Capital Beat: Bragdon’s decision came after days of criticism, and silence
On Monday, Peter Bragdon was president of the New Hampshire Senate and the most powerful Republican in the state government.
On Tuesday, he was hired to run the Local Government Center at an annual salary of $180,000.
He started his new job Wednesday.
And on Friday, he announced he would step down as Senate president, though not from the Senate itself.
Democrats, the Bureau of Securities Regulation and newspaper editorials – from the Monitor, The Telegraph of Nashua and The Portsmouth Herald – led the outcry over the tangled web of potential conflicts of interest between Bragdon’s new job and his old one, especially given the LGC’s long-running and multifaceted battle with state regulators.
More embarrassing, perhaps, was the criticism offered by former GOP senators Bob Clegg, Ray White and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
But silence said more than anything else.
Instead of rushing to Bragdon’s defense, Republican senators stayed on the sidelines and out of the public debate – a sign Bragdon was in trouble. After all, without the votes of the 12 other GOP senators, he wouldn’t be president in the first place.
Their absence didn’t go unnoticed by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
“Senate Republicans across the state owe the people of New Hampshire an explanation,” taunted spokesman Harrell Kirstein in a news release Thursday. “They can’t hide forever and voters will hold them responsible for their complicit silence.”
Sen. Chuck Morse of Salem said he and Sen. Bob Odell of Lempster asked to meet with Bragdon last week to discuss the situation. When they saw him Thursday, Bragdon said, he opened the meeting by telling them he had decided to step down.
“I really do believe he’s a man of such integrity, that he handled this properly,” Morse said.
Morse wasn’t the only Republican who sounded relieved Friday.
“I think Sen. Bragdon has been an excellent leader in the Senate, has done a very good job. It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the last five years,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro. “I think he’s made the right decision for the Senate, to step aside, and I’m glad he’s made that decision.”
So, who gets Bragdon’s gavel?
(Not to mention his third-floor office, his parking space and a $25-a-year raise, all perks that come with being Senate president.)
Nothing’s final until Bragdon actually steps down and the Senate elects a new president. Bragdon said he hopes to set a date this week for a session sometime after Labor Day, on a date when all 24 senators can attend.
Bradley doesn’t want the job – after all, he might run next year against U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
But Morse does, and Bradley was quick to endorse him Friday, as was former governor John H. Sununu.
“Nobody understands state government and the details of the New Hampshire budget better than Chuck, and he would do an outstanding job as the leader of the Senate,” Sununu said in a statement.
Whatever the field of candidates, the Republicans’ 13-11 majority is a slender one, and strange things can happen.
In September 1999, for example, the death of Senate President Junie Blaisdell left Democrats with a 12-11 majority – and five Democrats joined with nine Republicans to elect Beverly Hollingsworth of Hampton as president over Sylvia Larsen of Concord. A special election then left the chamber split down the middle, 12-12, until the 2000 election gave the GOP a working majority.
Larsen, now the Senate minority leader, isn’t ruling anything out this time. “They’re pretty good at hanging together, but there’s always a dialogue that goes on,” she said of the GOP caucus.
Lynch, job applicant
Before he ran for governor in 2004, John Lynch was a trustee of the University System of New Hampshire. Now that he’s a private citizen again, he’s back on the board.
Well, almost. Gov. Maggie Hassan last week nominated Lynch to replace former Senate president Ed Dupont on the USNH board of trustees, but he still needs to be confirmed by the Executive Council. And because we play by the rules here in New Hampshire, Lynch’s resume was distributed to the council so it can judge his qualifications, just like with every other nominee.
Something about that resume tells us Lynch hasn’t had to apply for a job in a while. A few tips:
Try to limit it to a single page, especially if the second page only contains three lines of text.
And if you were governor for an unprecedented four terms, that could be highlighted somehow instead of appearing as a single line halfway through a list of boards and jobs.
On the other hand, Lynch is a successful businessman and widely beloved politician, so maybe he knows what he’s doing.
AFP ranks ’em
Americans for Prosperity last week put out its 2013 scorecard for the Legislature.
Like the rankings that came out last month from the House Republican Alliance, there weren’t a lot of surprises: Republicans did well and Democrats didn’t, in the conservative group’s estimation.
Sixty-two lawmakers got a grade of A+, making each of them a “Protector of Prosperity. All were Republicans – though, the group noted in a news release, two Democrats in the House received the lesser grade of A and the title, “Advocate of Prosperity.”
Meanwhile, 236 lawmakers got an F, branding them an “Opponent of Prosperity.” They were 226 Democrats, including all 11 in the Senate, and 10 Republicans, all in the House.
Executive Councilor Ray Burton’s going on a little trip this week.
The longtime North Country councilor plans to make a 12-hour, 10-stop tour of airports Friday – by airplane, natch. He’ll start and end the day in Laconia, with stops planned in Plymouth, Newport, Claremont, Lebanon, North Haverhill, Whitefield, Colebrook, Berlin and Fryeburg, Maine.
In other words, all across his sprawling District 1, and a little bit beyond.
In his own words
“I hope to be remembered as somebody who treated people fairly, was transparent, gave everyone a chance to have their say and take their vote and then move on to the next issue without fear of retribution for voting differently than I do. I’ve always looked at it that way: You have your position, you take your vote and you move on to the next vote.
“If you carry this stuff with you everywhere you go, with bitterness, it doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve tried to treat everybody like that. I certainly hope they all appreciate that.
“I know Sen. Gilmour’s very concerned, because if I move back to my seat, she won’t have a place to put all her stuff. So Sen. Gilmour will remember me as the guy who let her put all her stuff in his chair.”
That was Bragdon, speaking to reporters Friday about his legacy as Senate president. His usually vacant seat as the senator from District 11 is, naturally, next to Sen. Peggy Gilmour, who represents District 12; once he gives up the gavel, he’ll reoccupy his old chair.
News of record
∎ The Republican National Committee last week named state Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem as one of the first four members of its “Rising Stars” program.
∎ Marilee Nihan is getting a promotion. Hassan has nominated Nihan, the director of Medicaid finance at the Department of Health and Human Services, to replace Mary Ann Cooney as the deputy commissioner of HHS.
∎ The U.S. Senate’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee is coming to Southern New Hampshire University tomorrow. Shaheen and fellow U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte will host a “field hearing” for the committee at SNHU’s Manchester campus at 1 p.m., focusing on innovation.
∎ The Legislative Ethics Committee will meet Tuesday, 10 a.m. in room 104 of the Legislative Office Building.
∎ Comedian Jimmy Fallon revealed last week that his daughter, Winnie Rose Fallon, who was born July 23, is named after New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, where he and his wife got engaged.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)
(CORRECTION, Aug. 18: An earlier version of this column incorrectly characterized the House-Senate breakdown of lawmakers receiving an “F” from Americans from Prosperity.)