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'In gay marriage fight, a new cast of combatants'

Last modified: 12/11/2011 12:00:00 AM
A new cast of characters is lining up to shape the debate over New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law next year.

House Bill 437, which repeals the 2009 law legalizing same-sex marriage, is set for a vote by the full House when the representatives reconvene in January. A constitutional amendment has also been proposed, seeking to limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Backing the repeal effort, Concord political strategist Michael Dennehy signed on last week as a lobbyist for the National Organization for Marriage, joining gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith, who has also registered on behalf of the group. Meanwhile, Patrick Hynes, a communications consultant in Concord, announced his July Fourth Forum PAC is plan-

ning a strong push for repeal.

"We are going to play heavily in the effort to restore traditional marriage in the Granite State," Hynes said in an email.

Both Dennehy and Hynes were part of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign; Dennehy was McCain's national political director while Hynes was an online communications consultant. This time, neither are affiliated with presidential campaigns - Hynes was a Tim Pawlenty backer, Dennehy was part of Haley Barbour's exploratory team - giving them time and energy to focus on the same-sex marriage issue.

On the other side, Standing Up For New Hampshire Families announced additions last week to a list of more than 200 supporters, including famed New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen. The group, committed to preserving same-sex marriage, is co-chaired by Lew Feldstein, former president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

"We're grateful to have Dean join the growing ranks of leaders and regular people who are publicly standing up for all New Hampshire families," Feldstein said in a statement.

The other new names announced by the group include Steve Barba, former owner of the Balsams Resort in Dixville Notch; Don Brueggemann, manager of the Works Bakery Cafe in Concord; writer and producer Dayton Duncan, the former chief-of-staff to governor Hugh Gallen; Helen Giles-Gee, president of Keene State College; and Sara Jayne Steen, president of Plymouth State University.

The group has already claimed the support of former New Hampshire chief justice John Broderick, now dean of the UNH School of Law; George Bald, commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development; John Crosier, former president of the Business and Industry Association; and J.P. Marzullo, area vice-chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

Dennehy wasn't involved in the 2009 debate - "I don't think anyone expected that gay marriage would pass in the first place," he said. He's been in contact with Rep. David Bates, the Windham Republican leading the repeal effort, and expects the issue to be "pretty straightforward."

'I think most people pretty much know where they're going to be," Dennehy said. "It's about counting the votes."

 Democrats, too


Last week we wrote about the delegate situation in New Hampshire among the Republican presidential candidates - not all have filed the full 20-delegate slate, but it might not matter since the state could lose 11 spots at the Republican National Convention as punishment for moving up its primary.

But, lest you forget, the Democrats need to fill the seats at their convention, too.

On Friday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party opened its filing period for party members wishing to serve as delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., during the week of Sept. 3. There won't be a whole lot of suspense about who's taking home the nomination - our money's on the guy in the White House - but 35 Granite Staters will be sent nonetheless.

"This convention isn't about political ritual or simply re-nominating the president, it's about Americans coming together to commit ourselves and our country to a path that creates more opportunity," according to the convention's website. "Success depends on involvement at the grassroots, engaging the American spirit and enlisting people who want to put their shoulder to the wheel and change the country for the better."

Unlike the Republican race, in which the candidates choose their delegates, on the Democratic side separate delegate caucuses are held for each candidate seeking the party's nomination. This year, caucuses are only being held in New Hampshire for President Obama, party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said.

Delegate hopefuls can declare their candidacy for one of 18 spots by completing and signing a form found at nhdp.org and returning it to the party office, 105 N. State St., by Jan. 6. Candidates must then attend a caucus in their congressional district at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14. The caucus for the 1st Congressional District will be held at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, while the 2nd Congressional District caucus will be at the IBEW Hall in Concord.

The state party has set "affirmative action goals" requiring that 12 of the delegates - 35 percent - represent minority groups. There will be equal representation of men and women.

"The caucuses are a great opportunity to get involved in New Hampshire's longstanding tradition of grassroots engagement and President Obama's exciting campaign," state party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.

 Smith weighs in


Smith, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said last week he would like to see the Legislature, not the governor, decide who should serve as attorney general.

Smith was echoing a recommendation from a report by Republican lawmakers that reviewed the errors made in investigating and stopping the multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Financial Resources Mortgage in Meredith. The report said the Legislature should elect the attorney general because it "seems as if the AG believes they are beyond the reach of the Legislature or any other agency, that they are the 'top dog' and that they are able to make decisions in a vacuum, because they are answerable to no one."

"I would agree with that recommendation because there needs to be a greater wall of separation between the governor's office and the attorney general's office," Smith said in an interview. That's a good way to ensure the public's trust that the attorney general is truly an independent body."

Currently, the governor appoints the attorney general pending approval by the Executive Council. Smith said if he were to become governor he would support legislation to make the attorney general a position elected by the Legislature.

"I always thought it was a good idea anyway, but definitely the FRM situation has shed I think light on what has been a glaring problem when the AG's office is too close to the governor's office," he said.

 Casting votes


U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen debuted a new fashion accessory in the Senate this week: a bright green cast.

The New Hampshire Democrat broke her left wrist in a fall last week, but the injury didn't keep her from her duties in the Capitol.

According to Politico, President Obama saw Shaheen at the White House holiday party Monday night.

"What happened to you?" he asked. Shaheen explained, and asked the commander-in-chief to sign her cast, which was supported with a sling.

"Be well," wrote the president.

 Twitter prankster


There's a new Twitter parody account on the loose, and it doesn't like Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.

The account @OHvide2012 began following local politicos and media personnel last week, apparently attempting to paint the Republican gubernatorial candidate as phony. The account describes itself "Fake Ovide. Conser-vative/Republican kingmaker/savior to the rescue. Not a politician (yet), but maybe 2012 is my year. Looking to cash in all my chips this time."

"Pls cover my next speech. Title suggestions = "The Kings Speech", "Why it's Ovide's Turn", "Entitled"," the account tweeted to one reporter. "Showered - check. Shaved - check. Phony/Cheesy smile - check. Red meat rhetoric - check. Hand Sanitizer - check. Ready to take on the day!" was another message later in the week.

Boasting a broad list of supporters across the state Republican spectrum, Lamontagne was the first candidate to announce his run for the state's corner office, which will be vacated by Gov. John Lynch at the end of next year. So far, Smith on the Republican side and Maggie Hassan on the Democratic side have emerged as his competition. The Manchester lawyer was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1996 and lost a close Senate primary race last year.

While the account has followed 270 people, not many have returned the favor. It had 13 followers Friday.

 Rounding em' up


Another week, another round of endorsements for Mitt Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor continued to play well with the state's sheriffs, this time reeling in the support of Strafford County Sheriff Wayne Estes and Coos County Sheriff Gerald Marcou. He already has the endorsement of five other sheriffs: Scott Hilliard of Merrimack County, Mike Downing of Rockingham County, Craig Wiggin of Belknap County, Michael Prozzo of Sullivan County and Douglas Dutile of Grafton County.

Additionally, Romney rolled out endorsements from 10 more state representatives, most notably Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper, a Republican from Hudson. Romney already has the endorsements of House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley.

In a statement, Jasper said Romney "has the executive experience and skills that are needed to defeat President Obama and turn around our economy."

"He is clearly the strongest Republican candidate and the most qualified person to lead our party in 2012," Jasper said. "Mitt is running the type of traditional New Hampshire campaign that Granite Staters expect from presidential candidates. He is taking nothing for granted and working hard to earn every vote."

Romney also earned the endorsement of Foster's Daily Democrat last week. The paper described Romney's shifting of positions on some issues as a strength.

"Foster's refuses to concede the notion that positions held by Romney years ago should have been written in blood, never to change. In fact, just the opposite should be judiciously true," the endorsement read "Today, more than ever, the United States needs a president willing to listen to the electorate, a president willing to adapt to today's demands for governance, not remain married to methods because they are from a simpler time."

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com. Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)


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