In minority party, Hassan says she’ll stand up to Trump

  • New Hampshire’s new U.S. Senator, Gov. Maggie Hassan, talks during an interview with the Associated Press on Friday. JIM COLE / AP

Associated Press
Published: 11/13/2016 12:09:12 AM

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan chose to run for U.S. Senate to help protect and advance New Hampshire’s work on Medicaid expansion, women’s health care and a slew of other issues.

As she heads to Washington in the minority party, it might be a harder fight than she’d anticipated.

“I am sure I can find common ground with members of the other party in the Senate as well as President Trump,” she told the Associated Press on Friday. “But I also won’t refrain from standing up to President Trump if I need to, because that’s what the people of this state also sent me to do – to fight for their values and their priorities.”

Hassan, wrapping her second term as governor, defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte by a razor thin margin of roughly 1,000 votes. With Republican Donald Trump headed to the White House and the GOP in control of Congress, Hassan’s priorities of campaign finance reform, protecting and expanding women’s health care and maintaining the Affordable Care Act look uncertain. Still, she expressed hope that issues like infrastructure improvement and helping the middle class may gain bipartisan traction come 2017.

And if Congress doesn’t pass emergency funding in the lame duck session for states to fight heroin and opioid abuse, Hassan said she’ll make it a top priority.

“I hope it would be the first new bill that President Trump signs,” she said.

She’ll enter Congress as only the second woman in U.S. history to serve as a state’s governor and U.S. senator. The first is New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, Hassan’s soon-to-be-partner in Washington.

Hassan is no stranger to legislative fights, having served six years in the state Senate. There, she rose to the position of majority leader before losing her seat in 2010. Her friends and critics alike agree the U.S. Senate will be a good fit for Hassan’s political skills. As governor, she was required to work across party lines to achieve compromise on major issues from the budget to Medicaid expansion.

But as state Senate majority leader, her chief focus was advocating for the party’s priorities. Democratic colleagues characterize Hassan as a workhorse who was willing to listen but always believed she could convince people to share her views.

Perhaps no issue defines that more than her work to pass gay marriage legislation in 2009, making New Hampshire one of the first states to legislatively legalize it. Not every Democrat was on board, but several of Hassan’s colleagues recall her hard work to bring them around.

“Through her own evolution she helped others evolve on the issue in a pretty succinct period of time and recognized just how important it was to the people of the state,” said Donna Soucy, chief of staff to the Senate at the time and a current Democratic senator.

Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro put it more bluntly.

“She was a force in getting that through and, as majority leader, she whipped the majority and got it through,” he said. “There’s no question that she has an opinion and expresses it, and sometimes in no uncertain terms.”

In her campaign for the U.S. Senate, Hassan ran against Washington gridlock. But Republicans say they can’t recall a more partisan colleague. She often forged compromise as governor, but Republicans chaffed when Hassan took credit on things like the state budget.

“The only time she was willing to accommodate and work was when she knew that there was no other choice,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said. “She’ll fit right in in Washington.”

Hassan, for her part, pledges to bring what she views as pragmatic New Hampshire problem solving to Washington.

“At the end of the day, I really did think in order to continue to make a difference for the people of New Hampshire and continue to stand up for our state and help it make progress that I needed to run for this seat,” she said.

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