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Early Voting Numbers Give NHDems Another ‘Red Wave’ Warning

An NBC News website tracking early and absentee ballots reports Granite State Democrats hold a 44 to 30 percent advantage over Republicans.

For Democrats, that is the bad news.

Political pros tell NHJournal that Republicans are the party of Election Day voting, a trend that has increased in the wake of President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread election fraud. Democrats, on the other hand, embraced early and mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, New Hampshire Democrats have typically enjoyed two-to-one margins in the ballots cast before Election Day arrived. But according to NBC News, of the more than 45,000 early ballots cast in New Hampshire as of Monday, 44 percent were from registered Democrats, 30 percent from registered Republicans and 26 percent from undeclared or third-party voters.

“More Democrats (54 percent) than Republicans (32 percent) say they will vote early — a 22-percentage-point difference,” Gallup reported last week based on a national sample.

However, Michael McDonald, the University of Florida political scientist who tracks early voting data, recently told CNN there are red flags for Democrats in the data already collected.

“On balance, the early vote in a typical election is usually won by Democrats, or at least registered Democrats. This election cycle it is the Republicans who are winning the early vote,” McDonald said.

According to McDonald, as of last week, registered Republicans have an almost 180,000-vote advantage in both the mail ballots and the in-person early vote nationwide. While Republicans tend to outnumber Democrats at in-person voting, they are now surprisingly taking a big advantage in early voting, he said.

While Democrats are signaling a preference for early voting, this year the reality is trending toward Republicans, according to McDonald, with more Republicans returning their early ballots than Democrats.

“So, if you look at the return rate, as of (November 2), 48 percent of Democrats have returned their mail ballots compared with 55 percent of Republicans. So those are people who have a mail ballot in their hand, and you’re seeing a big disparity there in these return rates,” McDonald said.

Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien said the data currently shows Democrats are slipping in the early vote game, with fewer of their voters even asking for absentee ballots this cycle. Democrats have a major enthusiasm gap driving the declines, he said.

“The fact that only about 6 to 7 percent of the ultimate vote in absentee ballots have been requested and that the Democrats have gained less than a .06 percent advantage for all their absentee ballot efforts certainly shows their voters are discouraged,” O’Brien said. “And Democratic voters should be discouraged because they have to choose whether to effectively join the weird branch or the insane branch of the Democratic Party by voting for Democratic candidates almost exclusively representing one or the other.”

This year’s totals are already down from past cycles. In 2020’s COVID-era election, more than 260,000 of about 815,000 ballots cast were via mail, or about 31 percent of the total

The high absentee ballot turnout is largely due to COVID fears driving more people to skip the voting lines. This year’s 45,000 early ballots are like 2018’s 45,000 ballots cast. That midterm election saw a total of 580,000 ballots, meaning the early vote made up about 8 percent of the total.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office does not break down the total data by party registration.

On Eve of Election, NHDem Candidates Revive Calls for State Income Tax

Political strategists see it as the third rail of New Hampshire politics, but some Granite State Democrats just can’t seem to let it go: A state income tax.

In a recent interview with the Keene Sentinel, Peterborough Democrats Jonah Wheeler and Rep. Peter Leishman both said they could support a broad-based income tax to shift the burden of education funding away from property taxes. 

“Wheeler said that to further boost public-education funding, he believes a new source of revenue is needed in the form of an income tax, which he said would simultaneously take the burden off property taxpayers,” according to the paper. “Leishman said he would support that kind of legislation and has voted in favor of it in the past.”

They aren’t alone.

During an October 2022 podcast interview, Claremont Republican-turned-Democrat state Senate candidate Charlene Lovett said she was “open to looking at” a shift to an income tax as well. During the interview, she discussed her Citizens Count survey declaration that she is  “undecided” on the idea of a broad-based income tax and the backlash that answer inspired.

But rather than taking a clear anti-income tax stance, she said it is an option that should be discussed.

“We’ve gotta deal with the fact we have an over-reliance on property taxes and it’s hurting people,” Lovett said in the podcast. “I think we have to look at that.” 

Lovett said her openness to considering an income tax is based on hearing from people financially burdened by property taxes during her years as mayor of Claremont. It has the highest property tax rate in the state.

While Lovett is trying to thread a political needle on the income tax, other Democrats are more open about embracing broad-based taxes — or at least on ruling them out.

Rep. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham), who is running for the District 24 Senate seat being vacated by Tom Sherman, is one of many Democrats who voted against last year’s House constitutional amendment to ban income taxes. Joining Altschiller in that vote were Reps. Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord) and Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester), currently locked in a battle for their party’s leadership.

Neither Shurtleff nor Wilhelm responded to an NH Journal question about whether they plan to support an income tax if they become House Speaker or House Minority Leader.

The amendment to ban income taxes garnered a majority vote but died because it failed to get the necessary three-fifths majority.

Rep. Eric Gallager (D-Concord) has long been vocal about his support for taxing Granite Stater’s income, but he seems to understand the political reality for Democrats.

“I can call for one because I’m in a safe D seat running unopposed,” Gallager said recently on Twitter. “But if I ever ran for governor I’d have to stop, which is one of the major reasons why I don’t ever think I’ll do so.”

Gallager’s sense of his political future aside, no Democratic gubernatorial candidate in recent memory has supported an income tax. Current Democratic standard bearer Sherman (D-Rye) has been vocal in rejecting income taxes and sales taxes in his faltering campaign against Gov. Chris Sununu.

“I will veto an income tax or sales tax if it comes across my desk,” Sherman told the Pulse of NH.

But Sherman did back a mandatory paid family medical leave plan passed by the Democratic legislature in 2019, which was paid for by a mandatory payment based on wages. Republicans argue that is an income tax (it is actually a payroll tax), but Democrats still continue to trip over the issue.

During a recent candidate forum in the District 1 Senate race, Rep. Edith Tucker (D-Randolph) tried to explain her vote for the paid leave plan and its funding mechanism.

“It’s not an income tax,” she insisted. “It’s a tax taken for a particular purpose from your paycheck.”

Granite State voters may not see the distinction.

Leadership Fight Looms As Shurtleff, Wilhelm Vie For Top Spot

The November elections are shaping up to be a tough slog for Democrats in the New Hampshire House, and when they’re over, the caucus will have another battle brewing. Both Rep. Matt Wilhelm, (D-Manchester) and Rep. Steve Shurtleff, (D-Penacook) have announced they plan to run for House Democratic leader.

It is a contest that could once again crack the brittle facade covering tensions between the caucus’s disgruntled progressives and establishment members who currently hold the upper hand.

Shurtleff, a former Speaker of the House, is solidly aligned with his party’s establishment wing.

Wilhelm is not part of the hardcore progressive group, perhaps best represented by outgoing member Rep. Manny Espitia, but he is closer to them than Shurtleff. Wilhelm also has the advantage of handling the money members are counting on to help win re-election. He heads the New Hampshire Democratic Victory Campaign Committee, and he has also been named a NewDEAL Leader by the national pro-growth, progressive NewDEAL network. It is a group that includes Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams, Wisconsin Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Shurtleff was waiting in the wings to take over for the liberal Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) as he battled cancer. Cushing died in March from complications of cancer and COVID-19. But his ascent was blocked by progressives who kept him from taking even temporary leadership of the caucus. 

Instead, Nashua’s Rep. David Cote took over as Minority Leader, despite the fact he hadn’t been to Concord in years due to fears of COVID.

Shurtleff announced his candidacy via Twitter on Wednesday. Wilhelm announced his earlier this month. “I would like to publicly announce my candidacy for the next Speaker of the House. Tough times demand tough leadership. I would appreciate your support,” Shurtleff wrote.

Shurtleff’s announcement inspired immediate pushback from outgoing and outspoken Rep. Sherry Frost, (D-Dover.)

“Define ‘tough leadership’ please, because what I saw (and heard, from you) was that you saw your job as ‘protecting the minority’ when you were last Speaker,” Frost tweeted in response.

When contacted by NHJournal, Frost declined to clarify her statement saying she is not running for reelection. She refused to answer if she thought Shurtleff was the right person for the job, or who she would support in his stead.

“I would hope that my remaining colleagues would choose someone who understands and is comfortable with legislative strategy and has no patience for nonsense at the well,” Frost wrote. 

This is Wilhelm’s second run for House leadership. He put his hat in the ring ahead of the 2021 session, saying New Hampshire Democrats needed to change their message after losing control of the legislature even as Joe Biden was winning the state by nearly eight points. 

“After the setbacks of early November, we would be remiss if we did not re-examine our strategy and tactics for how we govern, how we campaign, and how we communicate with the working families of New Hampshire and those who feel like they don’t have a voice,” Wilhelm wrote in a letter to his House colleagues.

Shurtleff earned Cushing’s ire in the lead-up to the leadership election for the 2018 House session. Cushing accused Shurtleff of gaming the date of the party caucus in order to shut out potential rivals.

“As a loyal Democrat, it saddens me to realize that while the Republicans are having a robust contest to see who will emerge as the majority party’s candidate for Speaker, the incumbent leadership of the minority party apparently doesn’t feel the need to, or doesn’t want to, involve rank and file Democrats in the decision about who will be the party’s Speaker candidate and what policies, program and vision that nominee will bring to the contest,” Cushing wrote.

Longtime Dem Marchand Busted by AG for Bogus Campaign Website

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said Democrat Steve Marchand lied about his role in a political scheme targeting his opponents in Portsmouth.

Marchand, a progressive Democrat who once served as Portsmouth mayor and sought his party’s nomination for governor, will not face criminal charges, the office said in a letter. Instead, it issued a letter of warning to Marchand for his involvement in Preserve-Portsmouth.com and other websites that targeted sitting city council members in the last municipal election.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Peter Whelan, one of the Portsmouth councilors targeted.

Whelan, Councilors Susan Paige Trace, Ester Kennedy, Greg Mahanna, Petra Huda, and Mayor Rick Becksted were all targeted by anonymous websites, fliers, and robotexts operated by Marchand, according to Myles Matteson with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“It was shameful. There were robotexts sent by the thousands,” Whelan said.

Trace said the attorney general’s investigation revealed there was an effort to mislead the voters of Portsmouth.

“It’s about being transparent and behaving in an honorable manner,” Trace said.

All of the candidates targeted by Marchand were defeated. Current Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern declined to comment, as he had not seen Matteson’s letter.

“I didn’t have any interaction with the (Marchand) in my campaign,” McEachern said. “I have no idea what the former mayor was doing or not doing.”

Marchand did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Joseph Foster, is currently out of the country and unable to be reached.

Marchand’s bogus website was built to mirror a legitimate site with a similar name, Preserve Portsmouth, and purported to support the same city council candidates the original site endorsed. But it falsely described them as far-right Trump supporters. According to documents obtained by the Attorney General’s Office, Marchand wanted to depress voter turnout among Republicans in order to benefit Democrats on the ballot.

Marchand initially lied to investigator Anna Croteau when she questioned him about his part in the campaign, according to Mattson’s letter.

“When she first asked about Preserve-Portsmouth.com, you stated that you had heard of the website. You denied you had ever claimed responsibility for the website but noted that other people had been saying you were responsible for it,” Matteson wrote.

However, Croteau already had screenshots of a text conversation in which Marchand took credit for the content of the websites.

“To be very clear, I am the one to create the content,” Marchand wrote.

Matteson’s letter states the Attorney General’s Office has records of Marchand’s communications with at least four other people about the campaign, in which he stated the goal was to create guilt by association aimed at the targeted candidates, linking them to Trump in the mind of Portsmouth voters.

“(i)s really meant to help get Democrats who gave Becksted and others a vote in 2019 to really think about what they are doing in 2021,” Marchand wrote.

Whelan suspects the true purpose of the campaign was to get rid of council members who oppose development in the historic sections of the city. Marchand’s record as mayor includes changing zoning ordinances to make development easier, Whelan said. Whelan wants to know who Marchand was working with and for, and who funded the operation.

“Somebody spent a lot of money to do this,” Whelan said.

The attorney general’s report found that while Marchand would have violated campaign finance law by not disclosing who was behind the websites, fliers, and robotexts if it could be proved that he acted in concert with others. However, Marchand claimed, eventually, that while he acted alone in creating the content he did not set up the websites. Matteson noted the claim he acted alone was the last of many explanations Marchand offered to investigators.

New Hampshire law on campaign finance transparency allows a narrow exemption for individuals engaged in advocacy. Marchand was cautioned, however, that if he continues to engage in similar campaigns he could lose the exemption and face possible prosecution.

Last year, Portsmouth Democrat Committee Chair Shanika Amarakoon and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley issued a statement condemning Marchand’s campaign.

“We cannot let our local elections be undermined by national-style political tactics. The city councilors who were attacked, after all, are our neighbors. While we may not agree with all of their decisions, they did not deserve this attack, and we do not stand for it,” Amarakoon and Buckley wrote.

‘Choice for Me, But Not for Thee’? NHDems Oppose EFAs, Send Kids to Elite Private Schools

State Sen. Tom Sherman is running for governor as a self-declared champion of public schools and opponent of school choice. He opposes allowing low-income families to use public money to choose a private school education for their children.

Perhaps the same private school Sherman chooses for his son.

While Sherman says he is a proponent of public school education, he sent his son to the Governor’s Academy in Newbury, Mass., a private school with tuition approaching $70,000 per year, GOP activist Patrick Hynes reported in his Union-Leader column on Sunday.

“The Shermans are a family of considerable financial means and are free to send their kids to whatever schools they want. EFA supporters are merely asking for low- and middle-income families who aren’t as wealthy as the Shermans to be able to do the same,” Hynes wrote.

Sherman doesn’t agree. He voted against the Education Freedom Account law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu. It allows low and middle-income families to use their child’s share of state funding  — not local money–  to choose an alternative to their local public school. That could be a private school, a parochial school, homeschooling, or a public school outside their district.

“My first choice would be to stop the program,” Sherman said of the EFA system at a recent debate with Republican Sununu. Sherman has also proposed an annual means test so that if a family’s income one year exceeds the current limit (300 percent of the poverty level), even temporarily, their children would be kicked out of the program.

“Tom Sherman is a school choice hypocrite,” says Corey DeAngelis with the Educational Freedom Institute. “He sent his kid to a private school yet opposes school choice for others. I’m glad his family had that opportunity, but he shouldn’t fight to trap low-income kids in failing government schools.

“Marie Antoinette would be proud of Sen. Sherman, because these school choice hypocrites are essentially saying, ‘Let them eat cake!'” DeAngelis added.

Asked about the allegation of hypocrisy, Sherman declined to respond.

When it comes to opposing EFAs while opting out of public schools, Sherman is hardly alone.

Progressive Rep. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) who is currently running for Sherman’s seat in the state Senate, is a staunch opponent of the EFA program, supporting complete repeal.

“Implemented by Republican free staters–and millions of dollars over budget–the school voucher program drains public school funding and threatens an increase in local property taxes,” Altschiller states on her campaign website. But her children have attended elite Phillips Exeter Academy, with $50,000 a year tuition bills, and Berwick Academy, a more affordable $30,000 per year.

Altschiller is also factually incorrect about the EFA program’s impact on local taxes. Because EFA’s only use the state portion of a student’s funding, when students opt out of the local school, the local funding still flows to the classrooms they left behind. As a result, per capita revenue for local schools actually increases when students choose the EFA option.

Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua has also pledged to repeal the EFA program if possible, while sending her son to Groton School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts that currently charges close to $60,000 a year.

Rep. Mel Myler is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee and a vocal opponent of parental choice. But when NHJournal contacted him about sending a child to Holderness Academy (boarding tuition: $71,000) Myler declined to comment.

And there’s Rep. Marjorie Porter, D-Hillsborough, who complained this year that advocates wanted to make EFA’s more accessible to New Hampshire families.

“They try to sell them as helping poor kids have choices too, but they have brought several bills forward to raise the income cap to five hundred percent of poverty level, or to eliminate it altogether, making me wonder how a family of four earning $132,000/yr. can be considered poor,” she wrote.

But while speaking out against EFA’s this year, Porter admitted she sent her child to a private school because the public schools weren’t working for her family when he son experienced difficulties.

“I certainly understand the need for families to find an alternative to public schools to meet the needs of their children,” Porter testified. “My own two children attended the same public school where I taught. My daughter was fine with it, but not so my son. He was experiencing difficulties, so we sent him to a local private school until he was middle school age.

“It was good that we had that option,” Porter said.

Not all Democrats believe their position is problematic. “I opposed the EFA vouchers too & I myself actually went to a private school,” Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham) tweeted, unprompted.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire families are flocking to the program with 3,025 participating this year, up from 1,572 last year. According to NH Bulletin’s Ethan DeWitt, ​​1,504 out of the 3,025 are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, meaning 49.7 percent come from households making below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. 

“You’d think the party preaching about equity would be in favor of expanding educational opportunities for all students,” DeAngelis said. “The problem is opposition to parental rights in education is about politics and power, not morality or logic. That’s why 99.99 percent of Randi Weingarten’s teachers union’s campaign contributions have gone to Democrats in 2022.

“But now there’s a new special interest group in town – parents – and they aren’t going away any time soon.”

‘Shame On You!’ Rep. Perez Takes to House Floor to Call Out Hassan, Pappas Over Border Policy

In an emotional speech from the floor of the New Hampshire House, Rep. Maria Perez accused members of the state’s federal delegation of treating voters of color like “tokens” while supporting Trump-era immigration policies.

“I will say to the congressional delegation who’s been criticizing the previous administration about going to the border and speaking negatively about immigrants — What happened to you? You tokenized us to talk negatively about the previous administration, but now you’re utilizing immigrants to win some votes. Shame on you!” Perez said.

Perez echoed complaints from the New Hampshire Democratic Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus which is critical of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas’ right turn on immigration.

 

“All of us feel like we’re tokens,” said Shideko Terai, a member of the New Hampshire AAPI Caucus. “This is not okay. You can’t use us and abuse us.”

According to multiple sources, leaders in the state Democratic Party have been pressuring Black and Brown activists to remain silent as Pappas and Hassan push for Trump-era immigration policies like building more of the border wall and continued enforcement of Title 42 authority against would-be migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I feel very disgraceful to calling myself a Democrat because a lot of Democrats have been calling people [of color] onto the carpet saying just to say ‘do not go out in public, do not talk about it,'” Perez said Thursday. “Shame on you! Shame on you for trying to silence our voices.”

Terai says she received the same message from Granite State Democratic Party leaders. “I was told, ‘We have to be really careful. We need Sen. Hassan’s fundraising,’” Terai said.

Last week, the New Hampshire Democratic Party Latino Caucus resigned from the party en masse over Hassan and Pappas’s new policies. Now, Perez said, it is a non-partisan organization promoting issues important to her community.

“I had to take a hard decision for my caucus to leave the NHDP,” Perez said. “We left the executive committee of the Democratic Party because my caucus doesn’t feel welcomed by the Democratic Party. I believe our community has been tokenized, and it’s time for us to win the respect.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan in front of the Trump-era wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in April 2022.

Hassan’s reversal on immigration, from repeatedly voting against Trump’s border wall to calling for more of it to be completed, has caught the attention of national media. According to Politico, Hassan is one of a handful of embattled Senate Democrats whose prospects for re-election are in trouble and are trying to distance themselves from Biden and his policy.

“On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time,” Politico reported Thursday. And, they add “Democratic operatives” say Hassan is making the right move politically by supporting tougher immigration policies, “even if it’s at the expense of alienating some progressives.”

Some of those progressives at the national level are speaking out.

“Attn: Sen. Hassan. We need you in the Senate, but going after GOP anti-immigration voters and introducing a bill to keep Ukrainian and LGBTQ migrants out will lose you more voters than you gain,” tweeted Douglas Rivlin, communications director with the progressive immigration group America’s Voice.

In a later tweet, he added: “Sen. Hassan [is] defining Dems as the party in support of Stephen Miller’s approach to excluding immigrants, and refugees.”

Stephen Miller was President Donald Trump’s lead immigration policy advisor.

New Hampshire’s lead immigrant’s rights advocate, Eva Castillo, is outraged by Hassan’s pro-wall politics.

“It was a slap in the face for us Latino immigrants,” said Castillo, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. “She could have talked about anything other than the stupid wall.

“That’s not an issue for a New Hampshire incumbent senator to be running on. I’m sick and tired of people playing politics with immigration, on both sides. And it’s especially annoying when it’s the Democrats that are supposed to be friendlier to immigrants,” Castillo said.

Hassan apparently needs the help. A new UNH Survey Center poll found Hassan is in a statistical tie with her potential GOP rivals retired Gen. Don Bolduc, state Sen. Chuck Morse, and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, despite the fact they have very little name ID.

Also problematic for Hassan: Just 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the incumbent senator, while 51 percent view her unfavorably.

 

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.

Biden Uses Sununu’s Words to Blame GOP for First-Year Woes

Is Chris Sununu Joe Biden’s favorite Republican?

It sounded that way during the Democratic president’s press conference on Wednesday when he invoked Gov. Sununu’s words to make the case that he has been the victim of Republican obstruction.

Biden took to the lectern facing yet another loss on the legislative front as federal election laws he supports were preparing to go down to defeat in the U.S. Senate. His $5 trillion Build Back Better bill also remains stalled. Meanwhile, his poll numbers have fallen more in his first year in office than any modern president, and 70 percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track.

Biden said he did not believe polls showing his support among independent voters had fallen to 25 percent, but he does believe he is doing a great job.

“I didn’t overpromise. I probably outperformed what most people thought would happen,” Biden said. In fact, he later added he plans to travel across America in the coming months and talk to the voters face to face, “now that the big problems are fixed.”

As for his high-profile legislative failures on Build Back Better and the federal voting laws, Biden said the blame belongs to the Republicans in the Senate. And he used Sununu’s words to make his case against the GOP.

“I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,” Biden said. He then read an excerpt from an interview Sununu recently gave The Washington Examiner about why the New Hampshire governor decided not to run for Senate.

“They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren’t doing anything. It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years. OK, so I’m just going to be a roadblock for two years. That’s not what I do,” Sununu said, noting Republicans were trying to wait until they would hopefully win the presidency in 2024. “It bothered me that they were OK with that,” Sununu said.

“I said, ‘OK, so if we’re going to get stuff done if we win the White House back, why didn’t you do it in 2017 and 2018?’” Sununu asked, saying there were “Crickets. Yeah, crickets,” and that “They had no answer.”

It showed that the most important thing for the GOP was to make sure Joe Biden didn’t get anything done, the president concluded, demanding, “What are Republicans for? Name me one thing they’re for?”

 

 

In fact, Democrats control the Senate and they have the votes to pass Build Back Better, as well as the votes to break the filibuster and pass any legislation they choose. Republicans don’t have the votes by themselves to stop either measure.

But having a prominent Republican like Sununu making the case the GOP is the problem is a political gift to Biden.

Sununu declined to respond to requests for comment after the speech, but GOP strategists and activists in both New Hampshire and D.C. agreed it was a problem Sununu created for himself.

“Attacking Washington is fine,” one Republican strategist said. “Everybody hates Washington. But attacking Republicans in Washington, particularly Republicans in the Senate? Not smart.”

Sununu’s comments aren’t news in New Hampshire, echoing attacks he has repeatedly made on D.C. and the Congress. In fact, earlier in the day, Sununu expressed similar sentiments during an online video event with The Washington Post.

Explaining that he preferred to serve as a governor because you can “get things done,” Sununu said:

“You don’t do that in Washington. That’s not my gig. Nobody does it. Democrats don’t do it. Republicans don’t do it. They are often all too satisfied with just stopping a process. They’re all too satisfied with just being the party of no if they’re in the minority or being a roadblock.

“I think there’s no higher ground there,” Sununu added. “I think Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for that.”

Music to Democrats’ ears, Republicans say.

“Sununu is myopic,” one D.C,-based GOP strategist told NHJournal. “He’s just thinking about triangulating and not about what he’s handing the Democrats.

“I know he believes he is such a brilliant campaigner, but he just got outmaneuvered by a 79-year-old with a 30 [percent] approval rating.”

Longtime Democratic strategist Terry Shumaker was pleased with Biden’s performance, and Sununu’s role in it.

“I thought he was terrific in a way regular Americans can relate to, especially saying several times in different ways, when you find out what Republicans stand for, please let me know,” he told NHJournal. “Quoting Gov. Sununu saying that all GOP senators want to do is obstruct Biden was a high point too.”

GOP U.S. Senate candidate, state Senate President Chuck Morse, responded to Biden’s comments by mocking the president’s attempt to push the blame onto the GOP.

It wasn’t Republicans that have caused inflation to be the highest it’s been in 40 years. It wasn’t the Republicans that shut down the Keystone Pipeline and made us dependent on Russia and OPEC nations for our energy. It wasn’t Republicans that opened up our borders to anyone that wants to get into the country, including murderers and drug dealers,” Morse said in a statement. “Joe Biden, Maggie Hassan and the Democrats did that, and maybe instead of pointing the fingers at everyone else, they should fix the mess they’ve made of this country.”

 

Gardner Blasts Hassan Over Fed Election Takeover: ‘This Will Hurt Turnout’

New Hampshire’s top election official says Sen. Maggie Hassan has never spoken to him about the federal voting rights law she’s backing, or its impact on Granite State elections. And, Secretary of State Bill Gardner says, that impact won’t be good.

“This will hurt turnout,” he told NHJournal Tuesday.

Last week, Hassan made national news when she took to the Senate floor to announce she was abandoning her support for the filibuster in order to pass the “Freedom to Vote” Act. The bill would impose federal mandates on all 50 states regarding early voting, voter registration rules, voter ID, and taxpayer-funded campaign ads. Federal power over local election laws is needed, Hassan said, because of “partisans who are attacking our democracy.”

Unless the federal government intervenes, Election Day in New Hampshire would be very different, Hassan warned.

“We’ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work. We’ll tune back in at the end of the day to see the election results – only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don’t matter much. We’ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner. We’ll see an election day that is a charade – just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.”

Hassan followed up her floor speech with a WMUR interview: “If we can’t protect the wonderful elections that we have in New Hampshire, then we are all faced with a slide toward authoritarianism,” Hassan said.

Gardner rejected Hassan’s conspiracy theories and argued the real danger to the Granite State election process is federal intervention like the law Hassan is backing.

“Look back at history, going back to FECA [Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971], the NVRA [1993 National Voter Registration Act], or the Help America Vote Act. Every time the federal government has stepped in to take over more of the election process, they tell us it will increase voter turnout,” Gardner said. “But the results are very different.”

Gardner says New Hampshire has largely avoided most of the requirements of those federal laws, finding workarounds like same-day registration. Other states like California and Colorado have embraced the federal policies, including widespread mail-in voting.

“Look at the results. We have a higher turnout rate,” Gardner said.

In 2020, New Hampshire had the sixth-highest turnout rate of its voting-eligible population (78.3 percent), well above Colorado (71.3 percent) and California (69.4 percent). The Granite State has consistently had among the highest turnout rates in the country for decades.

“They keep saying these new rules will lead to more voting, but that’s not the record if you look at the facts,” Gardner said.

“If you cheapen the value of voting, and you have people losing faith in the process, you’ll lose people on Election Day. That’s what’s been happening in other states.”

Asked if he explained that to Hassan when she called him to discuss the legislation and her position, Gardner told NHJournal his fellow Democrat has never spoken to him about New Hampshire’s election laws or procedures.

“Not even when she was governor, I don’t think,” Gardner said.

Hassan has declined repeated requests for comment. Asked to name the people in New Hampshire she believes are threatening the state with “authoritarianism” or illegally overturned elections, her office declined to respond.

She does have the support of Granite State Democrats, however. They agree with her view that Granite State elections are under local threat.

“Proposals to undermine our free and fair elections and make it harder to vote are here in the New Hampshire legislature and across the country because of unfounded right-wing conspiracy theories intended to sow division and discord,” Deputy House Democratic Leader and Ranking Democrat on the House Election Law Committee, state Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) said in a statement. “As a caucus, we thank Senator Maggie Hassan for her commitment to defending Granite Staters’ right to cast their ballot, regardless of for whom they cast it.”

Not surprisingly, Republicans took a different view of Hassan’s actions.

“We may never see such a brazen, self-serving flip-flop ever again,” said NRSC spokesman T.W. Arrighi. “Maggie Hassan has gone back on her word and surrendered the fate of New Hampshire’s First-In-The-Nation primary to her buddy Chuck Schumer. What’s most concerning is it appears she surrendered her state’s federal election control to win liberal praise from the radical base she hopes will fund her campaign.”

Gardner, who has repeatedly warned expanding federal control of elections will endanger the state’s First In The Nation primary, is unwilling to attack his fellow Democrat so directly. But, he says, the fallacy of her approach is obvious if you just do some basic math.

“New Hampshire has two members of Congress. States like California, New York, and Texas have far more. If we let Congress make our local election rules, which states are going to decide what the rules are?” Gardner asked.

“California’s not going to get New Hampshire’s election system. We’re going to get stuck with theirs.”

Hassan Flips on Filibuster, Joins Progressive Push to End 104-Year-Old Rule

Sen. Maggie Hassan has reversed her position on the legislative filibuster, joining progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in abandoning a Senate rule she adamantly defended as recently as 2017. In 2020, Hassan joined Democrats in invoking the filibuster rule to block GOP legislation more than 300 times.

Now she says it’s a “threat to our democracy.”

Hassan announced her new position from the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday night, dismissing the 104-year-old Senate procedure an “arcane” rule “being used as an excuse not to act.”

“This cannot stand,” Hassan said. “We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.”

 

 

In a dark and ominous speech, Hassan laid out a conspiracy-fueled vision of American democracy on the verge of collapse.

“If the partisans who are attacking our democracy have their way, our Tuesday Election Day in early November will be different,” Hassan warned. “We’ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work. We’ll tune back in at the end of the day to see the election results – only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don’t matter much. We’ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner.

“We’ll see an election day that is a charade – just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.”

In fact, last year’s election set a record for the highest voter turnout in 120 years, Two years earlier, the 2018 midterms had the highest turnout since 1914.

Hassan’s announcement appears to be part of what Capitol Hill reporters are calling a Democratic “pivot” away from the failing Build Back Better bill — which has been tabled until at least March 2022 — and to backing one of the voting law proposals progressives have been pushing for months. Hassan didn’t mention which voting plan she wants to pass once the filibuster rule is removed, but congressional Democratic leaders are talking about the “Right to Vote Act,” a more modest version of the H.R. 1 “For the People Act.”

Under the Right to Vote Act, states like New Hampshire would no longer be able to decide how to conduct their elections. Instead, the federal government would mandate early voting and no-excuse absentee ballots, and it would impose federal rules on voter ID requirements that would override state laws. The bill would also spend millions of public dollars funding political campaigns.

“Because that effort here in Congress is being blocked by a minority which is abusing its power, I believe the time has come to change the Senate rules to allow a straight up or down majority vote on this fundamental issue of democracy,” Hassan said Thursday.

Hassan’s comment about “a minority which is abusing its power” is apparently a reference to the 50 GOP U.S. Senators using the 60-vote threshold under the filibuster rule to keep legislation from moving forward. And yet, as a member of the Democratic minority from 2017-2019, Hassan frequently joined in filibusters to block Republican legislation.

As Marc Theissen at The Washington Post reported:

“Democrats used the filibuster to block funding for construction of Trump’s border wall in 2019… They used it in September and October [2020] to stop Republicans from passing further coronavirus relief before the November election. They used it to halt Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) police reform legislation so Republicans could not claim credit for forging a bipartisan response to the concerns of racial justice protesters. They used it to block legislation to force ‘sanctuary cities’ to cooperate with federal officials, and to stop a prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion, bans on abortions once the unborn child is capable of feeling pain, and protections for the lives of babies born alive after botched abortions.”

All told, Hassan and her fellow Democrats used the filibuster 320 times in 2020 alone.

As recently as 2017, Hassan was so committed to protecting the filibuster that she joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and 28 other Democrats who signed a bipartisan letter telling then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that preserving the rule was vital to protecting the Senate’s ability to do its job.

Hassan’s embrace of the radical rule change is out of step with months of messaging that she’s a “bipartisan” moderate. It’s also out of step with New Hampshire voters, according to a poll taken earlier this year.

In a March 2021 Granite State Panel conducted by the UNH Survey Center, just 30 percent of respondents said they support eliminating the filibuster. Among New Hampshire independents, that number is just 17 percent. (Another 15 percent of all voters say they’d support changing the rule to a “talking filibuster.”)

New Hampshire Republicans see it as a sign of desperation. “Apparently she believes she has a base problem,” tweeted GOP strategist Mike Biundo.

NHGOP Executive Director Joe Sweeney tweeted “Maggie Hassan officially comes clean and wants 50 U.S. Senators and the Vice President to be able to take over all election laws and procedures in New Hampshire or across the country.”

Hassan’s poll numbers continue to sag. A new Trafalgar Group poll found Hassan with a modest 6-point lead over fringe GOP candidate retired Gen. Don Bolduc. And polls consistently show her approval rating in the low 40s at best.

Hassan’s high-profile reversal may have also inspired the first shot fired in next year’s Senate race. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, who is widely expected to announce his candidacy early next year, responded to Hassan’s decision with a one-word tweet:

“No.”