Capital Beat: History not on Scott Brown’s side for possible Senate run in N.H.
Scott Brown, U.S. senator from New Hampshire?
Maybe, maybe not. But the Republican and former senator – from Massachusetts – certainly got people talking when, asked Thursday night about a potential 2014 run against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, he said he wasn’t ruling anything out.
“It’s hard to know if it was a little tongue-in-cheek, a little wink and a nod with the non-denial denial,” said Wayne Lesperance, professor of political science at New England College in Henniker.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he added, “but it sure gives us something to talk about.”
Brown has a house in Rye, so a run in New Hampshire isn’t out of the question. He has family in the state, and he was even born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (though, technically, that’s in Kittery, Maine).
He’s a moderate Republican and a nationally known figure with the ability to raise large amounts of money.
But then again, there’s the charge of being a carpetbagger. He’d even have to change his Twitter handle, @ScottBrownMA.
Democrats were quick to fundraise off Brown’s trial balloon.
“Are you kidding me?!” read the first email from New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, and it worked – the party said it had its best-ever 12 hours of online fundraising.
Still, Republicans aren’t dismissing the idea out of hand.
“I think Scott Brown did an excellent job in the Senate. He was quite bipartisan. . . . He’s an energetic campaigner and a hard, hard worker,” said Steve Duprey, a longtime GOP strategist and member of the Republican National Committee. “He obviously has great familiarity with New Hampshire, given he has a home here. . . . If he were to become a full-time resident of New Hampshire, he’d be a very formidable and interesting candidate.”
And it’s not like New Hampshire Republicans are exactly lining up to face Shaheen, long a force in state politics. Former congressman Frank Guinta and ex-gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne have indicated interest in a run, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley is a possible candidate, but none has jumped into the race.
After all, most observers think Shaheen will be tough to beat.
“The political graveyard is littered with bodies that made the erroneous assumption that she is somebody who is easily beaten,” Duprey said.
So, why not Brown?
History isn’t on his side. Only two people have ever represented more than one state in the U.S. Senate, and no one has done it since the 1870s, according to the office of the Senate historian.
James Shields served in the Senate from Illinois (1849-55), Minnesota (1858-59) and Missouri (1879). Waitman Thomas Willey represented Virginia from 1861 to 1863, then represented West Virginia from 1863 to 1871.
Others have served in the U.S. House from one state and then won Senate seats from another, including New Hampshire’s own Daniel Webster, who represented the Granite State in the House from 1813 to 1817, then moved down to Massachusetts and ran successfully there for the House and then the Senate.
But most state-switchers have been less successful. Endicott “Chub” Peabody, a Democrat and one-term Massachusetts governor in the 1960s, moved to New Hampshire and ran for the U.S. Senate in 1986, losing to Republican Warren Rudman.
And former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Bob Smith ran for the Senate in Florida back in 2004, but only briefly.
Of course, Hillary Clinton had limited ties to New York before she won a Senate seat there in 2000, so maybe Brown has a chance.
“It’s rare, but he obviously has some significant ties to New Hampshire,” Duprey said. “With the exception of the Abenaki and the Pennacooks, to some extent we’re all carpetbaggers.”
The video is 49 seconds long, and shows Gov. Maggie Hassan walking down a sidewalk and getting into a waiting vehicle as the cameraman asks about the bill to repeal New Hampshire’s 2011 “stand your ground” law.
A second video is a little longer, and shows 1st District U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter walking out of a Manchester senior center and getting into a vehicle while the cameraman asks about an income tax and raising the state’s gas tax.
In both cases, the Democrats didn’t respond. And with those first two videos posted last week on YouTube, a new conservative group made its presence known in the state.
Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire is a nonprofit founded in February, with paperwork filed with the state identifying its mission as supporting “public policies that will create jobs, limit government, reduce the tax burden, increase public safety, improve the economy, protect the rights of parents and lead to better social welfare in the state of New Hampshire.”
RightOn Strategies, the consulting firm founded after last year’s election by former Rick Santorum campaign manager Mike Biundo and two former Guinta aides, Derek Dufresne and Kory Wood, is the group’s “general consultant,” Dufresne said. (The two organizations have almost identical addresses in Manchester.)
And Citizens announced its first two hires Friday: Kristin Beaulieu, a former Santorum aide, as director, and Brian Szuksta as field representative.
Dufresne said the group will seek to educate voters and “ask questions and get answers as to where these elected officials stand on these important issues.”
And generate potentially embarrassing video clips in the process, it seems. Dufresne was a little vague as to whether the group will target Republicans in addition to Democrats.
“We don’t focus on any party label,” he said, adding, “We certainly focus on people who might disagree with us on the issues.”
Citizens has been organized as a 501(c)4 nonprofit group, not as a political committee, which means it doesn’t need to disclose its donors. It also faces certain legal restrictions: It can’t endorse specific political parties or candidates.
Dufresne said voters should expect to hear more from the group as the 2014 election approaches.
“Every organization in the state has its role,” he said, “and I think we have a role to actually go out there and advocate on issues and find out the stances of elected officials on those issues.”
No casino resurrection
The House hasn’t even scheduled a committee hearing yet on the Senate bill that would allow a single casino in the state.
But the fight is ramping up: both Hassan and Sen. Chuck Morse, the Salem Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, last week urged the House to pass the legislation, which would mean $80 million in state revenue from a gaming license.
The House has long opposed proposals for expanded gambling.
If it kills the casino bill, it’ll stay dead, and the casino wouldn’t then resurface as part of the Senate’s budget, according to Senate President Peter Bragdon.
“No. Nope. Not at all,” the Milford Republican said during an interview with WKXL, the Concord news radio station. “I mean, that’s the commitment we made, was, it’s not going to be there. And I know there are some people, a number of people, who have said, ‘I will vote for it as a stand-alone, but I’m not going to vote for it as part of the budget.’ So even if that attempt was made, I don’t think the votes would be there at that point.”
If a House-rejected casino wouldn’t be part of the final budget negotiations in June, that puts even more pressure on casino supporters ahead of the House’s vote.
(Full disclosure: I joined host Chris Ryan for the “Pints and Politics” interview with Bragdon, which was taped Thursday and will air tomorrow morning at 9.)
Now that House and Senate bills have crossed over to the other side, the two chambers are taking a bit of a breather.
The Senate won’t meet again until April 18. The House is on break until April 24.
In the meantime, Senate and House committees are holding public hearings on bills that passed the other chamber.
A ban on prison privatization goes before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will look at a bill to decriminalize possession of a quarter-ounce or less of marijuana.
And the House-endorsed medical marijuana bill will go before the Senate Health, Education and Human Services that afternoon.
Foster gets a hearing
Joe Foster, the former Senate majority leader and Hassan’s nominee to replace Mike Delaney as attorney general, will get a public hearing this week before the Executive Council.
Foster, a Nashua Democrat, must be confirmed by the five-member council before taking office.
The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, starting at 3 p.m.
Delaney – who was named one of the nation’s most attractive attorneys general last week by the website Buzzfeed – has agreed to stay in office during the transition.
Tilt of the nation
New Hampshire’s 1st District is slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole, while the 2nd District is somewhat more Democratic.
That’s according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which calculates a Partisan Voting Index, or PVI, for every congressional district in the country. It measures the “tilt” of a district by seeing how the district voted in the last two presidential election compared to the country as a whole.
The PVIs for 2014 were released last week. The 1st District, represented by Shea-Porter, is an R+1 — while President Obama won the district in the last two elections, he won it by less than his national margin of victory.
The 2nd District, represented by Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster, is a D+3.
Tax credit fight
Mont Vernon Rep. Bill O’Brien, the former speaker of the House who’s exploring a run for Congress in the 2nd District, has joined the fight to defend New Hampshire’s new education tax credit law.
The law, enacted by the Legislature last year, allows companies to get a tax credit for donating to scholarship organizations that then help pay for tuition at out-of-district public schools, private and religious schools, or help defray the cost of homeschooling.
Democrats are trying to repeal the law, though a bill that passed the House faces an uphill battle in the GOP-led Senate.
A separate lawsuit has been filed challenging the law.
O’Brien announced Friday he’s joining that case, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the law on behalf of seven former and current legislators, including himself.
“Our educational system is too often failing our children,” O’Brien said in a statement. “Giving families of limited means the choice to find the best education for their children directly benefits them and, through competition, will improve public education in New Hampshire.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, will speak May 20 at the state Republican Party’s first annual Liberty Dinner.
But he’ll take second billing to a potential GOP presidential candidate: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, son of three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul.
“I am honored that Sen. Paul has agreed to address our party, and I look forward to welcoming him to the Granite State,” said Jennifer Horn, state party chairwoman, in a statement.
The libertarian-minded Paul has indicated he’s thinking about running for president in 2016. In 2012, his father finished second in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, behind Mitt Romney.
Buckley, the state Democratic Party chairman, issued a statement welcoming Paul to the state. Sort of.
“There can no longer be any doubt that the New Hampshire Republican Party has turned its back on traditional Granite State values, in a desperate attempt to become the face and voice of the irresponsible Tea Party and radical social conservatives,” he said.
∎ Matt Burgess, fresh off managing Hassan’s gubernatorial campaign in his native New Hampshire, has moved to Minnesota to manage U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s re-election campaign.
∎ The three Republican women in the state Senate — Sharon Carson, Jeanie Forrester and Nancy Stiles — will be honored Wednesday by the Vesta Roy Excellence in Public Service Series. Tickets are $35 and the event begins 6 p.m. at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)
(Correction: An earlier version of this column included an incomplete description of New Hampshire’s new education tax credit program.)