Capital Beat: A handful of Granite State politicos turn up in ‘This Town’
It’s called giving a book the “Washington read” – a politician or other Important Person goes into a bookstore, checks a new release’s index for his or her name and then reads any pages that include a mention.
Mark Leibovich’s new book about the self-absorption of D.C. political culture, This Town, made a point of not including an index: “Those players wishing to know how they came out will need to read the book,” declares a warning box on the back cover.
As if trying to prove his point, The Washington Post then built an “unauthorized index” for the 739 names mentioned in the book and posted it with the headline, “Are you in This Town?”
All self-righteous moaning aside, the index did make it much easier to see how New Hampshire politicos came out in the book.
A bunch of the usual suspects didn’t turn up: no Judd Gregg, no Jeanne Shaheen, no Kelly Ayotte, not even a David Souter.
Former Monitor reporter Jo Becker, now working for The New York Times, makes a cameo appearance, as does Berlin native Larry Brady, now the majority staff director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Former senator John E. Sununu shows up wandering the halls of the Capitol on the day Republicans took control of the House at the beginning of 2011.
Two of the state’s more colorful politicians turn up in the spin room of a GOP presidential debate in South Carolina in January 2012.
“Oh my God, John Sununu,” Leibovich writes, noting he was governor of New Hampshire and White House chief of staff “before hitting the pinnacle of his career, if not the pinnacle of all human achievement” by being named a cohost of the CNN show Crossfire in late 1991.
Sununu, a Mitt Romney supporter, didn’t seemed thrilled to be in the spin room.
“I have no idea why we’re here,” he said, according to the book.
Leibovich then runs into Bob Smith, the former New Hampshire senator who just last week dropped hints to WMUR that he might run for the Senate next year against Shaheen. He was in North Charleston to spin for Newt Gingrich.
“He actually ran for president himself in 1999, you might recall (or might not). Same comb-over as you remember,” Leibovich writes. “He is working for Newt and eager to explain to me why spin rooms can indeed be worth one’s time, even now.”
As Smith puts it, “There’s always the chance that some poor bastard like me will put his foot in his mouth.”
And This Town contains the de rigueur anecdote poking fun at New Hampshire for its first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama, accompanied by state political director Mike Cuzzi, was in Rye for a meeting “with a bunch of self-important local activists (a redundancy in New Hampshire, given the top-level attention lavished on them every four years). Obama stayed for hours,
told stories, talked about the campaign, asked everyone about their lives, concerns, etc. They all had a splendid time, by every indication.”
But none committed to the Illinois Democrat’s presidential campaign, writes Leibovich, citing Obama’s New Hampshire spokesman Reid Cherlin.
“What do I have to do, wash their cars?” Obama asked Cuzzi as they left.
Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed three bills this year. The next question is, will the Legislature override any of them?
The latest House Calendar said the date for a veto session will be announced this fall.
The state Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to override any gubernatorial veto.
Two of the vetoed bills, one dealing with the processing of absentee ballots and one changing the membership of the Economic Development Advisory Council, are wild cards.
Neither got a roll call or division vote in either the House or the Senate, so it’s hard to gauge if they would get the support needed to become law.
The odds aren’t great for the third bill, which would create a committee to study end-of-life decisions. It initially passed the House on a 212-140 vote, short of the necessary two-thirds.
In 2011 and 2012, the GOP supermajority in the Legislature overrode Democrat John Lynch’s veto 14 times. But the situation is less clear-cut this time around, with a narrow GOP majority in the Senate, a Democratic majority in the House and a Democrat in the governor’s office.
The 2014 campaigns have been slow to start in New Hampshire, but the rumblings grew a little louder last week in both of the state’s congressional districts.
Frank Guinta, who defeated 1st District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2010 only to lose to her in 2012, appears ready to run again in 2014. The former Manchester mayor tweeted for the first time in nearly four months that he’s heard from supporters, talked with his family and will make an announcement in September.
He may face a primary challenge. Daniel Innis, co-owner of Portsmouth’s Ale House Inn and dean of the University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul of Business and Economics, is exploring a run in the 1st District, as first reported by WMUR’s James Pindell.
“Now and then things happen before we are ready. The solution is to go with it, have fun, and work to make a difference,” Innis tweeted the next day, with the hashtag #exploring.
In the 2nd District, Mont Vernon Rep. Bill O’Brien had a disappointing fundraising haul in the second quarter, raising just $42,400 plus a $60,000 loan from himself as he gears up to challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Annie Kuster.
The New Hampshire Union Leader then reported O’Brien, the former GOP speaker of the House, parted ways with his campaign staffer, Andy Demers, just as Nashua Republican Gary Lambert, a former state senator exploring a run in the district, hired consultant Ethan Zorfas, who’s also working for Guinta.
HRA ranks reps
The conservative House Republican Alliance has released its annual ranking of New Hampshire state representatives, based on 100 votes this year.
No surprise, House Speaker Terie Norelli ranked dead last among current representatives.
The Portsmouth Democrat doesn’t actually vote very often, but the three votes she did cast were all in opposition to the HRA’s position, giving her a 0 percent rating.
Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat who participated in all 100 votes, scored 16 percent.
Six Republicans had perfect, 100 percent ratings: Jeanine Notter of Merrimack, Moe Villeneuve of Bedford, Emily Sandblade of Manchester, Joe Duarte of Candia, Daniel Tamburello of Londonderry and Kyle Tasker of Nottingham.
The highest-ranked Democrat was Michael Garcia of Nashua, at 87.5 percent – he frequently sides with the GOP caucus. The lowest-ranked Republican was Carolyn Gargasz of Hollis, at 40.7 percent, followed by David Kidder of New London at 44.7 percent.
The ratings, according to the HRA, represent how often a lawmaker sided with the Republican Party platform, the state Constitution and “traditional Republican values.”
The AG vs. Mr. Bass
Charlie Bass isn’t out of trouble quite yet.
Last month, a Merrimack County Superior Court judge ruled the former Republican congressman couldn’t be sued by the New Hampshire attorney general for allegedly violating the state’s “push poll” ban in 2010, because federal law preempts state law when it comes to candidates for federal office.
Now, Attorney General Joe Foster is appealing the case to the state Supreme Court.
“This appeal is being filed in order to preserve the right of New Hampshire to govern how its citizens elect their federal officials,” Foster said in a news release this month.
National pollsters and some state officials have described New Hampshire’s push poll ban as overly broad. A bipartisan bill that would overhaul the 1998 law passed the state Senate this spring but has stalled in the House.
Even in the dog days of summer, politicians never stop fundraising.
Ayotte will host a fundraiser in Washington tomorrow for the state Republican Party, with four other U.S. senators on the marquee: Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and John Thune of South Dakota.
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro will celebrate his 75th birthday Tuesday at Manchester’s Athens Restaurant, the Democrat’s annual party/fundraiser for the Committee to Elect Lou D’Allesandro.
On Wednesday, a birthday party in Concord for Norelli, whose actual birthday was July 7, will raise money for the Committee to Elect House Democrats.
Ex-GOP presidential nominee Romney will headline a fundraiser for the state party Aug. 6 in Wolfeboro.
On Aug. 9, former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown will headline the Restoring Trust in Government dinner, a fundraiser for Salem Republican Rep. Joe Sweeney.
And two national Tea Party favorites will visit to raise money for New Hampshire Republicans later in August, former Florida congressman Allen West in Nashua Aug. 16 and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Dublin Aug. 23.
∎ Be sure to wish a happy birthday Tuesday to both D’Allesandro and Senate President Peter Bragdon.
∎ Former Senate president David Nixon has won the New Hampshire Association For Justice’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.
∎ Lindsay Hanson, vice president of the Women’s Fund of New Hampshire, is moving to FIRST, Dean Kamen’s robotics-promoting nonprofit, as corporate and foundations relations manager.
∎ Retired Gen. James Mattis, the former commander of U.S. Central Command sometimes known as the “Warrior Monk” or “Mad Dog Mattis,” will be at Dartmouth College this fall for a stint as the Class of 1950 senior foreign affairs fellow.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)