'She will bring you progress'
'Bill Clinton endorses Hassan for governor, slams state's GOP'
Former president Bill Clinton dropped by Nashua last night to endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan. But Clinton gave equal time to bashing the Tea Party and its Republican followers in the state Legislature.
He mocked the Republican-led Legislature's vote to reduce the cigarette tax while also cutting funding to the state's university system. And to loud cheers from the audience, Clinton railed against Republican efforts to eliminate mandatory insurance coverage of birth control and tighten regulations on abortion.
"When I first came to New Hampshire, people told me, 'You got to understand that these people are even more independent than people in Arkansas,' " Clinton said. "Live free or die. And you got a Legislature that says, 'When it comes to women making decisions about their health, their body and their future . . . we know better. And we'll tell you what you can do and when you can do it.' "
The answer, Clinton told the crowd of nearly 300, is electing Hassan of Exeter as governor.
"She won't promise you miracles, but she will bring you progress," he said.
Clinton may have left the White House but he hasn't left politics. As of April, Clinton had endorsed Democratic candidates in four states, and all of them had something in common with Hassan: They, like she, endorsed Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid in 2008.
Clinton didn't wait last night to be asked why he's endorsing Hassan over her Democratic rivals, former state senator Jackie Cilley of Barrington and Bill Kennedy of Danbury. He cited press reports that noted Hassan's past support for the Clintons and said. "There are worse reasons."
But he also said he watched Hassan when she served in the state Senate, where she was chosen by her colleagues to be majority leader and worked well with the other side. (In praising Hassan, Clinton mispronounced her last name at least twice.)
Clinton said electing Republican Ovide Lamontagne would be "doubling down on what the Tea Party Legislature has already done to you." Like Hassan has been doing, Clinton ignored the two other Republicans running for governor: Kevin Smith of Litchfield and Robert Tarr of Manchester.
"Why in the wide world . . . wouldn't you take a person who is a proven leader of the Senate, a proven leader of the state and a proven consensus builder over someone who wants to adopt . . . constant conflict and divide and conquer approach?"
When Hassan took the microphone, just before Clinton, she said she was still
waiting for her remarks to arrive. But she had no trouble launching into her own attack against the Republican-led Legislature.
"We face a fundamental choice as a state," she said. "Will we let the Tea Party, with is extreme agenda, consolidate its power by taking over the governor's office? Or will we move forward by helping middle-class families succeed?"
Hassan referred to the cut to the cigarette tax and the cuts to education funding and said, "We can't let them have our state."
If elected, Hassan said she wouldn't tolerate attempts to restrict a woman's right to have an abortion or get insurance coverage for birth control.
"No way," she said. "Not on my watch."
The politicos who spoke before Clinton last night also used their time at the microphone to bash the Republican-led Legislature, and specifically, House Speaker Bill O'Brien.
Bill Shaheen, husband of former governor Jeanne Shaheen, told the crowd they needed to "get in the game" if they want to change the direction of the Legislature.
"When you don't get in the game, we don't get people like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Jeanne Shaheen," he said. "There are consequences. George Bush was a consequence. What would have happened to this state if John Lynch wasn't governor?" Lynch vetoed more than 30 Republican bills over his eight years as governor.
The crowd groaned.
"What will the state be like if we have O'Brien and Ovide Lamontagne?" Shaheen asked. The crowd groaned again.
'Return common sense'
Former state senator Bette Lasky of Nashua, who is seeking re-election, said Hassan is the one gubernatorial candidate who can make necessary changes at the State House.
"We need to return common sense to Concord," Lasky said. "We need to return compromise to Concord. We need to return civility." Lasky waited for the cheering before she added, "We can't afford another two years of a Legislature full of Bill O'Briens."
Ken Kirkpatrick of Hudson said he had come to check out Hassan because he's heard more about her than her main Democratic rival, Cilley. He said he usually votes for the candidate he thinks is best. In this race, he intends to vote for the candidate he thinks will win because his top priority is changing the current Legislature's agenda.
He said, "I'm not going to lose with either candidate," referring to Hassan and Cilley. But he's likely to vote for Hassan he said. "Maggie seems to have more momentum," he said.
Pamela Rodriguez of Nashua came to the Hassan rally to see Clinton. She said she knew nothing about any of the candidates running for governor. As she left, she said she would vote for Hassan because she liked where she stood on issues.
When asked what issues were most important to her, Rodriguez said women's rights and support for education.
(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, email@example.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)