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Party comes first

Last modified: 1/22/2012 12:00:00 AM
All but one of Concord's 13 state representatives opposed the House redistricting plan last week that lumps Ward 5 in with Hopkinton. And Lynne Blankenbeker isn't apologizing.

"I'm a Republican and I don't vote like the Democrats," Blankenbeker said on Friday. "I was voted a representative because more people in Wards 8, 9 and 10 wanted a Republican in there than they wanted a Democrat."

As Concord's only House GOPer, Blankenbeker often breaks with the city's other 12 representatives. But those votes don't typically determine the city's representation at the State House. Last month, Mayor Jim Bouley questioned "whether we have anything in common with the folks of Hopkinton."

"We get 13 reps, and I believe the city of Concord deserves to be fully represented by those 13 folks," Bouley said. Jessie Osborne, a former Democratic House member who represented Ward 5, has threatened a lawsuit if the redistricting bill becomes law on the basis that residents there would lack proper representation. Ward 5 would share three representatives with Hopkinton instead of the four representatives it now shares with Wards 6 and 7.

City officials in Manchester, Keene and Nashua have formally expressed concerns about the House Republican leadership's decision to combine some city wards with neighboring towns, which opponents say creates districts that are too diverse to be properly represented.

Blankenbeker argued the new plan, which crafts twice as many districts as were created under a court-ordered plan 10 years ago, is an improvement that "really is in the best interest of Concord." The current map lumps groups of representatives into multi-ward districts.

Under the new proposal, each Concord ward would have its own representative and share a second representative with other wards.

Except, of course, Ward 5.

Blankenbeker lives in Ward 8, which would have one representative to itself and another shared with Wards 9 and 10. She is currently one of five House members representing Wards 8, 9 and 10.

"I best represent the district of Ward 8," Blankenbeker said. "The redistricting plan keeps me in Ward 8. This new redistricting plan puts like-minded representatives with like-minded constituents."

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican, had called the decision to split off Concord's Ward 5 "arbitrary" and "disgusting."

On Wednesday, he proposed a new map for Merrimack County that would have given each city ward its own representative, including Ward 5.

Vaillancourt's plan failed by more than a two-to-one vote in the Republican-controlled House. Blankenbeker was the only Concord representative to vote against it.

Republican vs. "Republican"

Rep. David Kidder of New London is letting bygones be bygones.

Despite recently losing GraniteGrok.com's coveted 2011 RINO (Republican In Name Only) of the Year award to Rep. Julie Brown of Rochester, the two were chatting happily at a legislative hearing last week.

Kidder, a Realtor serving his fourth term, was in the running along with 15 other representatives who don't always vote along party lines.

"It was, well, disappointing," Kidder said Thursday. But Kidder knew he had no chance once the conservatives in his party got a look at the bumper stickers on Brown's car.

"Tea Parties are for Little Girls and Their Imaginary Friends," says one. The other pictures a dog with the words, "I want free health care too." GraniteGrok.com posted a snapshot of Brown's bumper, legislative license plate included, on its website.

Rochester Rep. Susan DeLemus, a Republican in name and vote apparently, circulated an email urging everyone to vote for Brown.

"This is a fun vote," read the email. "Can't they all be #1?"

DeLemus didn't get back to us. Brown, who said the Tea Party bumper sticker was a gift from her grandson, wasn't happy to learn her license plate was online for the world to see. With a little initiative, it's not too hard to identify a lawmaker and their home address by their legislative plate.

Skip Murphy, GraniteGrok's co-founder, isn't penning Brown an apology.

"Welcome to the internet age, where you can find anybody and anything about anybody," he said. "You have to work hard not to be on the internet."

On getting the award, Brown, serving her 24th year in the House, offered this: "I was the only Republican elected in Strafford County in 2008."

Um, that's probably exactly what the "real" Republicans would say.

 Pay for play


Memo to state lawmakers: If you vote to repeal same-sex marriage, expect a little something in return.

That's the message the National Organization for Marriage is sending with a pledge last week to commit $250,000 to the re-election efforts of anti-gay marriage lawmakers. A vote to repeal New Hampshire's 2009 law is expected in the next few weeks.

"We intend to hold every legislator accountable for his or her vote on marriage. Those who support HB 437 will be rewarded, while those who don't will suffer the consequences in the next election," NOM President Brian Brown said in a statement.

The maximum campaign contribution an organization can make to a state lawmaker is $1,000 each in the primary and general election, said Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan. If the lawmaker agrees to campaign spending limits, the maximum contribution per race rises to $5,000, Scanlan said.

Sean Owen, chairman of the pro-gay marriage group New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality, released a statement calling NOM "desperate."

"Offering a bounty for votes is a clear sign you are losing," Owen said. "This vote isn't an auction for the highest bidder, this is about what is right for New Hampshire, and we will provide resources to protect the process and let our lawmakers work for the people they represent without fear of retaliation."

 Tewksbury's pitch


Defenders of New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law added a big arm to their team last week.

Bob Tewksbury, a Concord resident and former all-star pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, signed on with Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, a group calling on state legislators to keep same-sex marriage legal.

"I don't believe in taking rights away from people, and I could never support a proposal that will tear apart families," Tewksbury said in a statement. "I'm proud to call New Hampshire my home. We are the Live Free or Die state, and that means something to me. Our state's leaders have never pried into the private lives of its citizens, and they shouldn't start now."

Lew Feldstein, the group's co-chairman, said Tewksbury's "reputation on and off the field will help us open more doors to New Hampshire lawmakers and convince them not to vote to repeal the freedom to marry."

 The veep is back


Vice President Joe Biden is set to return to New Hampshire this week. An email late Friday from the Office of the Vice President said Biden will be visiting Rochester on Thursday. No additional details were available.

Biden visited the Granite State in October to drop off President Obama's primary paperwork, and again the following month to speak at an awards ceremony at the Capitol Center for the Arts. Obama also visited the state in November to promote his jobs plan in Manchester.

Van Ostern boosts Planned Parenthood

Concord's Colin Van Ostern is continuing to make Republican efforts to cut funding to Planned Parenthood a central issue in his Democratic bid for the state's executive council.

Van Ostern announced his candidacy to challenge Republican Dan St. Hilaire for a spot on the five-member council after St. Hilaire voted to reject a state contract with the organization last year because it provides abortions. Planned Parenthood officials say abortions make up 3 percent of their services and federal law prevents government money from funding the procedure.

After the Republican-controlled House passed a bill last week to prevent the state from contracting with groups that provide abortions, Van Ostern started a petition on his campaign website urging Gov. John Lynch to veto the bill should it also pass the Senate. The petition collected 200 signatures in the first two hours, Van Ostern said.

"This ideologically-extreme legislation would completely eliminate all funding for basic, preventive health care services (such as access to birth control and cancer screenings) received by over 16,000 New Hampshire women, men, and families at Planned Parenthood health centers, some hospitals, and any health facilities that offer full reproductive health care.," Van Ostern wrote. "This is bad for our families, our communities, and our state."

 History by Howie


As we've told you, this is a Legislature that likes the Magna Carta so much it is considering a bill that would require new legislation to find its authority in a direct quote from that historic - some might say antiquated - document. But at least one of those Magna Carta fans needs to check her dates.

DeLemus was testifying on behalf of her jury nullification bill last week when, for added support, she cited the famed English charter, saying it was passed in "1289 or something like that."

When Howie Zibel, legislative liaison for the court system, testified next against a different court-related bill, he couldn't help but begin with a history lesson.

"The Magna Carta was signed in 1215," Zibel said. "We are coming up to the 800th anniversary. It was sealed in the fields of Runnymede."

Vaillancourt's crab stew

In one of those "How did we get here?" moments on the House floor, Vaillancourt found inspiration in the Food Network show Chopped last week while analyzing the House's redistricting plan.

The outspoken House Republican has become a devotee of the oft-rerun cooking show in which four contestants are given baskets of seemingly incongruous ingredients and a half-hour to whip up a dish that pleases the judges.

Analogous to the competing pressures in crafting a redistricting plan, Vaillancourt said the chefs must attempt to use all the ingredients while making the best dish they can. As a result, the meals are not perfect - "what's going to be succulent dish for some is not going to be all that tasty for others," he said.

But "there are certain things in Chopped you can't get away with," Vaillancourt told his fellow representatives. "One night, a chef bled into his dish. He was chopped."

In an episode Tuesday night, Vaillancourt said, a chef put the gills of a Dungeness crab into a stew he prepared. That chef was also chopped, he said.

Later expressing his displeasure over Concord's Ward 5 being combined with Hopkinton, Vaillancourt said the move was chop-worthy.

"That's more than a gill in the Dungeness crab stew, that's blood dripping from the chef into the stew," Vaillancourt declared.


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