Capital Beat: With primary closing in, campaigns get nasty
We knew the race between Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown would get nasty. It did so as soon as Brown entered the race and has only worsened in the months since.
But that’s not the only race where the mudslinging is in full force. With less than two weeks to go until the Sept. 9 primary, federal and state level races across New Hampshire are starting to heat up. Some of the negative advertising is coming from outside groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth, but the candidates themselves are getting their hands dirty, too.
The Republican primaries in the 2nd Congressional District and state Senate District 16 are getting particularly ugly, as is the Democratic primary in state Senate District 15.
In the 2nd Congressional District primary, Marilinda Garcia has found herself on the defensive. In his first television ad, opponent Gary Lambert introduced himself and attacked Garcia, alleging that she supports amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Another Lambert ad released this week only attacks Garcia. Aside from the “Paid for by Gary Lambert for Congress” note at the bottom of the screen, a viewer has no indication of who is behind the ad.
Garcia and her campaign say the ad and Lambert’s attacks are distorting her record and that she does not support amnesty. Lambert’s attack is based on a resolution Garcia signed from the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators that, in one piece, says legalizing undocumented immigrants who are here would allow law enforcement to better focus on criminal elements. Garcia says she does not support amnesty and thinks children here illegally without their parents should be sent home.
Garcia, for her part, talks only about herself in her first television ad, which went live last week. But she has outside group Club for Growth to do her dirty work. A new ad by the group slams Lambert as “laughably liberal,” pointing to his support of a regional cap-and-trade program while in the state Senate.
The District 16 state Senate race is even nastier. Republican incumbent Dave Boutin is battling to keep his party’s nomination against former state representative Jane Cormier, who moved to Hooksett several months ago. The district includes Hooksett, Candia, Bow, Dunbarton and parts of Manchester.
Boutin’s support for Medicaid expansion and increasing the gas tax put a target on his back. (Incumbent Republican Nancy Stiles of Hampton has one on her back for the same reasons.) In both races, Americans for Prosperity has sent multiple mailers charging the two for breaking an AFP pledge they signed last year saying they wouldn’t raise taxes.
Cormier and her conservative backers are charging Boutin with lacking integrity, and a website even posted a video of Boutin drunk at a bar a year ago (he’s since apologized). Boutin, for his part, is hitting Cormier for just moving to the district recently.
The Senate Republican Majority PAC, the committee charged with keeping the Senate Republican-led, is spending money to support both Boutin and Stiles, which has some conservatives up in arms. Rich Killion, a Republican strategist and adviser for the PAC, said Senate President Chuck Morse has pledged to help incumbent Republicans but will not get involved in any open primaries.
On the Democratic side, there is only one competitive primary, and it’s right here in Concord. Dan Feltes and Kass Ardinger are battling for the party’s nomination to represent the district that includes Concord, Hopkinton, Henniker and Warner. In direct mail pieces, Feltes says Ardinger doesn’t support full-day kindergarten because the new elementary schools, built under her tenure as school board chairwoman, aren’t equipped for full-day kindergarten.
Ardinger, in response, sent out her own mailer chiding Feltes for bringing “negative” politics into the campaign.
The attacks between Brown and Shaheen are unique in that they completely ignore Brown’s primary. Brown has never mentioned Jim Rubens or Bob Smith in his television ads but has hit Shaheen on issues such as immigration and health care. Shaheen’s first television ad against Brown began airing last week and hits him for his ties to “big oil.”
Notably, all of the attacks in the Republican gubernatorial primary between Andrew Hemingway and Walt Havenstein have been levied on debate stages. Neither have done any direct mail or advertising attacking the other.
Ask any voter, and they’re likely to tell you they’d rather not see or hear negative campaign rhetoric. So why do it? Turns out negative campaigning, at least on television, tends to work.
In a visit to Concord earlier this year, campaign finance expert Trevor Potter said negative advertising consistently proves to be effective. The catch is that voters prefer it to come from outside groups rather than the candidates themselves. If that’s true, a candidate such as Garcia is in a better position than one such as Lambert.
These negative advertisements serve several purposes: Sometimes, they may persuade a voter to switch his or her vote. But often the goal is to keep the opponent’s supporters home.
“They’re going to stay home because they’re disillusioned,” Potter explained. “Their guy isn’t who they thought (he) was. The ads are considered successful if they lower the voter enthusiasm and voter turnout for your opponent.”
Brown on Islamic State
In a continued effort to make foreign policy a large piece of his campaign, Brown called on Congress last week to pass legislation that would revoke citizenship of any U.S. citizen fighting alongside the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East.
He released a new web video Friday criticizing President Obama’s “incoherent” foreign policy and saying it is the Islamic State’s goal to get their own country and export terrorism around the world. The video features stock footage of the Middle East, North Korea and missiles launching through the air, as well as shots of Brown speaking to an audience. During the campaign, Brown has repeatedly criticized Obama’s foreign policy. He’s also called for arming the Kurds and conducting strategic strikes on the group’s supply lines.
Rubens called Brown’s proposal to strip citizenship unconstitutional and the wrong approach.
“This is a reaction based on fear and anger rather than smart counter-terrorism policy,” Rubens said in a statement. “Anyone found to be aiding terrorist should be brought to swift justice. Our system already allows for that without the stripping away of constitutional rights of the citizens we are trying to protect.”
Earlier in the week, Shaheen wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew saying they need to do everything they can to stop the flow of money to foreign fighters with the Islamic State.
∎ The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Metal Trades Council endorsed Shaheen on Friday.
∎ The final primary debates will air Tuesday through Friday at 7 p.m. on WMUR in the following order: 1st Congressional District, 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Senate, governor.
∎ According to various reports, potential presidential candidates will be making their way back to New Hampshire in the coming weeks, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Maryland Democrat.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)