Capital beat: It’s personalities, not politics that matter most

Monitor staff
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Senate President Chuck Morse guzzles up to a dozen bottles of Diet Coke each session day, with Senate Clerk Tammy Wright passing him replacements each time he empties one.

Katherine Prudhomme O’Brien, a former state representative, has searched for, and found, fossils in the State House tiled floor with her kids.

Republican Kevin Avard often has a guitar tucked under an arm that he plays for fourth-graders who visit the State House from his district.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley carries small rocks in his pocket that he picks up on the hiking trail.

Manchester Democrat Lou D’Allesandro’s booming voice often echoes through the halls as he tells everyone to “have a great American day.”

As governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan worked out in the mornings with state Sen. Donna Soucy to help clear her head.

First-term Sen. Bill Gannon mounted a stuffed black bear head on his first-floor office wall.

Republican Sharon Carson and Democrat Bette Lasky may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they chat and laugh sitting next to one another on the Senate floor.

It’s easy to label lawmakers and not see them as people, with quirks and ticks, or even interests outside the State House.

But the personalities and relationships are what drive lawmaking in New Hampshire.

In a 424-person Legislature, where members get paid $100 a year and have little staff of their own, lawmakers have to cut deals themselves. They rely on relationships to do it.

The long-time family connection between Morse and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu helped the pair get the full-day kindergarten and budget bills passed this year. Sununu grew up in Salem, where Morse lives and owns a nursery business.

A breakdown was evident this year, however, during a hearing on Rep. Sherry Frost’s tweets. The meeting drew lots of testimony from lawmakers but devolved into name-calling, bickering and some angry outbursts.

Over the last two years more and more lawmakers have taken to social media to voice their opinions, often using harsh or mean words that it would be hard to imagine them ever saying to each other in person. These online fights shouldn’t replace the real-life conversations and debate for which the state legislature is known.

Those are a 27-year-old’s words to the wise. Friday marked my last day at the Concord Monitor, and I will soon be moving to Texas to cover state government there. Thanks for reading over the last three years. We wouldn’t be around without you!