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On the Trail: Kasich’s 2nd N.H. visit this year adds fuel to the presidential fire

  • Former Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, endorses Chris Sununu, right, for New Hampshire's governor during a news conference Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole



For the Monitor
Thursday, November 08, 2018

With the 2018 midterm elections now over, the 2020 White House race official gets underway in New Hampshire and the other early primary and caucus states.

 While we could eventually see a Democratic presidential nomination field of over 20 candidates, the first potential White House contender to visit the state that for a century has held the first presidential primary will most likely be a Republican.

That person is Ohio Gov. John Kasich – unless another possible candidate makes an unscheduled stop in New Hampshire before next Thursday.

The term-limited GOP governor, who’s finishing up his eighth and final year steering Ohio, will headline the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications 16th annual First Amendment Awards gala on Nov. 15. The dinner honors Granite State residents and organizations that work to protect free speech and free press.

The trip is sparking more speculation that Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who finished second to Donald Trump in the New Hampshire primary, is seriously considering challenging the President for the party’s 2020 nomination.

From the looks of it, Kasich won’t have much idle time. The governor will sit down for media interviews and will hold a series of meetings with 2016 supporters and other Granite State Republicans in the hours leading up to the awards dinner in Manchester.

“The governor will meet with some old friends and possibly make some new friends,” said Bruce Burke, a longtime Kasich friend who served as an adviser to the Ohio governor’s campaign in New Hampshire. 

While he’s not running for anything at the point, Kasich made lots of friends and built up assets in New Hampshire during his 2016 White House run and it appears he wants to keep them viable.

Next week’s visit will be the Ohio governor’s second to the Granite State this year. Kasich told the Monitor in the spring that “all my options are on the table.” 

Soucy next N.H. Senate president

Senate Democrats pow wow on Friday to elect their leaders, and it’s all but certain that state Sen. Donna Soucy of Manchester – the current minority leader – will get her party’s nod as incoming Senate president. Sen. Dan Feltes of Concord is expected to be named Senate Majority Leader. 

Longtime Democratic state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth said “no surprises were expected” when the Democratic lawmakers meet at the state party headquarters.

“We’re all looking forward to electing Donna as senate president and Dan Feltes will be appointed the majority leader. What’s important is that we function as a team, together, to put forth and pass significant legislation that will make the lives of the citizens of New Hampshire better,” Fuller Clark said.

The full Senate will meet early next month to vote on the chamber’s president.

Democrats won back the chamber for the first time in eight years in Tuesday’s elections, turning a 14-10 GOP majority into a 14-10 Democratic majority. 

“We all worked hard. We had great candidates, and we laid out a positive vision for working families expanding economic opportunity for everyone, not just those at the top,” Feltes told the Monitor. “Now we’re going to work hard together to deliver on the promises we made to voters.”

At age 39, Feltes would become the youngest Senate majority leader in New Hampshire history, according to Democratic officials. 

Longtime Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, known as the “dean of the Senate,” has served in both the majority and minority.

 “It’s always great to be in the majority but problem is when you’re in the majority, be careful as to what you do,” he said. “Think about it. Be cautious. And do things that you hope that you can get buy in from the other side. Don’t do things that are so far out there, as we did in the past, that you lose sight of how you got to be in the majority.” 

Morse Senate minority leader

The Senate Republicans, now in the minority for the first time in eight years, met Thursday to choose their leadership. As expected, outgoing Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem got the nod.

 “I think a lot of my role coming up is going to be pointing what each individual piece of legislation means to the public,” Morse said. “I’m going to have an obligation to make sure that’s what the Senate does.”

 Morse expected the Senate to run smoothy despite the power shift.

“I think the Senate, all 24 of us, have always worked well together,” Morse said. “Like I said to Sen. Soucy, ‘look, I know we disagree on issues but we’ve always been respectful of each other and intend to continue that.’”

Morse, long a mentor and friend with GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, worked closely with the governor the past two years to advance legislation. He said that even though he’s now in the minority, his working relationship with Sununu won’t change. 

“I have a very close relationship with the governor and intend to keep it that way,” he shared.

While he’s losing his role as majority leader, expect Republican Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro to continue to be closely involved in molding legislation.

“I look forward to doing what I’ve always done, trying to solve problems, trying to grow the economy, protect taxpayers. We’re going to do that,” he told the Monitor.

“I think if you ask the Democrats, I’ve always been able to work with them and one of the beauties of the New Hampshire Senate, unlike a lot of other politician institutions, there’s only 24 of us. You’ve got to get along with everybody,” Bradley said.

Shurtleff eyes speakership 

Democrats also flipped the state House of Representatives in Tuesday’s election, and will be in the majority for the first time in four years. They’re expected to hold 233 seats, to 167 for the GOP, pending recounts.

Current minority leader Steve Shurtleff is the odds on favorite to become the next House Speaker.

“I’ve had a lot of support from the caucus. People wishing me well. I’ve met a lot of our new representatives,” the Democrat from Concord told the Monitor. “I’m optimistic.” 

As of late Thursday, no Democratic challenger to Shurtleff had emerged. There’s been speculation for months that Shurtleff could face a progressive challenger, possibly from longtime state Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton. Cushing didn’t respond to calls by the Monitor on Thursday. 

“Democrats all have different labels, whether a progressive Democrat or a Bernie Democrat or a Hillary or an old guard or a labor Democrat. But when it comes down to it, we’re all Democrats and share the same values,” Shurtleff said.

 Outgoing House Majority Leader Dick Hinch told the Monitor that he’s running for minority leader.

 The GOP state lawmaker from Merrimack confidently said “I’m very optimistic about the future. The Republican caucus will come together and unite and we certainly will be a force in 2020. Those who ran and were unsuccessful will not be throwing away their campaign signs.” 

As of Thursday evening, Hinch was the only Republican to announce his candidacy. GOP Republicans will caucus on Nov. 29 to choose their leaders.  

So long, Sapareto 

A Republican lawmaker accused of assaulting a business partner over a pornographic film won’t be returning to the State House.

State Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry finished 14 out of 18 candidates in Tuesday’s election vying for 10 House slots for his district.

A week before the election, the lawmaker made headlines over a lawsuit filed by Jonathan Carter against Sapareto in California. According to the lawsuit, Sapareto filmed scenes for an adult film but became upset with how they went, and hit Carter.

Sapareto denied assaulting Carter or having any business involvement with the adult film industry, and argued he was the victim of an extortion attempt.