic businessman who most thought had no shot at the presidency. He feels Trump can actually deliver on his promises, unlike some of the Democrats and Republicans Baldasaro has supported in the past.

A co-chairman of Trump’s veterans coalition, Baldasaro made his national debut at a press conference in New York this year. Wearing a black suit, he stood quietly behind Trump, who defended the timing of contributions he made to veterans charities. But ultimately Baldasaro took his own brief turn at the microphone, slamming reporters for questioning the candidate’s donation and accusing them of having liberal bias.

At the GOP convention, Baldasaro is recognized regularly. He has been stopped by both fans asking for pictures and reporters seeking interviews. Each morning, Baldasaro walks media row doing interviews until his usually loud, gruff voice starts to go raspy. By 11 a.m. Wednesday, he already had spoken to a half-dozen media outlets, mostly repeating his call for Clinton to “be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

His remarks drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike, who called Baldasaro’s rhetoric “disgusting” and “dangerous.” The New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman called for Baldasaro to resign, and his Republican counterpart pushed for an apology. The Trump camp tried to distance itself, telling NH1 that it doesn’t agree and Baldasaro doesn’t speak for the campaign. And Clinton’s camp tried to link Baldasaro with Trump, saying he represents “the constant escalation of outrageous rhetoric.”

“He’s an asset and a liability,” said fellow Trump delegate Fred Doucette, a Salem state representative. “That’s what makes him such an asset, because he speaks his mind.”

Baldasaro isn’t one to back down. He was drawn to Trump’s campaign for the businessman’s blunt speech and “tell-it-like-it-is” attitude.

“I have been attacked nationally for some of the things I have said. But they have to show me where I am wrong,” he said Wednesday. “The liberals’ interpretation of freedom of speech and political correctness is totally different than mine.”

Baldasaro was raised a Democrat. His grandfather was a four-term mayor of Cambridge, Mass., who used to hold court with the Kennedys and Tip O’Neill, he said. Baldasaro would tag along. “I know the Democrat playbook and how they attack,” Baldasaro said. “I was born into politics.”

Baldasaro enlisted in the Marines right after high school; he turned 19 in boot camp. It was Ronald Reagan who drew Baldasaro into the GOP. “He motivated me as my commander and chief,” Baldasaro said.

His own entrance into politics came much later, when he bought land in Londonderry hoping to turn it into a three-house family compound (Baldasaro has seven grandchildren). Some of the property was seized through eminent domain, Baldasaro said, and his attempts to overturn the ruling were unsuccessful.

“I said if I can’t beat you on the outside, I will beat you on the inside.”

In 2006, he ran for state representative and picked up a seat in the House, earning $100 a year.

Baldasaro has stirred up controversy in the chamber. He made national headlines last year after joining a debate on Facebook over female toplessness and saying a fellow representatives’ nipple would be “the last one” he would want to see.

The Londonderry Republican has at times been a thorn in the side of House Republican leadership. He repeatedly denounced House Speaker Shawn Jasper after the Hudson Republican defeated party pick Bill O’Brien to take the gavel.

“He shoots from the hip I guess,” said Jasper, when asked about Baldasaro’s legislative style Wednesday. “I don’t think that it serves his constituents particularly well.”

But Baldasaro continues to be re-elected. He is now serving his fifth consecutive two-year term and was the top Londonderry vote-getter in the last three elections.

He regularly sponsors bills meant to support veterans. While he is known for his conservatism in the chamber, he isn’t afraid to work across the aisle. This session he co-sponsored Concord Democrat Katherine Rogers’s legislation to ban bestiality and to increase the penalty for stealing a gun during a burglary.

“Al is somebody who has strong rhetoric, he has strong views and you have to be willing to look past that if you want to work with him, but he is amenable to talking,” Rogers said Wednesday. “Sometimes his first instinct is to challenge you.”

Baldasaro doesn’t have plans to run for higher office, he said. He also doesn’t expect to join a Trump administration should the businessman win in November. He is retired, and he takes eight pills a day to remedy health issues.

“When you are in the trenches, you get to make a difference in people’s live,” he said. “In higher office sometimes they forget where they came from.”

He’s at the GOP convention this week with his wife of nearly three years, Judy. Both are Trump delegates and met through politics, when attending the state Republican meeting as delegates. In a widely shared photo from their wedding, Judy and her bridesmaids hold long guns while Al stands in between them, arms crossed.

Judy remains proud of Al for speaking out. “He has always had that charisma,” she said.

But at times his statements have led to threats or “hate calls,” like those streaming into his phone Wednesday. That kind of pushback and disagreement doesn’t faze Baldasaro.

“I really don’t care,” he said. “You take me as I am or vote me out office. I am here to make a difference in people’s life.”

Update

[The Trump campaign sent the following statement clarifying its response to Baldasaro’s comments: "The campaign doesn’t approve of this language in any way."]