New Hampshire’s political odd couples
Jeanne Shaheen (left) and Judd Gregg. (File photos)
Katherine Rogers is running for re-election for Merrimack County Attorney; Ed Board; Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010.
(Katie Barnes/Monitor Staff)
Former N.H. Gov. Jeanne Shaheen smiles after the unveiling of her portrait, in background, at the N.H. Historical Society in Concord, N.H. Thursday, May 17, 2007. The official portrait of New Hampshire's first elected female governor soon will hang in the Statehouse _ the only portrait of a woman among many portraits of male governors. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Senator Judd Gregg smiles when asked if he had any regrets about not runnig for re-election in 2010. "None," he said.
Senator Judd Gregg confers with the press at his Concord office; Tuesday, March 30, 2010.
(Concord Monitor Photo/Alexander Cohn)
Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. listens to testimony during a Congressional Budget Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday Nov. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2013, file photo Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., questions President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., during his Capitol Hill confirmation hearing. Ayotte and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, voted yesterday, Nov. 4, 2013, to support a federal ban on workplace discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity. (AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
David Boutin (R) editorial board. October 26, 2012. Running for re-election as state senator for District 16.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff)
Democratic candidate for Congress to represent New Hampshire's second district, Ann McLane Kuster speaks during an editorial review board at the Concord Monitor onWednesday, August 18, 2010.
(Katie Barnes/Monitor Staff)
Jackie Walorski gives her acceptance speech after winning the Indiana Congressional District 2 seat over Brendan Mullen inside the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart on Tuesday, IN Nov. 06, 2012. (AP Photo/South Bend Tribune/ROBERT FRANKLIN)
Candidate for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter questions Republican Frank Guinta during a debate in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., questions Deputy Attorney General James Cole; Chris Inglis, deputy director of the National Security Agency; Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency; Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce, and Robert Litt, general counsel to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding NSA surveillance in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Partisan polarization is often the story of the day. But sometimes Republicans and Democrats actually become friends – or at last working partners. We asked local politicians to tell us about their “Odd Couple” relationships. Here’s what they told us:
From rivals to partners
I never thought that after working against someone’s election that I’d eventually end up partnering with that person on important New Hampshire issues, but that’s exactly what happened with Judd Gregg. We ultimately developed a strong relationship that successfully protected one of New Hampshire’s natural treasures: the land surrounding the Connecticut River headwaters.
In 1988 I ran Paul McEachern’s campaign for governor against then-Congressman Gregg. Just two short years later, I started serving in the state Senate while Gregg served as governor. We had our share of disagreements during this time.
But despite our differences, we both were always committed to protecting our state’s natural beauty. That’s why in 2001, when I was governor and Gregg was in the Senate, we came together to protect the Connecticut River headwaters land after International Paper Co. announced plans to sell 171,000 acres of land in Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown, including the headwaters of the Connecticut River. Because of this effort, the state now has a conservation easement on 146,000 acres of these lands, preserving its traditional uses – for forestry, hunting, snowmobiling, and other recreational activities – while also protecting the land’s natural habitats for wildlife.
Our relationship continued in the future, and I will always remember how both Judd and Kathy Gregg welcomed me warmly to the Senate when I arrived in 2009. All this despite the fact that I worked to defeat him early in my career.
U.S. Sen. JEANNE SHAHEEN
We’re trying to protect the elderly
Anyone who blindly subscribes to the idea that opposites attract has clearly never spent time with the New Hampshire House of Representatives. We are 400 people who could debate the day of the week.
Take me and my GOP House colleague Al Baldasaro.
He earned his stripes serving our country in the U.S. Marine Corps. I earned my stripes working for liberal leaders Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Tom Harkin and John Durkin.
I served in the New Hampshire Legislature in the early 1990s as one of a small group of Democrats who battled a strong conservative Republican majority.
Al came to the House in 2006 and served as one of conservative Republican Speaker Bill O’Brien’s lieutenants in the super-majority.
He earned an A+ from the conservative Americans for Prosperity; I earned an F.
I have stood strong for responsible gun control; Al has been a spokesman for pro-gun groups.
While I cheered on President Obama, Al challenged his birth certificate.
We have to be the true “Odd Couple” of the New Hampshire House, never to agree on many of the major issues of our time – with at least one notable exception.
Baldasaro and I have joined forces on a bill that establishes the crime of financial exploitation of the elderly.
For years I worked with a community crisis team to recognize, prevent and deal with elderly abuse and neglect. This year, we agreed New Hampshire needed a tool to effectively prosecute the financial exploitation of the elderly, a problem that is on the rise.
The first person to sign on as a co-sponsor? Al Baldasaro.
Despite our differences, we want to make a difference.
In the House, you can disagree on everything from the weather to the moon landing, but when it comes to protecting our citizens, the “Odd Couple” can change the world – together.
State Rep. Katherine D. Rogers
Common ground on assault victims
This year, the U.S. Senate has taken up legislation to prevent sexual assault in our military. With a historic 20 women serving in the Senate, it’s no accident that this crisis is getting the serious attention it deserves.
From the outset of this important debate, I’ve worked across party lines to find solutions that will protect victims and hold military commanders accountable.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and I represent states that are on opposite sides of the country. And we’re frequently on opposite sides of many issues.
But when the debate on preventing military sexual assault got underway, Murray and I joined together to author legislation that, among other important initiatives, provides sexual assault victims in the military with a special victims’ counsel – a trained military lawyer who will provide individual assistance to victims.
This historic reform was adopted by the Senate Armed Services Committee in its version of the annual defense bill, and the Defense Department is already beginning to implement the special victims’ counsel program.
I’ve also worked with Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to address military sexual assault. While we come from different parties, we both previously worked as prosecutors. We’ve used that experience to write legislation that provides additional protections for victims – including a provision that empowers the civilian service secretary to review cases that commanders choose to not pursue.
Military sexual assault provides just one example of how both parties can work together to help solve serious problems. With divided government in Washington, Republicans and Democrats must work together on the tough challenges our country faces. The people of New Hampshire expect nothing less.
U.S. Sen. KELLY AYOTTE
Buses know no party
Earlier this year, Republican state Sen. David Boutin and I started talking about the all the people and businesses we represent who had approached us wanting more ways to get between Concord and Manchester, particularly to the airport. We wondered if there would be any way to get regular bus service going.
The more we talked, the more we thought this just made sense. After all, we were talking about better connections between the state’s largest and third-largest cities and with one of our state’s biggest economic assets: the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. This would help people, make the airport a more convenient travel choice and more competitive with Boston Logan, and boost commerce in our state.
We worked with state Rep. Candace Bouchard, a Democrat from Concord who chairs the House Transportation Committee, and helped to round up a group of transportation officials, regional planners, transit operators and airport officials. Mike Whitten, head of the Manchester Transit Authority, identified federal funds that could be accessed to operate the service for a year while a long term plan was studied and developed. We worked for and got a match of state toll credits.
The result? Service started in July with 11 round trips a day. Ridership has grown from 695 passengers in the first month to 1,168 in October, nearly doubling. The service is affordable at $4 per trip, but so popular that it is already at about the same proportion of public support as other public transit in the state.
This has been a win for people, businesses, and the economy.
State Senate Democratic Leader SYLVIA LARSEN
We hope to reduce military sex assaults
Before being sworn into Congress in January, I sparked up an unlikely friendship with a fellow new representative named Jackie Walorski. At first glance, Walorski and I aren’t natural political allies. She’s a Republican from Indiana. I’m a Democrat from New Hampshire. We disagree on a whole host of issues. But during an orientation session for incoming members of Congress, she and I discovered a shared passion for addressing the epidemic of sexual assault in the military – and we decided to do something about it.
After consulting with experts and convening briefings on the issue, we worked on a bill that would strengthen whistle-blower protections for service members who report sexual assaults. Once Walorski introduced the bill, we both reached out to our colleagues to drum up bipartisan support, and at the end of the day – at a time when it feels like Congress is incapable of agreeing on anything – the bill unanimously passed the House and hopefully will pass the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act reauthorization.
Our effort is a small example, but it points to a larger lesson. Yes, Republicans and Democrats have significant differences. Yes, we should vigorously debate those differences and stay true to our principles. But rather than demonize one another or fixate on what divides us, we should earnestly reach for common ground and make progress wherever we can. The fact that we don’t agree on everything simply cannot become an excuse for not accomplishing anything.
That’s an attitude Rep. Jackie Walorski and I share, and it’s an approach that we could use a lot more of in Congress.
U.S. Rep. ANNIE KUSTER
Turns out, the early rumors were false
I have served in the New Hampshire Legislature for 17 years, eight consecutive terms, and have sponsored and cosponsored many bills with colleagues from “across the aisle.”
My most surprising and personally beneficial experience began in 1999 when I was appointed to the Children and Family Law Committee and served with Rep. David Bickford, a Republican from New Durham. I had heard that he was a fathers’ rights advocate and anti-woman and anti-child. His bills, with few exceptions, seem to confirm the rumors. They all focused on changing New Hampshire child support laws to reduce a divorced or legally separated father’s financial obligation to his children. I found it difficult to understand or tolerate his motives, his testimony and the various friends he recruited to testify in support of his bills. I was, however impressed with the depth of his research.
Fast forward to 2007. Bickford and I were still serving on the Children and Family Law Committee. I was chairwoman. The committee was informed that the federal government required a review of New Hampshire’s child support laws. A state contract was issued to a University of New Hampshire team of professors, an economist and two specialists in family studies.
The UNH report included six recommendations, one of which was to research the Income Shares Child Support Model used in 35 states as a possible alternative to the New Hampshire model. It was considered fairer and more consistent with New Hampshire’s original goals. I appointed a study committee and recruited Bickford among others, to investigate. Following multiple meetings poring over charts and tables from Connecticut, Vermont and other states, consulting with folks from the Department of Health and Human Services, UNH as well as obligees and obligors, and engaging in energetic and occasionally, heated discussions, in 2008 the Income Shares Child Support Bill was proposed. It passed in 2010 and is currently in the process of implementation.
Today, Bickford and I are good friends. All the early rumors about him were false. He is a Republican who genuinely shares and respects my deep concerns especially about the effects of divorce on young children. And I have learned, based on our many discussions that New Hampshire child support laws really needed to be changed.
State Rep. MARY STUART GILE
Bipartisan help for disabled vets
I’m proud that more than half of the bills I’ve cosponsored this year have bipartisan support. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’ve worked with a number of Republicans to help address the needs of our service members.
This summer, I collaborated with Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from New Jersey, to expand a program in which service members suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury train service dogs for disabled veterans. The program helps combat PTSD, and it doesn’t add a dime to our deficit.
For the five years I’ve represented New Hampshire, I’ve worked with our bipartisan congressional delegation to advocate on behalf of the people and important work at Pease and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
One recent success was Pease’s selection as a home base for the new KC-46A air refueling tanker. The tanker is expected to bring about 100 full-time jobs to Pease, representing $7 million in additional direct payroll into the Seacoast economy and approximately $45 million in construction contracts over the next several years. One of the reasons for this success was, in 2009, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former Republican senator Judd Gregg and I secured $10 million in funding to help the New Hampshire Air National Guard construct a much needed facility to improve communication and efficiency at the base.
This building, along with Pease’s exceptional record, helped make it eligible for the new tanker.
This year, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte introduced in the Senate and I introduced in the House legislation that would enable federal officials to quickly cancel contracts in which taxpayer dollars fall into the hands of groups seeking to harm U.S. military or civilian personnel.
I’m pleased to report that this legislation has been incorporated into the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act and is expected to become law.
U.S. Rep CAROL SHEA-PORTER
Marital law bill transcends party
I’m a very right-wing conservative/libertarian as are a couple of co-sponsors of a bill I’m working on for next session, Sen. Andy Sanborn and Rep. Robert Rowe, but we also have some more middle-ground sponsors in Rep. Kelleigh Murphy and Sen. Nancy Stiles, and some strong liberals in Sen. David Pierce and Rep. David Huot.
Clearly our bill is non-partisan. It would make New Hampshire a community property state by adopting a law called the “Uniform Marital Property Act.” We would treat marriage as not just a social unit but as an economic one as well. Under community property both spouses share the property acquired during marriage, even if only one spouse is a wage earner. Property owned prior to marriage or acquired by inheritance can be separate. This system has significant advantages when dealing with divorce, federal income tax and estate planning.
It remains to be seen whether we will get the bill through, but I deliberately tried to get co-sponsors from all over the political spectrum to alleviate any suspicion that the bill has a partisan purpose. Also, the sponsors include some of the best attorneys in the Legislature, which is important when dealing with a fundamental legal change like this one.
State Rep. DAN McGUIRE