On the Trail: Cory Booker’s back, and so is Bill Gardner

  • Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the second day of a confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Cliff Owen

For the Monitor
Published: 12/6/2018 3:13:19 PM

A top Granite State-based Democratic strategist says Cory Booker’s jam-packed trip to New Hampshire this weekend will help the New Jersey senator decide on whether he’ll launch a bid for the White House.

“This trip will give him a great opportunity to get a feel for what campaigning in New Hampshire is like, with some living room settings, some coffee shops,” Jim Demers said.

Demers, who’s now onboard with Booker and helped plan this weekend’s trip, is a top Concord-based lobbyist and strategist who helped steer then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in New Hampshire.

Booker has said he’ll take the holiday season to assess whether or not he launches a White House campaign.

“During the holidays, I’m going to sit down with family and friends and really try to come to a conclusion and make a decision about whether to run or not for president,” the senator said Thursday in an interview on the “New Hampshire Today with Jack Heath” radio program.

Booker was invited by the state Democratic Party to headline their “Post-Election Victory Celebration,” which will be held Saturday afternoon at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester.

But Demers helped build out the itinerary.

Booker will start his Saturday with some retail politics, meeting and greeting breakfast customers at a café in Nashua. Later that morning, he’ll be the main attraction at a house party at the Nashua home of former longtime Democratic state Sen. Bette Lasky and Dr. Elliott Lasky. On Saturday evening, he’ll be the guest of honor at the Concord home of longtime activists Gerri and Ron King and on Sunday morning, he’ll be in Keene to speak to a gathering at Joann Fenton’s home.

He’ll also hold private meetings with friends he has met along the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

“I think it will help weigh on how he makes this decision and I think that it will give him a chance to really see how campaigning is done in New Hampshire and how people expect that face-to-face conversation,” Demers explained.

The visit is Booker’s second to New Hampshire in two months.

In late October, during the closing days of the midterm election campaign, Booker campaigned with now-Congressman-elect Chris Pappas and gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly at a rally at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and with Rep. Annie Kuster at Dartmouth College.

In an interview with the Monitor during that trip, Booker said he would “start thinking about 2020” after the midterm elections.

The morning after

Bill Gardner was back at work Thursday morning at the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office – one day after pulling out a hard fought re-election victory for 22nd two-year term as the state’s top election official.

Among the guests who stopped by to congratulate Gardner were two of his top supporters, former Democratic governor John Lynch and Republican state Rep. Al Baldasaro of Londonderry.

Gardner edged out challenger and fellow Democrat Colin Van Ostern by a 209-205 vote in the second ballot of voting by a joint-convention of the re-elected and newly elected state senators and representatives.

Van Ostern, a former two-term executive councilor from Concord who was the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is pledging to stay involved, but adds that it won’t be as a candidate.

“I am worried about the health of our American democracy,” he said in an email Thursday to supporters.

He claimed that his defeat “means there are both Democrats and Republicans who don’t see the same gravity of the threats to our democracy that you and I see.”

And Van Ostern vowed to “keep working to protect our democracy – not as a candidate (which, frankly, I’ve had enough of lately!) but as a partner of yours, and a citizen who is fighting for the country I love.”

Asked on Wednesday when asked if he would run again for secretary of state in two years, Van Ostern said, “I have no idea.”

Last week, Gardner hinted to the Monitor that if re-elected, it could be his swan song as secretary of state.

“I have a special reason why I want to do this one,” Gardner explained, referring to this year’s re-election bid. “I wouldn’t have the same reason for the next one.”

That “special reason” is the upcoming 2020 celebration of New Hampshire’s status as the first-in-the nation primary. The Granite State held its first presidential primary in 1916, but it wasn’t until four years later that the state’s contest led off the presidential nominating calendar.

But Gardner made no mention of any retirement talk during his victory speech or later during a scrum with reporters.

Moving day

Elections have consequences.

And some of those consequences are now being directly felt in the State House.

With Organization Day over and the new House and Senate sworn in, the moving of offices got underway Thursday.

The Democrats, who in last month’s elections won back the majority in the state Senate for the first time in eight years and took control of the House for the first time in four years, are moving into offices Republicans have held in recent years. And vice-versa.

One of the first to move was newly elected House Speaker Steve Shurtleff.

The Concord native and longtime state representative who’s served as House Democratic leader the past four years took occupancy in the speaker’s office.

Comparing his new digs to the crowded House Minority office, Shurtleff told the Monitor, “it’s definitely an upgrade.”

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