N.H. Democrats revel in 2017 victories at Kennedy-Clinton fundraiser

  • New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley speaks at an annual fall fundraising dinner in Hollis on Friday. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 11/18/2017 12:01:24 AM

The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraising dinner was part celebration of this year’s victories by state Democrats and part pep-rally for the bigger electoral fights ahead in 2018.

The dinner, held in Hollis, was also an early screen test for two 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls.

And the annual Kennedy-Clinton dinner also came with some controversy, as hours before the gathering the chairwoman of the New Hampshire GOP called for former President Bill Clinton’s name to be dropped from the event because of the revived sexual misconduct debate over the former president.

The dinner was held just a week and a half after the party enjoyed a big night in municipal elections, including Joyce Craig becoming the first woman ever and the first Democrat in 14 years to win a Manchester mayoral election. Democrats also swept the field in Nashua’s elections for board of aldermen and was victorious in both state House of Representatives special elections, flipping one seat from red to blue.

“While we have plenty of work to do, New Hampshire Democrats have a lot to celebrate,” said longtime state party Chairman Ray Buckley.

Buckley praised Craig’s victory and raved that “in Nashua, sweet Nashua, we pulled off a clean sweep.”

With the party hoping to win back majorities in the state House, state Senate and the five member Executive Council, Buckley asked “is everyone clear what our mission is the next 11 months?”

The party would also like to recapture the Corner Office from Gov. Chris Sununu, the state’s first GOP governor in a dozen years.

“We need to make Chris Sununu a one term governor,” Buckley said.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, Sununu’s predecessor as governor, echoed Buckley’s message, saying “next year we’ll have an opportunity to keep our congressional delegation blue and to turn the State House and the governor’s office blue.”

That appears to be a tough task, as Sununu passed most of his agenda through the State House this year and currently enjoys an approval rating of around 60 percent in the most recent public opinion polls.

The dinner was headlined by three Democrats in the U.S. House, Reps. Grace Meng of New York, Tim Ryan of Ohio, and John Delaney of Maryland.

This past summer, Delaney said he wouldn’t run for re-election and instead announced he was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Delaney, making his second trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state this month, took aim at President Donald Trump, saying “hyper partisan politics is tearing our country apart. Hyper partisan politics prevents us from getting anything done.”

“What we really need a president to do is to bring us together, to restore civility in politics and respect in public service. To begin a dialogue about the things we agree on.

The Democratic Party can do it. Donald Trump can never do it,” he said. “But we can and this is our moment.”

Ryan, who says it’s important to keep the focus on the 2018 midterms rather than the 2020 presidential race, urged that “the Democratic Party’s got to be the party that builds the new system.”

“We need to build systems that put people first,” he said.

The dinner was held one day after Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was accused of kissing and groping a female radio news anchor without her consent during a USO tour in the Middle East in 2006. The Franken news came as the sexual misconduct controversy over Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore continues to dominate national headlines.

Hours before the event, state Republican Party chairwoman Jeanie Forrester took aim at the dinner, which is named for Clinton and former President John F. Kennedy.

“Tonight, New Hampshire Democrats will gather to honor President Clinton. At a time when Harvey Weinstein and Senator Al Franken have had credible allegations of sexual assault, and as liberals across the country start to finally denounce Bill Clinton for his past lewd behavior, the New Hampshire Democrats should immediately denounce and remove the name of a sexual predator from their main fundraising dinner,” Forrester wrote.

Asked by the Monitor if the state party should have a conversation regarding taking Clinton’s name off the dinner, Buckley said, “I think it would be an interesting conversation right after we see the resignation of Donald Trump.”

Trump notably faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations in the months leading up to his Election Day victory.

Asked again, Buckley responded that, “I think that once we see the Republican Party really stands up and represent the real values of America, I think we can have a number of other conversations about other officials. But right now this country, this world, is under assault by Donald Trump and that’s really the most pressing issue.”

No other state party officials or Democratic activists at the dinner wanted to talk on the record about whether Clinton’s name should be removed from the dinner. But the issue could possibly come up when the state party holds a major meeting Dec. 2.

Fox News and other conservative outlets have repeatedly targeted Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky and allegations by other women of sexual misconduct. Women such as Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey have long accused the former president of sexually harassing them years ago.

But Thursday, a prominent Democrat questioned Clinton’s behavior. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, going where no Democrat had really gone before, said she believed that Clinton should have stepped down from the presidency over the allegations he faced.

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