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Bradley: NH Advantage in Danger From ConVal Ruling 

Senate Republicans stand between the New Hampshire Advantage and dangerous judicial overreach in the ConVal decision that could force an income tax on Granite Staters, said Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro).

Speaking before the Senate’s first session of the year at a Wednesday press conference in the Legislative Office Building, Bardley said the ConVal education funding decision essentially forces $536 million in new spending.

“There is no way, in my opinion, to do that without an income tax, or a sales tax or, possibly, both,” Bradley said. “That totally undermines the New Hampshire Advantage, and we just can’t go that route.”

Rockingham Superior Court Judge David Ruoff sided with the Contoocook Valley School District in its lawsuit against the state, ruling New Hampshire’s education funding system does not pay enough in adequacy grants and is, therefore, in violation of the state constitution. The Claremont state Supreme Court decisions from the 1990s found students have a right to an adequate education. That put the onus on lawmakers to define how much an adequate education costs and to come up with a fair way to fund it.

Ruoff’s decision, released in November, found the current adequacy grant of about $4,100 per pupil is too low and ought to be at least $7,300 per pupil. Ruoff left the final amount and funding mechanism up to the legislature. But Bradley said Ruoff’s decision puts New Hampshire on the road to an income tax. 

Worse, according to Bradley, it would force New Hampshire to revert to a donor town-type funding system where property taxes paid by homeowners in wealthier communities would be transferred to school systems in less-affluent cities or towns. That won’t happen while the GOP maintains control of the Senate, Bradley pledged.

“Between the 14 of us, an income tax, a sales tax, and donor towns are off the table,” Bradley said.

Some Democrats have already floated the idea of blocking the phase-out of the state’s tax on interest and dividends tax. Republicans say it’s just one step toward the longstanding goal of Granite State progressives to impose an income tax in the name of equity and social justice.

Gov. Chris Sununu is appealing Ruoff’s order to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Bradley said it remains to be seen if the ConVal decision survives the appeal. 

Protecting New Hampshire’s strong economy and free way of life from a tax regime is one of the Senate GOP’s top priorities for the coming session, Bradley said.

“It’s vitally important that we protect hardworking men and women from higher taxes, allow small businesses to thrive, and maintain our economic status,” Bradley said.

Public safety is the second pillar of the Senate GOP’s agenda, he said, and that starts with bail reform. The House and Senate have competing proposals to fix the 2018 bail reform law. While it was supposed to end cash bail for non-violent offenders, it’s now blamed for returning violent criminals to the streets.

“Our bail system, with the best intentions several years ago, was reformed, and those reforms did not protect the public,” Bradley said.

Despite differences in the proposals, Bradley said he is optimistic a deal can be struck between the two chambers to fix the bail system one way or another. 

“I think the House has made a good faith effort,” Bradley said. “Nobody gets everything they want around here.”

The Senate is also looking to block sanctuary cities in New Hampshire, strengthen protections at the Northern Border, and pass mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl traffickers, said Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry). 

The GOP agenda includes a parental transparency proposal that guarantees guardians access to school information about their children, a hotly-contested issue as some school districts insist teachers and administrators have the right to keep secrets – or even lie to – parents about their children’s behavior.

The senators will also push for local property tax relief, improvements to health care and mental health care, clean drinking water, investments in affordable housing, and a constitutional amendment to enshrine New Hampshire’s First in the Nation presidential primary into law. 

While the senators presented a united front for their agenda, there is a major fault line when it comes to marijuana legalization. Sununu reversed course last year by calling for the legislature to legalize recreational marijuana. Bradley admits the issue divides his caucus, but there will be a legalization effort this year he hopes everyone can agree to.

“There is the opportunity to get that done, but we’ll see what happens,” Bradley said.

Ruais Goes to Concord Seeking Bail Reform

Less than 24 hours after being sworn in, Manchester Mayor Jay Ruais was already at work on one of his top priorities: reducing crime on his city’s streets by fixing the state’s broken bail system.

Ruais led a bipartisan coalition of Manchester officials to the capitol Wednesday morning, where he laid out what he sees as the brutal math from lax bail rules.

“The reason I made this one of my first official acts is to highlight the importance of this issue to our city,” Ruais said. “In 2023, 813 criminals were arrested, released, and rearrested. Many of these criminals were not just arrested for petty crimes but violent assaults, robberies, and other serious offenses.

“There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that would have a more transformative effect on the city of Manchester than reforming our state’s bail laws,” Ruais added.

Since 2018’s controversial bail reform law, thousands of alleged Manchester criminals charged with violent crimes have been released without bail only to get arrested on new charges. Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester) said some of those suspects have been charged with murder.

“Eight is the number of times my constituent was stabbed to death by somebody already out on double-PR bail,” Berry said.

Ruais, a Republican, scored his upset victory over Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh in last year’s election by running on issues like crime, homelessness, and the city’s lack of order. The word is out on the street in Manchester that criminals get a free pass, Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long warned.

“I recall being in a (homeless) encampment in Manchester and overhearing the residents in that encampment talking about no concern with breaking into cars, trespassing. There was no concern (because) they would be back out on the street in a couple of hours,” Long said.

Long is also a Democratic state representative.

The original bail reform bill passed in 2018 was aimed at keeping poor people who are charged with non-violent crimes from getting locked up because they could not afford a $100 or $200 cash bail, according to Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). Soucy said even in 2018, she and other lawmakers were worried about the unintended consequences.

“This has been an issue for a long time,” Soucy said. “I was in the Senate when we initially enacted bail reform, and although well-intentioned, I think we all recognized this law needs fine-tuning.”

Ruais promised in Tuesday’s inaugural address he would champion bail reform and lobby lawmakers until they got it right.

“The fight for our security will continue today, it will continue tomorrow, and it will continue until everyone in our community feels safe,” Ruais said Tuesday.

Ruais made sure to get to Concord Wednesday, on his first full day on the job, to put friendly pressure on lawmakers as they opened their legislative session for the year. Two proposed bail reform bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, have a good chance to pass this session.

Ruais isn’t saying which proposal he prefers, leaving it up to legislators to do their job in crafting a bill that works and will pass.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to move its bill, SB-249, to the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Daryl Abbas (R-Salem) said it is past time for a bail reform bill that protects people.

“We have heard testimony for years in both the House and the Senate that we need bail reform. We have dangerous individuals committing crimes, being released on bail, and then immediately reoffending,” Abbas said. “No one should be denied bail solely because they cannot afford it, and this bill will not change that. This bill requires a judge to determine whether a violent offender poses a threat to the public before being released. Senate Republicans have been fighting for years for common sense bail reform, and we will continue to do so to keep our communities safe.”

‘Catch-And-Release’ Bail System Frustrating Cops, Endangering Citizens

Hours after Nashua’s James Morris was charged with senselessly assaulting police officers during a traffic stop, he made bail and was back on the streets.

“It’s certainly frustrating for the officers,” said Nashua Sgt. John Cinelli. 

James Morris

Morris, 32, is just one of the alleged violent offenders who have caused mayhem in recent days in incidents throughout the state, incidents abetted by New Hampshire’s reformed bail system. 

The 2018 bail reform was meant to eliminate the unintended consequence of the cash bail system that resulted in cases of poor people charged with relatively minor, nonviolent crimes but who were unable to afford bail.

People like Jeffrey Pendleton, a 26-year-old Nashua panhandler arrested in 2016 on a marijuana possession charge. Pendleton ended up in Valley Street Jail in Manchester when he couldn’t come up with the $100 cash bail. Five days later, he was found dead in his cell from a drug overdose.

But now, instead of protecting poor, nonviolent offenders, bail reform is letting people charged with violent felonies stay on the street.

Police stopped Morris’ car near School Street Friday night, and he refused to give the officers his identity before he decided to start fighting with them, according to Cinelli.

“We have no idea why he did that,” Cinelli said.

On Thursday, Concord homeless man Victor Manns, 23, allegedly stabbed two tourists on South Main Street and led officers on a prolonged manhunt. Manns’ was walking around despite being charged with assault in June and again in August in separate incidents.

Victor Manns

According to police, the couple were in their car parked in front of a business on South Main Street when Manns, wearing a mask and a hood, approached and began hitting the car. The alarmed couple got out of the car. Manns reportedly brandished his knife, threatened the pair, and then stabbed them, according to police.

Manns ran from the scene of the attack, kicking off a two-hour police search of the downtown area before he was captured.

On Friday, Claremont woman Brandie Jones, 33, allegedly hit a Nashua police officer with her car to avoid a felony arrest. At the time of the incident, Jones was wanted in Londonderry on warrants, including a breach of her previous bail in another case.

Brandie Jones

Nashua police had previously stopped Jones but gave a false name to officers as she had been convicted of being a habitual traffic offender by the state. If caught driving, habitual offenders face new felony charges.

After getting stopped for the second time on Friday night, Cinelli said Jones was getting out of her car as instructed by police when she changed her mind. With the door still open, she got back in the driver’s seat and sped off. The open car door hit one officer, Cinelli said.

Jones made it to Londonderry, where she ditched her car and ran. Londonderry Police eventually found her with the help of a police dog and took her into custody. 

Cinelli said that none of the Nashua officers suffered any serious injuries from the incidents involving Jones and Morris. The couple attacked by Manns both suffered lacerations, and one sustained minor injuries, which required a trip to the hospital. 

Cinelli said the 2018 bail reform law makes it easy for people charged with a crime to avoid jail, get back out, and re-offend. 

“When these guys are getting bail and getting out that quickly, what is going to stop (them) from doing it to more officers or civilians who don’t have the ability to defend themselves,” Cinelli said.

Jay Ruais, the Republican running to replace Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, has been demanding changes to the state’s bail system as crime becomes a bigger problem in the Queen City. In recent weeks, two men charged in an Elm Street shooting got released on relatively low cash bail. In another incident, 10 people were arrested for being part of a street fight in the area of Auburn and Cedar Streets, where two men were stabbed. Most of those suspects were quickly released on bail.

“Violent, dangerous, and repeat offenders should never be on our streets,” Ruais said. “As mayor, I will make sure our police have the resources and tools they need to make our community more safe.”

Manch Mayor Hopeful Ruais Backs Bail Reform, But Dems Dodge Issue

A week after two men charged in the Ash Street shooting were released on bail, the three Democrats running to become Manchester’s next mayor have yet to address the need for bail reform.

Jay Ruais, the sole Republican running against Democrats Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, and June Trisciani, called their silence “unconscionable.”

“Our police and our city deserve better,” Ruais said Tuesday, pledging to “fight to fix our broken bail system to keep dangerous, violent and repeat criminals off our streets.” 

The city’s SWAT team responded to a report of a fight last week to find a man suffering a gunshot wound to his leg. In short order, Brandon Middaugh, 32, and Justin Middaugh, 30, were both arrested, charged with simple assault, and released.

“It’s the same story every day in Manchester. A police officer heroically does their job, and the offender is back out on the streets before the ink is dry on their paperwork,” Ruais said. In a statement, his campaign said, “Ruais is the only candidate for mayor to call for significant reforms to our state’s current bail system. He is now calling on the rest of the candidates to join him in demanding a fix to this problem.”

His Democratic opponents have stayed silent.

All three — Stewart, Cavanaugh, and Trisciani — refused to respond to NHJournal’s request for comment or explain their stance on bail reform. All three are elected members of the city’s Board of Aldermen. The three are devoting the remaining days before the Sept. 19 primary canvassing and talking up issues like housing, homelessness, and the arts for Stewart, reproductive rights for Trisciani, and organized labor for Cavanaugh.

Ruais said their silence on crime and bail reform simply isn’t good enough.

“I urge the voters of Manchester to hold our elected official’s feet to the fire and demand an answer to this question. Will they support the status quo, or will they fight for our city’s safety?” Ruais said. “I am the only candidate in this race who will deliver action and results to fix the public safety issues we are seeing on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

Between April and December of last year, Manchester Police arrested more than 700 people who were already out on bail. That included homeless man Richard Moore, 41, who allegedly stabbed and killed 75-year-old Daniel Whitmore last year. Moore was on bail for two separate violent incidents when he allegedly killed the elderly man. 

Even though Manchester Police statistics show a drop in all reported crimes from this time last year, Manchester residents have been experiencing an uptick in crime in recent months. Property crime reports were at 238 for July, the highest of the year so far. The most recent data available runs through the end of July.

The number of violent crimes reported has been lower on average for much of the year, about 31 incidents per month through April, but spiked to 50 in May. June and July saw 46 and 49 incidents, respectively.

There are other red flags in the data. There were just five homicides in Manchester in all of 2022. By the end of July this year, there have already been another five homicides.

Reports of drug crimes totaled 538 for the year through the end of July, slightly higher than the same period in 2022, which saw 516 reports.

Ruais Decries Decision to Release Manchester Shooters on Personal Recognizance

Two men arrested for their alleged involvement in a Manchester shooting this week are back on the streets, thanks to New Hampshire’s PR bail system. 

A PR bond, or personal recognizance bond, is a type of bail bond that allows a defendant to be released from custody without paying any money upfront. Instead, the defendant must promise to appear in court for all scheduled appearances. The defendant’s word is essentially their bail bond.

It is another example of the failed bail reform that is making cities like Manchester unsafe because violent criminals aren’t going to jail, said Jay Ruais, the sole Republican candidate for mayor.

“This incident highlights the massive problem Manchester is facing right now. Every day, our police officers heroically perform their duty, and before the ink is dry on the paperwork, violent offenders are released back out onto our streets.” Ruais said. “The status quo in the city of Manchester cannot, and must not continue. This makes our city less safe and creates a system that encourages criminal activity and behavior.”

Brandon Middaugh, 32, and Justin Middaugh, 30, were arrested this week after an Ash Street shooting sent a man to the hospital. A Police SWAT team responded to a report of a fight, and officers found a man with a gunshot wound in his leg outside.

Brandon Middaugh

Justin Middaugh

The Middaughs were both later charged with simple assault and released. Justin Middaugh’s criminal history includes leading police on a high-speed chase and fighting with officers who eventually arrested him for drunk driving

Last year in Manchester, 75-year-old Daniel Whitmore was stabbed and killed by homeless man Raymond Moore, 40. Moore was out on bail for assault at the time of the stabbing.

And in June, a man threatened Dollar Tree employees with a box cutter during a shoplifting attempt. Manchester police arrested the man, who had recently been released on bail.

It is past time for the bail system to be fixed, Ruais said, vowing to fight to make sure that happens.

“For the safety and security of our city, the next mayor must fight to fix our broken bail system to keep criminals off our streets. I am the only candidate in the race demanding a fix to our broken bail system to keep dangerous criminals off our streets,” Ruais said. “Our jails cannot be a revolving door for violent criminals. It is past time for our city’s leadership to step up and fight for a fix to the broken bail system that is devastating Manchester families and businesses.”

Ruais is the only candidate running for mayor who has made bail reform a major campaign issue. Democrats like Will Stewart and June Trisciani have been focusing on issues like housing and education and largely avoided talking about bail reform at the recent mayoral candidate forum. 

Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh, who supported the 2018 bail reform bill that critics like Ruais say has failed, blamed Republicans in Concord for not fixing the problem.

“We have to get violent people off the street,” Cavanaugh said at the forum. “The Republicans have the power in Concord to do that, and for the past two years, they wouldn’t do it.”

Efforts to scale back the 2018 bail reform law were shot down this year by a coalition of Free State-aligned Republicans and progressive Democrats. The New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union pushed hard against any proposal to keep criminals in jail.

The NH ACLU claims the 2018 bail reform has not made communities unsafe and has helped keep poor people from being treated unjustly.

“Until bail reform in 2018, thousands of Granite Staters were incarcerated pre-trial each year not because they were a danger to their community, but simply because they could not afford to pay their bail,” Frank Knaack, the NH ACLU’s policy director wrote. 

Revolving Door Bail System Contributes to Crime Surge, Manchester Chief Says

Between April and December of last year, Manchester police arrested 700 familiar faces — they were all out on bail.

Manchester has also seen a spike in property crimes like car break-ins and thefts. City residents are speaking out about their concerns over public safety.

And the Queen City’s Police Chief Allen Aldenberg thinks he knows a major source of the problem: New Hampshire’s new bail reform law, which makes it easier for people to get released from custody after they are arrested.

“We need some kind of substantial change to hold people accountable,” Aldenberg told Drew Cline on Cline’s WFEA radio show.

Charges from the arrests include robbery, burglary, weapons charges, assault, and one murder, Aldenberg said. In September, homeless man Richard Moore, 40, was arrested after allegedly stabbing 75-year-old Daniel Whitmore, who was out for a walk near his Manchester home according to police reports. Whitmore lived close to a rail trail where he reportedly enjoyed walking, and which was close to a homeless encampment. Moore was on bail for two separate violent incidents when he allegedly killed the Manchester resident.

Aldenberg said police are arresting the same people over and over again, and they are simply put back on the street to re-offend.

“Something needs to change,” Aldenberg said.

New Hampshire changed its bail law in 2018 to make it easier for non-violent offenders to be released after their arrest. Instead, that well-intended reform has created a revolving door that leaves police scrambling to keep up, according to Aldenberg.

“The police department can only do so much,” he said.

Multiple bills in the state legislature are aimed at correcting the overreach of the bail reform law. Some seek to impose a temporary hold on people charged with serious, violent felonies. Another seeks to hold many of those same suspects while their trials are pending, which in some cases can take more than a year. Another proposal would take bail decisions away from bail commissioners, who often respond to arrests on nights and weekends, and require suspects to have a hearing before a judge.

New Hampshire’s historically low crime rate took an alarming turn last year with 27 murders. That was a huge spike compared to the 16 or so in 2020 and 2021. The Granite State usually averages 19 murders a year, making 2022 one of the deadliest years in recent memory.

With surging property crime and an increase in murders, New Hampshire seems primed to reform the 2018 reform. Democratic Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig testified in Concord last week that 2018’s bail reform has failed her city.

“While well-intentioned, the statutory changes made in the name of bail reform in 2018 have had negative consequences in Manchester,” Craig said.

Fixing the broken bail system is a bipartisan concern. Last week Londonderry Republican Sen. Sharon Carson, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the current bail law is keeping dangerous criminals free, while law-abiding Granite Staters are at risk.

“What I am seeing is a revolving door,” Carson said. “That is not in the best interest of public safety and that is what we need to stop.”

Gov. Chris Sununu, who signed the 2018 bail reform bill into law, has been calling for a fix. Prior efforts at strengthening the bail laws were quashed when groups like the New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union objected.

“You have the ACLU, these extreme left-wing groups that say they do not want to change anything,” Sununu said last year. “You have individuals that get arrested, they are getting out before the cop that arrested them has done the paperwork. It is messed up.”

Bail Reform Brings Sununu, Sherman Together

Changing New Hampshire’s bail reform system, which critics say allows dangerous criminals to walk free, is a top priority for both Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye. 

“There should be outrage and appetite for change,” Sununu told WMUR’s Adam Sexton this weekend.

Sununu signed a bail reform bill in his first term after being assured it would balance public safety and the goal of avoiding putting non-violent offenders in jail for minor offenses. Instead, critics say, serious criminals are being released and reoffending.

“I signed it because it had the support of law enforcement,” Sununu said. “I said ‘Will this work?’ Everyone believed it would be OK, so we signed it. But we all see what was happening.”

Sununu was referencing the August murder of an elderly Manchester man by a suspect who had been arrested twice in the weeks leading up to the stabbing.

Manchester resident Daniel Whitmore, 75, was found with multiple stab wounds on a walking trail near Bradley Street in August. The suspect in the murder, homeless man Raymond Moore, 40, had been arrested twice last summer. Once in July in Nashua for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, and again in August for another apparent stabbing incident. He was released from custody, and without bail, in both cases.

Manchester’s Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig took to Twitter to decry the state’s lenient bail system.

“Our criminal justice system cannot continue releasing violent offenders back onto our streets. I, once again, urge our legislators to act quickly and address this issue. The safety of our residents is at stake,” Craig said.

During his own WMUR appearance last weekend, Sherman also voiced support for changing New Hampshire’s bail laws to keep violent suspects locked up.

“Do I support rebalancing bail reform? Absolutely. Do I support protecting people from violent criminals? I always have,” Sherman said.

Sherman and Sununu supported the effort this year to change bail laws, but that proposal died in the legislature when the House voted it down. The bill lost support largely from Democratic members. Sherman said too many people did not seem to understand how the bill would work.

“The solution is we have to recognize — whatever we do for bail reform, we have to make sure the system will support it,” Sherman said. “That was the problem. The system did not support, with adequate scrutiny, who was being released and who was not.”

Sununu blames the left, especially progressive organizations like New Hampshire’s ACLU, for blocking the bail reform effort.

“You have the ACLU, these extreme left-wing groups that say they do not want to change anything,” Sununu said. “You have individuals that get arrested, they are getting out before the cop that arrested them has done the paperwork. It is messed up,” Sununu said.

New Hampshire’s ACLU claims the bail laws allowing more people to be released from custody has made New Hampshire safer. They say instead of finding ways to keep more violent suspects locked up, the legsilators should fund more community needs.

“Lawmakers should focus our limited tax dollars on investments that will actually make our communities safer and more just, like housing, transportation, and mental health and substance use treatment,” the ACLU stated earlier this year. “Pretrial detention has a devastating human toll. Even for a short period of time, it increases the likelihood of innocent people pleading guilty to a crime, loss of employment, income, and housing, and traumatic family disruption.”

The conservative Americans for Prosperity also opposed this year’s bail reform efforts, but it does support changes to the law. Ross Connolly, AFP’s deputy state director, said the organization wants to see bail commissioners replaced with magistrate judges when it comes to deciding who can be released and who needs to stay locked up.

“Pre-trial detention is a balance between public safety and the presumption of innocence,” Connolly said. “We understand the concerns with bail, and there is a way to address the issue without throwing out individual rights. Replacing bail commissioners with a magistrate system is a fix that all sides can get behind.  A magistrate system will improve public safety, will pass the legislature, and will cost Granite State taxpayers less than other proposals.” 

State Senate District 16 Candidates Clash: Who’s the ‘Real’ Republican?

While the GOP primary campaign for U.S. Senate is getting most of the attention, a hotly-contested Republican race for state Senate being is waged in District 16. Political observers say it is the most-watched legislative primary race of the year.

And a key debate between the two candidates is which one is the ‘real’ Republican.

Rep. Barbara Griffin (R-Goffstown) has been a GOP member of the legislature since 2014. Before getting involved in politics, however, she considered herself an independent, though she did vote in the 2008 and 2012 Democratic primaries.

Rep. Michael Yakubovich (R-Hooksett), a self-described Rand Paul Republican, said he quit the GOP in 2016 when the Kentucky senator dropped out of the presidential primary and pulled a Democratic ballot — casting his vote for Vermin Supreme. He also voted in the state Democratic primary that year, records show.

Griffin, who points to her work to create a winnable legislative district map for Republicans as chair of the redistricting committee says she has always been very conservative.

“I’ve been a gun owner for many years, and a member of the NRA for many years. When someone brings this up, I say to them, ‘Show me something I’ve done that makes you think I’m a liberal Democrat.’”

State Rep. Michael Yakubovich

Yakubovich, first elected to the House in 2018, told NH Journal he has been a solid Republican for nearly his entire life in America.

“I have voted for many Republicans since I escaped Communism and became a United States citizen in 1995,” Yakubovich said.

The dispute over their partisan standing comes because at one time both Griffin and Yakubovich were registered Democrats.

Griffin grew up in a Republican house, with parents who attended an inauguration party for President Richard Nixon. She registered as “undeclared,” but when she voted in a Democratic primary, she said she forgot to switch back to undeclared and did not think about it until she decided to get into state politics. That was when she made sure her party affiliation matched her true beliefs, she said.

Yakubovich admitted he voted in the Democratic primary in 2016, but said it was just a protest. “I did not ‘switch parties’ – my intention always was to remain as a Republican.”

Yakubovich has said that in the past he voted for Vermin Supreme, a performance artist known for wearing a rubber boot for a hat and promising to give away ponies if elected. Asked by NHJournal to confirm that vote, he declined to answer the question.

Whether or not either Griffin or Yakubovich were ever committed Democrats, the two current Republicans have very different voting records.

Griffin has put together a conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment record in her time in the State House, according to Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-District 19). She is endorsing Griffin, as are other conservative stalwarts like Sen. Kevin Avard (R-District 12), Birdsell said.

“She’s what we need in the state Senate. I fully endorse her,” Birdsell said.

Birdsell said she is convinced of Griffin’s conservative bona fides based on her record as a lawmaker. She was not concerned about any Democratic past, as many prominent Republicans had been Democrats in their youth.

“A lot of us were Democrats before we were Republicans. Including myself, including Ronald Reagan, including Donald Trump,” Birdsell said.

While Griffin casts herself as a traditional conservative, Yakubovich tilts libertarian in his votes and has won the endorsement of the libertarian-leaning organization Americans for Prosperity. Greg Moore, AFP state director, said Yakubovich is exactly the right person for the Senate.

“Michael Yakubovich is an incredibly effective and important legislator who has, in his two terms in the House, shown that he has been one of the best leaders for delivering on low taxes, limited spending, reducing regulation, and growing the New Hampshire Advantage,” he said. “We’re thrilled to endorse him so that he can bring those same skills to the Senate and become a leader there.”

On the Second Amendment issue, Yakubovich supporters note that Griffin scored a B with the NRA’s Political Victory Fund this year, while Yakubovich scored an A. The group did not endorse in the race. Similarly, the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition graded Griffin with a B-, and gave Yakubovich an A.

Yakubovich’s libertarian approach has led him to cross the aisle and vote with Democrats on legalizing marijuana. And he voted against a bill to charge people who pay to have sex with children with a class A felony. More recently, Yakubovich voted against GOP-backed attempts to fix the recently passed bail reform law that some say has allowed too many repeat offenders back on the street.

Last week, Daniel Whitmore, 75, of Manchester was stabbed to death on a walking trail near Bradley Street. The suspect in the murder is homeless man Raymond Moore, 40. He was arrested twice this summer; once in July in Nashua for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, and again in August in Manchester in another apparent stabbing incident. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig took to Twitter to decry the lenient bail system in New Hampshire that let Moore out of jail.

“Our criminal justice system cannot continue releasing violent offenders back onto our streets. I, once again, urge our legislators to act quickly and address this issue. The safety of our residents is at stake,” Craig said.

Griffin, who supports bail reform, said law and order is part of the New Hampshire Advantage and that GOP politicians need to support getting tough on crime.

“I know the chaos it creates in the city of Manchester and our communities,” she said. “This murder could have been avoided.”

In Rebuke to Progressives, GOP Bail Restriction Bill Passes House With 64 Dem Votes

In a rebuke to progressive activists and the Black Lives Matter organization, 64 House Democrats broke with their party to back a GOP measure tightening bail restrictions. The bill is designed to repair the 2018 bail reform bill passed with a bipartisan majority and signed with much fanfare by GOP Gov. Chris Sununu.

Since then, the politics of the crime issue have changed, as Democrats have fled from the “Defund the Police” and decarceration policies their party once touted.

The rollback bill, HB 1476, limits the ability to release repeat offenders on “personal recognizance,” and requires more offenders to face a judge instead of a bail commissioner. It also cuts the maximum time an arrestee can be held without seeing a judge from 72 hours to 36. 

The bill passed the House in 199-134 vote. Republicans were 135-40 in favor, while Democrats split 64-92 against.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester) said the legislation leaves much of the 2018 bail reform in place while addressing the issue of repeat offenders who commit crimes while free on bail.

“This is the culmination of bipartisan effort over the last six months to address bail reform,” Berry said before Tuesday’s vote.

Crime rates across the U.S. have surged over the past two years and, while New Hampshire remains the safest state in the country, there has been an uptick in crime here, particularly in cities. Property crime in Manchester has gone up 10 percent in the past year, for example, and even Democratic Mayor Joyce Craig was on board with reforming the reform.

Craig has told NHPR repeat offenders and violent suspects should not get released on personal recognizance bail.

“However, those causing risk to our community and violent offenders should have bail restrictions imposed and should not be released on PR bail,” Craig said.

“I don’t always agree with my mayor, but we agree on this,” Berry said. “Manchester is done waiting.”

Opponents of the bill fell into two groups: Libertarian-leaning Republicans who want to limit government power as part of their ideology; and progressive Democrats who argued New Hampshire’s racist system unfairly punishes people of color.

Rep. Andrew Bouldin (D-Manchester) said changing bail reform would hurt drug addicts, homeless people, the poor, and minorities. He said amending the 2018 bill to hold repeat offenders would return the state to a system where the wealthy pay to get out of jail and the poor are stuck there.

Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua) repeated claims from Black Lives Matter leaders Ronelle Tshiela and Clifton West that police in New Hampshire are racist. According to Harriott-Gathright, changing the bail reform will lead to discrimination and mass incarceration.

“New Hampshire’s criminal laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias,” she said.

Crime data show Black Americans are arrested at approximately the same rate as the crime they commit.

In the past, Democratic leadership would be expected to “whip” the votes and keep more of their members in line. But with the passing of Minority Leader Renny Cushing, Democrats are left with Acting Minority Leader David Cote (D-Nashua), who has yet to attend a House session since COVID-19 struck and hasn’t cast a vote since 2020.

With no-show leadership, the notoriously unified Democratic caucus collapsed into factions.

Outspoken House progressives like Reps. Sue Mullen (D-Bedford), Manny Espitia (D-Nashua), and Tony Labranche (I-Amherst) voted against the bill. Traditional liberals like Rep. Casey Conley (D-Dover) and Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) voted with the GOP.

Conley argued the issue of repeat offenders needs to be addressed. “It’s not just a Manchester problem,” he said.

Rep. Patrick Long (D-Manchester) backed the bill, saying he hears from too many residents who are getting their cars and homes broken into by the same people.

“I get the police reports and the same people are being arrested again for the same crime,” he said.

One notorious case involves Nashua resident Jency Diaz, who in December of 2020 was released on bail after a domestic violence arrest and then proceeded to return to his apartment and “punched, slapped, head-butted and whipped” the victim, leaving her with a broken nose.

Activists rejected those arguments.

“This is a harmful step that would disproportionately impact and harm Black people in New Hampshire,” the ACLU-NH said after the vote.

And Tshiela had this ominous warning for Democrats who broke ranks: “I do want to remind those who voted in favor of this bill that only supporting racial justice when it’s politically expedient does not fare too well when people remember where you stood in times like this.”

On the libertarian side, Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire opposes the bill, claiming it “disregards our fundamental legal framework and ignores defendants’ rights, creates confusion with conflicting language, and would result in more backlog for our already strained judicial system.”

The bill passed by the House on Tuesday isn’t the only proposed change. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) recently passed the Senate with a 20-4 majority. Sununu, who signed the original bail reform bill in 2018, backs the changes saying there are too many unintended consequences from the first reform.