Warren to visit N.H. amid renewed controversy over claims of Native American heritage

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren greets guests at a Concord home Jan. 12. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Elizabeth Warren, United States senator from Massachusetts and one of the many Democrats running for president in 2020, speaks at the "Community Conversation about Puerto Rico and its Recovery" held at the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera Theater, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019. Warren addressed the hardships Puerto Rico has endured in the past two years, particularly its debt crisis and the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) Carlos Giusti

For the Monitor
Published: 2/7/2019 5:59:13 PM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren will head to New Hampshire on Saturday, hours after she’s expected to officially launch her campaign for the White House.

The Democrat from Massachusetts is slated to announce her bid for the presidency at an event in Lawrence, then beeline for the first-in-the-nation primary state, where she’ll meet with voters at the city hall in Dover. With a long history of Bay State contenders coming out on top in the first-in-the-nation primary, New Hampshire is considered by pundits to be a “must win” for Warren.

But Warren’s much-anticipated announcement is being upstaged a bit by the latest developments in the controversy over her longstanding claims of Native American heritage. A Washington Post story on Tuesday evening – that included the publication of a 1986 Texas bar registration card showing her in her own handwriting identifying as “American Indian” – gave new life to a story that Republicans and especially President Donald Trump have long used to criticize her.

In a one-on-one conversation with the Monitor, Warren elaborated on her apology last week for revealing the results of a DNA test last autumn to try and prove her Native American heritage. Not only did the evidence show just a trace amount of Native American lineage, it also angered tribal leaders.

“I had a very good conversation last week with Chief Baker of the Cherokee Tribe. I told him I was sorry for furthering confusion over tribal citizenship and tribal sovereignty and for harm caused,” Warren told the Monitor.

The senator also underscored her commitment to fighting on behalf of Native Americans.

“I’m not a tribal citizen, but I want to be a good friend to the tribes. That’s why I work on the housing bill that helps fully fund housing on tribal reservations and why my opioid bill acknowledges the importance of tribal sovereignty and dealing with the problem of addiction on the front lines where the tribes are. I will continue to work with the tribes. I think it’s important for the country,” she said.

Top Granite State Democrats worry the story could continue to upstage Warren in the coming weeks.

“It’s a distraction,” New Hampshire House Speaker Steve Shurtleff told the Monitor.

“I think it’s something that just keeps her off message and anytime you can’t talk about what you want to talk about, that doesn’t help,” Shurtleff added.

Concord-based progressive radio host Arnie Arnesen was more direct.

“This drip, drip, drip is not good politics,” said Arnesen, the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

“Either you do a dump or you don’t do a dump. I think part of the problem is she probably forgot,” she explained. “But here’s the other problem: When you’re running for president and you know this is an issue for you, you have investigators investigate you. All politicians do that. I did that.”

Where’s Joe?

There’s still tons of speculation regarding whether Joe Biden will or won’t run for the White House.

While national reports indicate the former vice president is closing in on making a decision, some of his best friends in New Hampshire say they haven’t heard from him lately.

Both Shurtleff and longtime state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester have fielded plenty of calls from Democratic presidential candidates and potential contenders in recent weeks, but none of those calls have come from Biden.

Shurtleff, who was a major Granite State supporter of Biden’s bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination, hasn’t heard from the former vice president since November, when Biden called to congratulate Shurtleff on his nomination for speaker.

“I have tremendous respect for the vice president, going back to his days in the Senate, what he did with putting out 100,000 more police and the Violence Against Women Act, that was monumental legislation that he did,” Shurtleff said.

Biden is likely to make a decision later in the race, Shurtleff said, but in the meantime, there will be plenty of 2020 action.

“We’ve got a lot of wonderful people running. I’ll wait and get a chance to meet them and talk to them like everybody else in the state does and then make my decision,” Shurtleff said. “It’s going to be a tough decision for all of us here in New Hampshire,” he added.

D’Allesandro, a longtime influential player in the first-in-the-nation primary, said that he hasn’t seen Biden since the early autumn, when he was invited to attend a speech by the former vice president at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Boston.

If Biden does run again, D’Allesandro strongly hinted whom he’d back.

“I’m very fond of Joe Biden,” D’Allesandro said.

Former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court John Broderick has known Joe Biden for more than three decades.

The longtime supporter of the former vice president told the Monitor he’d “absolutely” back Biden again if he runs for the White House in 2020.

But Broderick said this week that he hasn’t heard from his old friend recently either.

Yang’s long shot bid

Andrew Yang, the New York-based entrepreneur and White House long shot, has been crisscrossing New Hampshire this week, speaking to Democratic activists and voters.

Yang, who’s vowing to give a so-called freedom dividend of $1,000 per month to each adult American if elected president, declared his candidacy a year ago.

He told the Monitor on Thursday that the recent entry into the Democratic nomination race by more well-known candidates with much bigger campaign war chests is actually helping, rather than hurting his White House bid.

“I was just included in the last Monmouth national poll, and I was at 1 percent nationally, which is tied with Kirsten Gillibrand and other candidates that presumably have a national name,” he said.

And that’s not all.

“Every time someone declares their candidacy, our traffic spikes, our donations spike, our interest spikes. Because every time someone comes in, people look around and see who’s in the field,” Yang said. “People are still looking for options. And the bigger the field, the more fragmented it is, the better it is for us.”

Next on deck

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who’s seriously mulling a White House bid, arrives in New Hampshire on Friday. He’ll hold a roundtable discussion on paid family and medical leave with the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy at Hampton’s Winnacunnet High School before mingling with activists at a house party at the Hampton home of former House speaker Terri Norelli.

The former House speaker told the Monitor her hosting of Brown doesn’t mean she’s endorsing him if he runs. She added that she plans to host other White House contenders in the coming months.

On Saturday, Brown holds events in Berlin, Laconia and a 3 p.m. meet-and-greet at Concord Craft Brewing, before keynoting the New Hampshire Young Democrats annual Granite Slate Awards, which are being held at the Currier Museum in Manchester.

Don’t write off Kelly

Former state senator Molly Kelly of Harrisville, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, isn’t ruling out another bid for the corner office.

“I’m leaving the door open,” Kelly said Wednesday on the morning radio program “New Hampshire Today with Jack Heath” when asked about making another run for governor.

Kelly, who lost to
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu by seven percentage points in last November’s election, made similar comments to the Monitor last month.

It could be a crowded field for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord is making early moves toward a possible campaign.

State Sen. Dan Feltes of Concord, the chamber’s majority leader, may also be mulling a run for the corner office.

And former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016 and 2018, may be entertaining a third bid.

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