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Volinsky’s Anti-Israel Org Wants NH Dems To Write In ‘Ceasefire’ on FITN Ballots

President Joe Biden has competition for his ‘meaningless’ write-in campaign.

Former Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky is asking his fellow Granite State Democrats to skip writing Biden’s name on their ballots and instead take part in his anti-Israel write-in campaign called “Ceasefire.”

Announced Wednesday with a Zoom press conference, Ceasefire is Volinsky’s campaign pushing New Hampshire voters to write in the word “Ceasefire” on their ballots in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary. The plan, which may cause headaches for town clerks and election moderators across the state, is meant to protest Biden’s support for Israel in the war with Hamas.

“Vote Ceasefire aims to get N.H. voters to voice their anger and pain at the polls. Politicians listen to votes, and the people want a ceasefire,” the group said in a statement.

 

 

Leading Granite State Democrats like former state party chair Kathy Sullivan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster are supporting a write-in effort on behalf of Biden. The effort, funded largely with out-of-state money, is necessary because Biden tried to kill the Granite State’s long-standing First in the Nation presidential primary and refused to allow his name to appear on the ballot.

Biden said moving New Hampshire from its place at the front of the line is necessary in the name of diversity, and prominent progressives have long argued New Hampshire Democrats are “too White” to be entrusted with this important primary.

Critics of the state Democrats’ write-in effort say it’s a mistake to reward Biden for his insult to his party’s primary voters by helping him win an election he tried to cancel.

Volinsky and fellow progressive peace activists Bill Maddocks and Morgan Brown focused their criticism on Biden and his Israel policy.

“I think about this in terms of ending the regional conflict and stopping the annihilation of the people of Gaza,” Volinsky said.

Brown, a self-described community activist, was more blunt: “The United States has been funding genocide in Gaza.”

Brown also claimed without evidence that Israel has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza, a figure that far outpaces even the numbers reported by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

For Brown, writing in Ceasefire is not an empty gesture but a way to pressure Biden to stop standing with Israel.

“I want Democratic leaders to see the American people are taking a stand against the bombing of civilians,” Brown said. “The bombs being used in their genocide are coming from the Democratic Party.”

Notable by its absence: Any mention of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack by Volinsky or the other press conference speakers. Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 people, including women, the elderly, and children. They also took some 240 hostages. As of Jan. 13, Hamas was holding 132 hostages in its network of tunnels beneath Gaza. Six of them are U.S. citizens.

Maddocks, a peace activist and UNH professor, said the write-in campaign is a last resort after elected officials ignored calls to abandon Israel.

“Our words, our letters, our texts, our calls are not being heard,” Maddocks said.

NHJournal participated in the Zoom press conference, though its question asking why no one in the Ceasefire conference publicly condemned the Oct. 7 atrocities was ignored by the organizers. Reached later in the day via Facebook, Volinsky again declined to answer, instead responding with a heart emoji.

Volinsky claims he came up with the idea for the campaign after getting positive feedback on a letter to the editor he sent to the Concord Monitor. Volinsky sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in 2020, losing the primary to then-state Sen. Dan Feltes (D-Concord).

“Vote Ceasefire New Hampshire is an informal group of concerned citizens encouraging New Hampshire Voters to register to vote and write-in ‘ceasefire’ on the Presidential Primary ballot on Tuesday, Jan. 23,” the group’s disclaimer reads. “The movement aims to get the attention of President Joseph R. Biden and other political leaders and demand they redirect their care for their campaign efforts towards an immediate ceasefire.”

Meanwhile, Shaheen is one of a dozen or so Senate Democrats pushing an amendment to make it harder for the Biden administration to send military aid to Israel. It would prevent the White House from skipping congressional review of arms transfers to Israel.

“The administration has utilized waivers allowing it to bypass congressional review for recent arms sales to Israel, prompting outrage from progressives,” Jewish Insider reports.

Judge Recuses Himself From Ed Funding Case

Grafton Superior Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod is recusing himself from the state education funding lawsuit, saying the property he owns in one of the towns intervening in the case could create the perception of a conflict of interest.

MacLeod recused himself from the case in an order he released Wednesday before he had a chance to rule on the injunction. The plaintiffs are seeking to stop the state from setting a property tax rate for the coming year.

MacLeod and his wife own more than $1 million of property in the city of Lebanon, one of the communities trying to now intervene in the case as part of the Coalition of Communities. It is fighting the plaintiff’s injunction that seeks to keep the Statewide Education Property Tax, or SWEPT, rate at $0.

“The undersigned justice and his wife have a legal and/or beneficial interest in one residence, two rental properties, and two undeveloped lots in Lebanon with a combined property tax assessment in excess of $1,000,000,” MacLeod wrote.

The Coalition, formed in 2006, is made up of mostly towns and cities with high property values working against the return of a “donor” and “receiver” town system for education funding.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by Andru Volinsky, John Tobin, and Natalie Laflamme, claim the state continues to ignore the 1990s Claremont decisions issued by the New Hampshire Supreme Court by using varying rates for the statewide property tax. They claim it punishes poor communities with lower property values.

The plaintiffs argued last week before MacLeod that New Hampshire cannot set any SWEPT rate for the coming year as the system is currently in violation of the Claremont rulings and flies in the face of the state constitution. Currently, property-rich towns that raise more in taxes through the SWEPT tax are allowed to keep the surplus.

After that hearing, the Coalition filed to intervene in the case and stop MacLeod from approving the injunction. Coalition attorney John-Mark Turner wrote that these would-be “donor” communities would face chaos and uncertainty and be forced to raise local property taxes if the plaintiffs prevail. They oppose changing the current system.

MacLeod’s recusal states that since he and his wife could potentially benefit from the Coalition’s efforts, he needed to step aside.

“(I)t appears that the undersigned justice and his spouse may enjoy a tax advantage under New Hampshire’s existing education taxation structure given the assessed values and fortuitous locations of their real properties not available to the plaintiffs and other real property owners similarly situated, such that the undersigned justice and his spouse would or could be placed at more than a de minimis economic disadvantage should the plaintiffs prevail in the case,” MacLeod wrote.

The SWEPT accounts for 30 percent of education funding in New Hampshire. Under the law, as many as 30 wealthier communities in New Hampshire are keeping a portion of the money raised through the SWEPT, while some poorer towns are paying more, according to the lawsuit.

SWEPT started in 1999 as a response to the Claremont decisions, which found that the state has a constitutional obligation to fund an adequate education. The money raised, more than $360 million estimated in the coming year, is used to fund state adequacy grants.

The debate is over the definition of “adequate.”

According to the plaintiffs, wealthy communities raise more funds per pupil through SWEPT than the state’s low standard for what it asserts is the cost of an “adequate” education. Further, since 2011, the state has allowed those wealthy towns to keep the surplus, which flies in the face of the Claremont decisions, according to the motion.

“The SWEPT tax as currently administered is not uniform in rate as the State allows towns with surplus SWEPT funds to either set a negative local education tax rate to offset the State’s official equalized SWEPT tax rate or retain the excess,” the plaintiff’s motions states. “Both of these mechanisms have been previously deemed unconstitutional by New Hampshire courts.”

MacLeod’s order states a new judge will be assigned to the case soon. It is not yet clear how much of a delay his recusal will add to the lawsuit’s timeline, or if the new judge will have to rehear the parties on the injunction against the SWEPT rate.

New Hampshire Debates Turning Over Public Voter Data to Trump Election Commission

Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner are on board to turn over publicly available New Hampshire voter data to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission. Before that happens though, the matter is under review by the state Attorney General and a petition is circulating the state asking the N.H. House to call a special session to deny the commission’s request.

In a request, Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Vice Chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is asking states to turn over “publicly available voter roll data” including full names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliation, voter history, any felony convictions, and the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers.

Gardner, who also sits on President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, says he plans to share the Granite State’s information next week if the Attorney General’s office signs off that it’s legal. Gardner said he views the request as a way of crosschecking voters nationwide to ensure that people aren’t voting twice in future elections. His involvement in the commission has been widely criticized by Democrats and advocacy groups who call the commission’s mission a “sham.”

Sununu made it clear that the only information New Hampshire would provide is a voters’ name, address, party affiliation, and voting history, including whether a person voted in a general election and which party’s ballot a voter took during a primary election.

That information is already available to political parties and committees for a price and it should be shared with the commission, Sununu said. The statewide voter checklist can also be viewed by members of the public online, except they can’t “print, duplicate, transmit, or alter the data.” It has yet to be determined if the state will charge the federal government for access to the voter information. Private data — like birthdays and social security numbers — would not be provided by the state because it’s not publicly accessible, he said.

“I think every state should comply. Any state not complying is simply playing politics at this point,” Sununu told MSNBC on Friday. “You have to have a system that people can trust, that people can believe in. And this is simply a review to make sure that where our system is today and where it’s going tomorrow has that integrity.”

As of Wednesday, 44 states have denied the commission’s request for access to their voter information. The White House claims 20 states have agreed to provide the publicly available information and 16 other states are reviewing which information can be released under state laws.

“At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information,” Kobach said in a statement. “Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”

Democrats and some legal experts are blasting the request, questioning its legality and saying the data could be used to suppress voters and gerrymander in the future.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said under state law it would be illegal for Gardner to provide private voter information. Gardner and Sununu have indicated they would not provide that information as requested by the commission.

“It is disappointing that Gov. Sununu has chosen the Trump administration’s unwarranted request over the privacy of Granite Staters,” Buckley said in a statement. “He is once again falling in line behind President Trump and pledging to hand over our highly personal information to a federal government commission created at best to soothe the president’s ego, and at worst, undermine the integrity of our elections and disenfranchise millions of voters.”

Paul Twomey, a former House legal counsel and attorney specializing in voting issues, sent a letter to top state officials in the attorney general’s office asking them to “immediately intervene to halt any transmission of voter file information to any entities associated with the federal government by the Secretary of State or his office.”

Twomey, who has also served as a lawyer for several Democratic campaigns, argued that Gardner shouldn’t be the one to determine if the state’s information is released since he was involved in the commission’s request for the information as a sitting member of the commission.

“Gardner thus is the requester and should not take part in any decisions about release of this information,” Twomey wrote. “I urge you to immediately review the applicable statutes and take action to safeguard the privacy of the state’s voters.”

Democratic Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky sent his own letter on Monday also saying the state is not required to turn over any information to the commission.

“The Commission has not issued an order or a duly authorized subpoena. Your actions most likely violate New Hampshire law,” he wrote. ““The letter requesting New Hampshire’s voter information makes clear that all records provided to the Commission will be made public. Once the Commission makes our voter information public, it will be subject to commercial exploitation.”

Even former New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Fergus Cullen opposes sharing data with the commission.

An online petition on Change.org was created on Monday that is requesting the N.H. House call a special session to discuss the commission’s voter information request.

“Tell the Governor and Secretary of State to deny this frivolous and intrusive request that is unacceptable and a troubling violation of the state’s laws governing public disclosure of voter records,” the petition states.

As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 500 signatures, including several from people who live outside New Hampshire.

Several Democratic state lawmakers have indicated they support calling a special session, but House Majority Leader Dick Hinch called their petition “political grandstanding.”

“I have a high level of respect for Secretary of State Bill Gardner and it’s unfortunate that Representative Shurtleff and others in the Democratic Party have chosen to suggest he would divulge information that is not public,” he said. “If Democrats had a genuine concern about the availability of the data, they had decades to change the law. By petitioning for a special session they demonstrate their political motives and their disregard for the usual and customary legislative process.”

Gardner is looking at a law passed last year that allows New Hampshire to share information from its voter registration database with the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

Under state law, “the secretary of state may enter into an agreement to share voter information or data from the statewide centralized voter registration database for the purpose of comparing duplicate voter information with other states or groups of states.”

The law also stipulates that the state “shall only provide information that is necessary for matching duplicate voter information with other states and shall take precautions to make sure that information in the database is secure.”

The commission has yet to have its first meeting, but Gardner is expected to travel to the first gathering that is scheduled for July 19.

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Andru Volinsky Becomes Strong Critic of Gov. Sununu’s Agenda

A Democratic member of the state’s highest council is quickly becoming one of the fiercest critics of Gov. Chris Sununu’s agenda. Andru Volinsky, one of the two Democrats sitting on the five-member Executive Council, has been the most vocal about the differences in ideology between him and the governor, especially when it comes to education.

Volinsky, D-Concord, did not support Frank Edelblut’s nomination to be the next state education commissioner. During Edelblut’s nomination hearing in January, Volinsky pushed back on his background in public education and religious views.

The most tense exchange between the two men was over the fact that Edelblut sat on the board of Patrick Henry College, a private Christian liberal arts school in Virginia, and the the school had an “oath of faith” that all of its “agents” needed to sign, which included a belief in creationism over evolution.

“You will be the chief educator to whom all of the science teachers in our state will report. Do you subscribe to this such that the science teachers need to worry about whether you will require creationism to be taught alongside evolution?” Volinsky asked.

He treated his questioning of Edelblut like a court-room cross-examination, using poster board and an easel to showcase his points.

His long questioning at one point drew a rebuke from two of his Republican colleagues on the council, David Wheeler and Russell Prescott, who chastised him for taking too long and accused him of grandstanding. Edelblut, who previously made an unsuccessful bid to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2016, was ultimately confirmed on a 3-2 vote that fell on party lines.

Volinsky also recently criticized Edelblut for not disclosing a $1,000 donation he made to the Croydon School Board’s legal defense fund in a school choice lawsuit brought on by the N.H. Department of Education, which he now has influence over as state education commissioner.

The state education department sued to block the town of Croydon’s practice of using public funds to pay private school tuition for some of its children. The dispute helped spur legislation, known as the “Croydon bill,” that would make the tuition practice explicitly legal.

Edelblut’s disclosure came after the Valley News reported that Croydon rejected a request to reveal the names of the donors to the $23,000 fund and Edelblut, for two weeks, declined to answer questions about his role.

Volinsky emailed Edelblut earlier this month to ask that he make public whether he had contributed to Croydon and to explain why he had not disclosed the donation previously.

“I contributed $1,000 to the Croydon legal defense fund,” Edelblut said in a reply email. “The contribution was made anonymously. I prefer the focus to stay on the cause and not draw attention to myself.”

Volinsky said he doesn’t think Edelblut’s contribution was a crime, but he should be more transparent about any potential conflict of interests.

“I was troubled by the fact that Mr. Edelblut did not respond to this request for disclosure and then reading his response, I’m equally concerned because he said the reason for anonymity was that he did not want to interfere with the cause,” Volinsky told NH1 News. “Think about it. He was running for governor. And the private schools [were] part of his platform. So he was already in the middle of this, number one. And number two, he’s describing the diversion of public funds to private schools as a cause for him. That is contrary to his testimony that he was merely an implementer, and it doesn’t speak well for him being candid during his confirmation process.”

He also said that he was concerned the new commissioner was seeking to further his own “agenda” rather than implement policy created by others. He tweeted, “Ed [Commissioner] secretly helped fund Croydon to support his ’cause’ — diverting public funds to pay for private schools. #edelblutagenda #nhpolitics”

It’s not surprising to see Volinsky come strongly out against Sununu’s education agenda. Volinsky is a lawyer who litigated landmark state education cases before the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and he ran for his seat on the Executive Council with the campaign promise to protect public school funding. Sununu has long been an advocate for school choice.

Volinsky’s comments about the “Edelblut agenda” have made waves in the conservative Twitter community, that sought to take his own words and discuss how the “Volinsky agenda” is bad for New Hampshire.

Volinsky then responded, reclaiming the term as his own and saying what he supports in his own education agenda.

Liberals and Democrats online rallied behind Volinsky’s agenda, posting why they agree and support him.

Volinsky even gave a speech about his agenda at to the New Hampshire State Teachers Association on March 17.

“Every morning with coffee I read my emails and my twitter feeds come through. This morning, some troll tweeted that Edelblut did nothing wrong and my complaints were only part of the #VolinskyAgenda,” he said. “I don’t respond to these things, but thought, the #VolinskyAgenda, huh? So, yea, I have an agenda. The #VolinskyAgenda is good schools, climate change, universal access to healthcare and reducing income inequality. That’s my damned agenda.”

Although it’s only been nearly four months since Sununu’s inauguration, many people are behind Volinsky’s agenda, which could possibly set him up for support for a gubernatorial bid in 2018 if he wanted to run.

It’s not often that Executive Councilors run for the corner office. The five-member regulatory board is charged with overseeing the administrative functions of the state government. The Executive Council advises the governor and provides the check for state contracts. The council also has veto power over pardons and state agency nominations by the governor.

For the first time in recent memory, the 2016 gubernatorial nominees were both Executive Councilors. Sununu was from Newfields in District 3 and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern of Concord sat in the District 2 seat.

With the council getting more public attention, it’s possible that Granite Staters could see more Executive Councilors running for higher office, and Volinsky could potentially be the next candidate.

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