Capital Beat: N.J. mayor making latest allegations against Christie talks about growing up in N.H.
First we wondered what “Bridgegate” would mean for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s future in the New Hampshire presidential primary. Then we learned that the New Hampshire Republican Party’s new executive director, Matt Mowers, was embroiled in the drama.
And now? Turns out Dawn Zimmer, the Hoboken, N.J., mayor who has accused Christie’s office of bullying, is a New Hampshire girl.
Zimmer, 45, was born in Maryland but moved to Laconia at age 5. On a family camping trip to New Hampshire, her family fell in love with the state and decided to move here, she said in an interview with the Monitor on Friday. She graduated from Laconia High School (where she served as class president) in 1986 and then from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in history in 1990. Her mother still lives in Laconia, and she and her family visit here often.
Zimmer, a Democrat, became part of the scrutiny into Christie’s leadership when she told the press last weekend that the lieutenant governor had tried to tie Hoboken’s receiving Hurricane Sandy relief money to whether Zimmer supported a Hoboken development project favored by Christie. She’s now facing a swarm of media attention, including a profile this week in the New York Times.
How, exactly, did she get from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region to the Hoboken mayor’s office?
After college, Zimmer spent time teaching English in Japan, then eventually moved to New York City where she worked in public relations and communications. When she married and decided to start a family, Zimmer wanted to move somewhere close to the city that reminded her of home. Hoboken fit the bill.
“For me Hoboken is the perfect combination of close connections that you have in a small town like Laconia, but (it’s also) very urban,” she said.
Zimmer said her decision to be a stay-at-home mom led her to become interested in community matters and ultimately into public office. The fate of a community park led her to run for the Hoboken City Council (and win) in 2007. In 2010, after a failed bid for mayor, she found herself in the office anyway after her predecessor became caught in a corruption scandal.
As soon as she stepped into office, she said she faced one crisis after another: A helicopter and plane crashed over the Hudson River near Hoboken, the waterfront collapsed, a local hospital went through bankruptcy and then Hurricane Sandy hit, the crisis that led to her allegations against Christie’s office. The U.S. attorney’s office has since asked her not to comment about the matter.
But she did say that amid the media attention and the attacks, her focus remains on improving her city.
“There’s going to be attacks and that’s something that I expected, and it’s something that I have dealt with in my short time in public office,” she said.
Then, later, “I don’t really recall any major crisis at Laconia High School.”
Special election in 6 weeks
While three Republicans battled it out in the Executive Council special election primary, Democrat Mike Cryans was steadily building his own operation, traveling to more than 90 towns and cities across District 1 in anticipation of the March 11 election.
Cryans will face Republican Joe Kenney, a former state senator, in the special election to replace the late Ray Burton, a Republican who held the District 1 seat for 35 years. Kenney easily beat Christopher Boothby and Mark Aldrich in Tuesday’s primary, which saw a very low turnout.
Cryans, 63, has been a Grafton County commissioner for 18 years and worked alongside Burton for many of them. In the two months since he declared his candidacy, Cryans has traveled to nearly every town and city in the district, which stretches from just north of Concord to the Canadian border.
He said residents he’s talked to care about jobs and employment and are looking for a councilor who, like Burton, will advocate for them in Concord. If elected, constituent services will be one of his top focuses.
“If I’m in a community, a lot of times the first thing somebody will say is, ‘Please don’t forget us,’ ” Cryans said.
Without a primary opponent, Cryans didn’t have to fight for cash from Democrats, and as of now, he has a financial advantage over Kenney, according to the most recent filings with the secretary of state’s office. As of Jan. 15, he’d raised $50,152 and spent just $2,000, leaving him with $48,000.
Cryans has also picked up endorsements from several unions, including the Teamsters, the Berlin mayor and a number of former state senators from northern New Hampshire, including two Republicans.
Kenney had raised $40,000 and had roughly $30,000 left on hand. He’s been endorsed by New Hampshire Right to Life for his pro-life stance and will likely draw strong support from conservatives.
Cost of the new law
If you’ve traveled Interstate 93 north of Concord, you’ve noticed the new 70 mph speed limit signs to comply with a new state law that increased the speed limit from Canterbury to the Vermont border.
The exception is the stretch through Franconia Notch.
That change cost the state Department of Transportation about $36,000, said Bill Lambert, DOT’s traffic bureau administrator.
“It’s hard to put a number on (it), as several of the signs needed to be replaced anyway, so that added cost was negligible.”
Lambert said the state is holding onto the 65 mph signs in case they are needed to replace ailing signs elsewhere in the state.
Republicans are hitting U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter on Obamacare, Democrats have created an anti-Scott Brown website, and veteran political consultant Paul Collins has a new New Hampshire client.
Welcome to 2014.
Republican Dan Innis, hoping to challenge Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District, announced Thursday his hiring of Collins, who’s worked for the likes of former governor John H. Sununu, former 2nd District congressman Charlie Bass and failed gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.
Also in Republican congressional campaign news, state Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem formally announced her candidacy to challenge Kuster in the 2nd District.
The next day, her primary opponent, former state senator Gary Lambert of Nashua, announced 50 new endorsements from “small-business owners and community leaders” in southern New Hampshire, including 20 from Garcia’s Salem.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party has launched a website called “Scott Brown Not for New Hampshire,” taking swipes at the former Massachusetts senator who may or may not challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November.
And both Kuster and Shea-Porter are the subject of new Obamacare attacks. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been taunting Democrats to sign a pledge promising to campaign on Obamacare and have sent out releases chiding both New Hampshire congresswomen for not signing it. The conservative group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire also showed up at Shea-Porter’s office with an award for “Lie of the Year” for her Obamacare vote.
What to watch
∎ The Legislative Ethics Committee will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into Sen. Peter Bragdon’s hiring as executive director of the public risk pool HealthTrust.
∎ The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on a gambling bill by Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat. Among other things, the bill would allow for licensing of two casinos through a competitive process and would distribute proceeds from video lottery machines to the state’s transportation plan, higher education, the North Country and communities abutting the casinos.
∎ The bill to legalize and regulate marijuana that passed the House after lively debate last week will come before the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday at 9 a.m.
Nice to meet you
You might not recognize my face at the top of this column – I’m the Monitor’s new State House and politics reporter. I’ve spent the past year at the paper covering education and a handful of local communities.
As a lover of politics and policy, I’m excited for this new challenge. I hope you’ll send your tips, news tidbits and thoughts my way.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne. Staff writer Annmarie Timmins contributed to this column.)