My Turn: Bolduc, Shaheen and election mischief

  • Retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc announced a Republican run for Senate on Monday. Paul Steinhauser

For the Monitor
Published: 7/1/2019 12:10:06 AM

Can we ever restore election integrity to New Hampshire? Cast your minds back to 1996. Gov. Steve Merrill opted not to run for re-election, creating an opening in the State House corner office. State Sen. Jeanne Shaheen immediately declared her candidacy and ran unopposed in the Democrat primary.

On the Republican side, three-term Congressman Bill Zeliff declared a gubernatorial candidacy and was the strong favorite. Conservative activist Ovide Lamontagne also ran a long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination. But on that Sept. 10, Lamontagne stunned Zeliff, 47,556 votes to 43,393.

Shaheen received only 52,328 votes in getting the Democratic nomination. But that November, Shaheen trounced Lamontagne to become governor. She’d go on to be the first woman to serve as both governor and senator. She’s running for yet another Senate term in 2020.

So what happened in 1996?

What happened was a concerted effort on the part of Democrats to declare as independents and control the outcome of the GOP primary. The popular Zeliff had experience and name recognition, and would be unbeatable in a general election. Despite passionate conservative support, Lamontagne had limited experience and could be portrayed as an ideologue.

So the Dems went all in for Lamontagne over Zeliff in that September GOP primary, as they were confident they could beat Ovide in the general election – which they did.

How do we know this? Because some Democrats confessed.

The numbers bear this out. Shaheen’s primary vote total was only slightly ahead of that of both Zeliff’s and Lamontagne’s. See the above tallies. Zeliff/Lamontagne combined for almost 91,000 votes to Shaheen’s 53,328 as erstwhile Democratic “independents” voted for Lamontagne.

So why does this matter today?

It matters because the Republicans have a spectacular Senate candidate in the person of retired Gen. Don Bolduc – a true hero. Unlike Shaheen, Bolduc was born and brought up in New Hampshire. He retired as one of the most highly decorated soldiers ever, having served eight combat tours and having put his life on the line for his country numerous times. He embodies the service ethos that Americans once celebrated. He’s not a career politician, a lawyer or a millionaire. He had no political ambitions and entered the race only after being prodded by countless Granite Staters inspired by his leadership, his story and his principles – and because Bolduc genuinely cares about his home state and country. The more voters learn about Bolduc the more they like him.

That the Shaheen people are worried about Bolduc is evidenced by the fact that they dispatched a spy – also known as a tracker – to videotape every Bolduc utterance. (Bolduc befriended the spy, saying, “You know you’re going to end up voting for me!”)

Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien is also running for Senate. Like Lamontagne, O’Brien claims a solid conservative base. But given his record, he’d probably fare about as well against Shaheen in 2020 as Lamontagne did in 1996. So look for many Democrats to become “independent” and vote for O’Brien in next year’s GOP primary, thinking an O’Brien win in September would guarantee a Shaheen triumph in November – as in 1996.

Having utilized out-of-state college students to steal Kelly Ayotte’s Senate seat by 1,000 votes in 2016, the Democrats are capable of all kinds of election mischief – to include voting for their arch-nemesis O’Brien in the GOP primary, as they again take advantage of New Hampshire’s loose election protocols.

It would be refreshing to hear Sen. Shaheen discourage Democratic voting mischief. But as the saying goes, “Silence is consent.” The ends (unrestricted abortion) justify the means (election mischief).

Bolduc understands that if he overcomes election mischief and wins the 2020 GOP primary, he’ll then be the focus of the Democratic Smear Machine. It is what it is. Still, Bolduc triumphed over far tougher adversaries in the deserts of Afghanistan – opponents who also didn’t fight fair.

But all this again begs the question: “Can we ever restore election integrity to New Hampshire?”

(Michael Moffett of Loudon is a retired Marine Corps officer, professor, author and former State Representative.)

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