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Briggs family in Ayotte ad



Last modified: Thursday, August 05, 2010
The family of slain Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs spoke out on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte in two television ads released yesterday.

Ayotte, a former attorney general, successfully prosecuted a capital murder trial against Briggs's killer, Michael Addison, who was sentenced to death in the most high-profile case of Ayotte's tenure. Addison fatally shot Briggs in October 2006.

'Justice was done. And Kelly's the one who did it,' Briggs's mother, Maryann Briggs, says in one ad.

The ads, one 60 seconds and one 30 seconds, are running on WMUR and cable TV.

Both ads showcase Ayotte's role as a leader in prosecuting the Addison case. In one, Michael Briggs's parents praise Ayotte for her leadership and the decisions she made.

'She's just a fighter,' says Lee Briggs, Michael Briggs's father. 'I mean, just like my son was.'

In the other ad, the officer's widow, Laura Briggs, praises Ayotte, who 'made sure justice was done.'

'Kelly Ayotte showed real leadership in prosecuting the case herself,' Laura Briggs says.

Both ads also feature Manchester Detective Nick Willard, lead investigator in the case and vice president of the Manchester Association of Police Supervisors, which has endorsed Ayotte.

'It was the Manchester Police Department's job to bring Mike's killer in, but it was Kelly Ayotte's job to bring him to justice,' Willard says.

In the past, Ayotte's campaign was criticized for using uniformed police officers in its ads. This time, Willard appears wearing a suit, with no overt sign that he is a member of the Manchester Police Department.

Michael Briggs's parents and widow talked about the devastating effect his death had on them during Addison's sentencing in 2008. But they generally have not spoken to the press. They attended an event Ayotte held in April announcing the support of law enforcement officials. The family members could not be reached yesterday.

Throughout her campaign, Ayotte has focused on her leadership as attorney general. She has earned the support of a large segment of the law enforcement community, including about 60 chiefs of police, nine county sheriffs and 30 police unions.

'She was a hard-working and honest chief law enforcement officer in the state of New Hampshire,' said retired Portsmouth police detective Steve Arnold, who is past president of the New Hampshire Police Association and legislative director of the New England Police Benevolent Association. 'She was very capable and very compassionate about her work.'

Arnold said the Addison case was a significant part of Ayotte's tenure. In the past, he said, police officers have been killed and capital murder charges have not been brought forward.

'There was no wavering in her position or determination to see it through,' Arnold said. 'We in law enforcement praise her for sticking up for us.'

Bill Binnie, one of Ayotte's challengers in the Republican primary, has criticized her experience as attorney general next to his own as a businessman.

'Kelly Ayotte knows how to put people in jail,' Binnie said in a recent ad. 'Bill Binnie knows how to put people in jobs.'

Independent political analyst Dean Spiliotes said the Ayotte campaign appears to be responding by playing to Ayotte's professional strengths.

'They're taking a highly visible, highly successful moment for her as attorney general and trying to get voters to interpret it as a broader statement about leadership,' Spiliotes said.

Spiliotes said he believes the ads featuring the Briggs family could be effective in showcasing Ayotte's leadership, as well as making an emotional connection with voters and playing to her key constituency of police officers and firefighters.

Though Ayotte could face criticism for using the Briggs family for political purposes, Spiliotes said he thinks the campaign was cautious in having the family members talk only about their personal experiences with Ayotte and letting voters make the broader connection to her campaign.

Addison's public defender, Richard Guerriero, would not comment on the ads.

'My only comment is we're public defenders whose role is to defend Michael Addison in court, and we don't have any role in the political process,' Guerriero said.