Capital Beat: Odell, Stiles could be crucial votes in narrowly divided Senate
The Senate is the last bastion of Republican power at the State House, with Democrats now holding the governor’s office and majorities in the House and on the Executive Council.
And given the GOP’s slender 13-11 majority, Sens. Bob Odell and Nancy Stiles may well hold the balance of power in New Hampshire’s state government for the next two years.
Odell, a six-term senator from Lempster, and Stiles, a second-term senator from Hampton, are both Republicans. Both are trusted with major committees – Stiles chairs the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, and Odell runs the Ways and Means Committee.
But both sided with Senate Democrats on a handful of key votes over the last two years, while Republicans held big majorities in both chambers. And assuming her caucus sticks together this session, Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord would need to peel off only two GOP votes to pass Democratic-backed legislation, including bills coming out of the House.
“Clearly, there will be times when all 24 of us will work together, and there will be other times when individual senators will choose their own paths,” Larsen said at a Thursday news conference. “And it will hopefully result in a bipartisan solution, whether it’s on the budget or on many of the other, more difficult topics we have to reach agreement on.”
During the 2011-12 session, the Senate voted 14 times to successfully override vetoes by Democratic then-Gov. John Lynch. Republicans had won a comfortable 19-5
majority in the 2010 election, and six of those votes saw only Democrats vote to sustain. One vote was unanimous.
On the other seven votes, Odell voted with the Democrats five times. Stiles voted with them three times. No other GOP senator voted with the Democrats more than once.
“I vote the way that I see the issues,” Odell said Friday.
“And I am very conscious of what my colleagues on the Republican side feel, but I also will be attentive to how people on the other side of issues feel.”
On four high-profile override votes – the education tax-credit program, parental notification for minors seeking abortions, the so-called stand-your-ground law and a bill repealing the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – both Stiles and Odell voted with the Democrats. The first three measures passed over Lynch’s veto, but on the RGGI bill, Stiles and Odell were among four Republicans who joined the Democrats to sustain Lynch’s veto.
Bills have been filed in the House to repeal the education tax credit and the stand-your-ground law. Odell and Stiles could provide the crucial votes to pass those bills in the Senate.
“Some of these issues will come forward, and I will try to be thoughtful and deliberate and try to be attentive to the people that I serve,” Odell said.
But in case you’re placing odds, he added: “I’m pretty consistent.”
Stiles couldn’t be reached Friday for an interview.
Still, it was one thing to vote with the Democrats when the Republicans had a veto-proof-plus majority. With such a slim margin following November’s election, the GOP may lean harder on its senators to stick together this session.
The proof will come in the roll calls.
March on Concord
Gun-rights advocates are taking their beef with President Obama to the State House.
A Jan. 31 rally in Concord is being organized by Jack Kimball, the outspoken former state Republican Party chairman, his Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC, Jerry DeLemus and the Rochester 912 Project.
Obama last week announced a new push for gun-control measures, including a proposed ban on assault-style weapons, in the wake of last month’s massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
“Picture Arlington Cemetery with all of those white crosses of all of those that gave their lives to defend our right to be free. Now it’s your turn to stand,” DeLemus wrote on his group’s website about the rally.
Kimball, in an email to supporters, was more explicit about the threat, writing that the Second Amendment means “that we must have compatible weapons to those who would be our oppressors” in the government.
He added that “if we lose the right to keep and bear arms we lose it ALL. Obama and his minions know this. He knows that he cannot complete his ideologic Marxist plans to turn America into another Socialist 3rd world Country, unless he disarms us.”
First to file
First District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has filed the New Hampshire delegation’s first bill of the 113th Congress, the Veterans Health Equity Act.
It’s actually the third time she’s introduced the bill, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer equivalent services in every state – including New Hampshire, which doesn’t have a full-service veterans hospital.
The two previous bills, introduced in 2008 and 2009, never made it out of committee.
Shea-Porter already has a cosponsor: 2nd District Rep. Ann Kuster. Kuster’s snagged a seat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, in addition to her seat on the House Agriculture Committee.
Shea-Porter sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.
It looks like Ray Buckley won’t have any problem keeping his job when the state Democratic Party picks its leaders March 9.
Buckley, a former state representative, was the only person to file for state chairman, in effect winning his fourth term by default.
All other officer elections are uncontested, as well: Sen. Martha Fuller Clark for first vice-chairwoman, Dorothy Solomon for second vice-chairwoman, Sen. Bette Lasky for secretary, Brian Rapp for treasurer and Dan McKenna for legal counsel.
Not a huge surprise, given the big gains by Democrats in November’s election.
Meanwhile, state Republicans are gearing up for their annual meeting Saturday in Bedford.
Jennifer Horn and Andrew Hemingway are battling for state chair, with perennial political candidate Andy Martin also in the race. J.P. Marzullo and Frank Emiro are facing off for vice chairman. Jeff Newman and Fran Wendelboe are running for assistant secretary, and Thomas Howard and Robert Kasper are running for Area 4 vice chair.
All other party offices are uncontested.
Two votes in play
Special-election season is coming up.
Two House seats won by Democrats in November are now vacant: the seat for Nashua’s Ward 4 (vacated by convicted felon Stacie Marie Laughton) and the seat in Manchester’s Ward 2 (empty after Robert Thompson moved to Florida).
The Nashua election is set for Feb. 19, with Democrat Pam Brown facing Republican Elizabeth Van Twuyver. The Manchester election will be held May 7, with a primary March 19.
Filing for the Manchester seat is open through Friday. If only one candidate files from each party, the primary election will become the special election.
Life List kudos
Americans United for Life likes what they’ve seen in New Hampshire.
The national pro-life group last week put out its “Life List,” with the Granite State coming in 32nd place among the 50 states in terms of restrictions on abortion.
But New Hampshire was one of five states recognized as one of the groups’s “Life List All Stars,” with credit given in part to the Legislature’s override last year of Lynch’s veto on a bill banning partial-birth abortions.
“Courageous New Hampshire legislators made tremendous strides in 2012 to protect and defend Life,” the group crowed.
We probably won’t get as many kudos from them next year – pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Action Fund poured a lot of money and time into the November election, and voters gave control of the House to Democrats while rejecting Republican gubernatorial candidate and longtime abortion opponent Ovide Lamontagne.
The week ahead
∎ The Londonderry High School Marching Band and Color Guard is marching in tomorrow afternoon’s presidential inaugural parade, following Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol.
They’ll be toward the tail end of the parade, in the fifth and final division.
∎ U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte will be in Concord on Friday to speak to a Business and Industry Association luncheon at the Grappone Conference Center.
The event runs 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and costs $35 for BIA members, $49 for non-members.
∎ A memorial service for Warren Rudman, the former U.S. senator and state attorney general who died in November, will be held Friday at the federal courthouse named for him in Concord. The ceremony is open to the public and starts at 3 p.m.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, Senate President Peter Bragdon and House Speaker Terie Norelli will all be speaking Jan. 30 at Conservation NH’s “Green Eggs and New Ham-shire Breakfast.”
The event, now in its sixth year, starts at 8 a.m. at the Grappone Conference Center. It’s free and open to the public.
Also speaking at the event: Richard Ober, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who will deliver the keynote address, “People and Place.”
Paging Mr. Gardner
It’s only been a year since the last New Hampshire primary, but the jockeying for position has already started for 2016.
(And no, we’re not talking about the fact that Rick Santorum called in to Concord’s WKXL last week for a radio interview. Though he did.)
An Arizona state lawmaker, Republican Rep. Phil Lovas, has introduced a bill that would set the state’s 2016 presidential primary on the same day as the Iowa caucus. That would, of course, threaten New Hampshire’s traditional first-in-the-nation primary.
Even if the bill passes in Arizona, we’d still put our money on Secretary of State Bill Gardner in any staring contest. Lovas, after all, has just won his first full term as a legislator. Gardner’s been defending the Granite State’s primary primacy since 1976.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)