Capital Beat: 2014 campaign may kick off in earnest soon
Election Day is more than 16 months away, but the 2014 campaign is about to get under way.
Today is the last day of the second quarter, a fundraising deadline for federal candidates. U.S. House and Senate contenders may opt to jump into the race soon in order to maximize the time they have to raise money in the third quarter, which ends Sept. 30.
Plus, the Legislature wrapped up its work last week, giving legislators more time to focus on their political futures over the summer and into the fall.
So, who’s in and who’s out for 2014?
On the Democratic side, the lineup for major offices is pretty much set thanks to incumbency. Barring something unexpected, Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster will be on the ballot Nov. 4, 2014.
“I think that we’re going to have a successful year,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, on a conference call with reporters last week.
On the GOP side, a few candidates have already made clear they’re running, even if they still describe their campaigns as exploratory.
Former state senator Jim Rubens, who had a high profile role during this spring’s
casino debate as chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, is exploring a run against Shaheen.
State Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon, who was speaker of the House last session, is running for Congress in Kuster’s 2nd District. Both he and Rubens have slick campaign websites up and running.
Other Republicans aren’t tipping their hands quite yet.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, a former congressman and potential U.S. Senate candidate, said that, for now, he’s looking forward to hiking a few mountains.
“I’m going to take a few days off,” Bradley said.
Former state senator Gary Lambert of Nashua is looking at a run in the 2nd District, but won’t be pinned down on a timetable for announcing a decision.
“I would say sometime this year, let’s put it that way,” Lambert said.
Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu of Newfields have been mentioned as potential candidates for governor or another office, but neither could be reached Friday.
Hassan could also face state Rep. George Lambert (no relation to Gary Lambert), who said he’s exploring a run – but only if fellow Litchfield resident Kevin Smith doesn’t run. Smith, who ran last year for governor, declined to comment but has previously said he’ll decide this summer on another run.
No raise for Hassan
Unlike other state employees, Hassan won’t be taking home a bigger paycheck soon.
The state budget approved last week included pay raises for state employees not represented by a union, a category that includes the governor. Some union deals containing raises are still awaiting ratification or, in the case of the State Employees’ Association, headed back to the bargaining table.
Under the budget, the governor’s annual salary of $120,095 will rise 1.5 percent in a couple of weeks, 2.25 percent in mid-2014 and 2.25 percent in early 2015. That’ll take Hassan’s salary up 6.1 percent in all, to $127,443.47 a year.
She’d still be paid less than the norm for state governors; according to Stateline, U.S. governors this year are earning an average salary of $133,348.
But when Hassan took office, she opted to take a salary of $110,418, and “she will remain at that level through her term,” wrote spokesman Marc Goldberg in an email.
She arrived at that figure because it’s 97 percent of the salary earned by her predecessor, John Lynch, Goldberg said. Back in December, Hassan asked state agency heads to prepare budget proposals with 2014 spending at 97 percent of 2013 levels, hence the number.
Even if she took the raise, Hassan wouldn’t be the state’s best-paid employee. She shares a pay grade with Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas, and the salaries are higher for state judges, several senior DHHS employees, the chief medical examiner and the deputy chief medical examiner.
Era of Good Feelings
For the most part, there was a Kumbaya atmosphere Wednesday at the State House. The budget passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, as did nearly everything else on the day’s agenda, and compliments were dished out all around.
Still, some Democrats couldn’t resist jabbing at the deep cuts of the last state budget, and a few Republicans couldn’t help but gloat a little – as several noted, the new budget looks a lot like the Senate Republicans’ budget.
Sen. Russell Prescott in particular didn’t seem to appreciate the praise offered by Democrats for Hassan’s leadership. The real credit, he said, should go to Sen. Chuck Morse, the Salem Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
“I think it’s wrong to think the governor should have credit for work that Senator Morse has done, and I respectfully say that,” the Kingston Republican said during the Senate’s floor debate.
That earned him a rebuke from Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat. “I’m sorry that as we’re all coming together today, that we could not have kept all of our remarks on a more positive basis, and I am very proud of our governor for having put forth the framework of a budget that has allowed us to come to a compromise and an ultimate solution that we’re going to vote on this morning,” Fuller Clark said.
Prescott and Hassan have some history. He defeated her in 2002 before she knocked him out of the Senate in a rematch two years later, and he returned the favor in 2010.
Palin vs. Ayotte
Back in the summer of 2010, Kelly Ayotte got a high-profile endorsement in her run for the U.S. Senate. Former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin called Ayotte “a Granite State ‘mama grizzly,’ ” and Ayotte in return called Palin “a conservative icon.”
Ayotte went on to win the Republican primary and the general election. But these days, Palin doesn’t seem too happy with the junior senator from New Hampshire.
Palin suggested last week that Ayotte and fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida should face primary challenges in 2016 for supporting the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill.
“I think every politician should be held accountable for breaking their campaign promise,” Palin said on Fox News Radio, according to a transcript from Real Clear Politics. “Kelly Ayotte, bless her heart, she said on her website as a candidate that her top immigration priority would be to secure the border. No excuses is her quote, no excuses. And she was absolutely against amnesty and yes, Kelly Ayotte and Marco Rubio and all the others who had said that border security must come first before any talk about immigration reform, they turned their back on the American public, so why should they not be held accountable?”
Back in 2010, Ayotte’s campaign website did pretty much say that.
“In the Senate, Kelly’s top immigration priority will be to secure our borders – no excuses. Simultaneously, she will work to ensure that existing immigration laws are enforced and is against amnesty,” the website declared then, according to an archived version preserved by the Wayback Machine.
Ayotte’s campaign website now features an explanation of how the new legislation will “secure our border and fix our broken immigration system,” and isn’t a form of amnesty. The bill passed the Senate Thursday, 68-32, but faces an uphill battle in the House.
“Sen. Ayotte does what she believes is right for New Hampshire and the country,” wrote spokesman Jeff Grappone in an email.
Women of the Senate
Shaheen – who, unlike Ayotte, will be on the ballot next year – is pooling her fundraising efforts with two other Democrats.
Paperwork was filed June 18 with the Federal Election Commission creating the Women of the Senate Fund, a joint fundraising committee for Shaheen, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina. All three are up for re-election in 2014.
That will allow the three senators to hold a pair of fundraisers this summer and distribute the proceeds equally into each of their campaign accounts, said Shripal Shah, a Shaheen spokesman.
Resolution on resolutions
In one of its last actions before going home for the summer, the House last week voted, 327-19, to pass a resolution asking the Senate to stop ignoring resolutions that pass the House.
Yeah, that should do it.
In case you haven’t been following this particular spat, the Senate Republicans this year implemented a rule that blocks most resolutions from being introduced without a two-thirds vote. They say it’ll save time, but Senate Democrats say it stifles debate.
The House isn’t happy that, because of the new rule, three resolutions it passed this year didn’t even get a hearing by the Senate. Hence House Resolution 11, which notes that under the Constitution, the Senate and House are supposed to be equal partners in the legislative branch of government.
“The House of Representatives respectfully requests of the Senate that it return to the policy that was in place prior to Feb. 14, 2013, to accept and act upon concurrent and joint resolutions sent up from the House,” it reads.
No response from the Senate.
News of record
∎ Ayotte had one single in three at-bats during Wednesday’s fifth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which saw the Members of Congress fall, 11-8, to the Bad News Babes, a team of female journalists. Ayotte was a team captain for the Members.
∎ O’Brien was one of 10 “honored” last week with a Muzzle Award from Boston’s WGBH. The public TV station cited then-Speaker O’Brien barring Monitor reporters from a news conference last summer.
∎ Happy birthday to former governor John H. Sununu (Tuesday) and state Sen. Bob Odell (Thursday).
∎ Happy Fiscal New Year’s Eve! The new state budget biennium begins tomorrow.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)