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Strafford County Chair Now Claims Low Bid Unworkable

After taking heat for picking the $180 million design for the proposed new Strafford County Nursing Home over a $50 million bid, and then saying he never saw the less expensive bid, Commissioner George Maglaras said Wednesday the low bid wasn’tould work.

“The commission picked the firm we thought had a track record of building larger nursing homes and there are other written responses required within the answering of the RFP,” Maglaras told NHJournal.

Republican members of the Strafford County Delegation blasted Maglaras, a Democrat, and the two other Democratic Commissioners this week after learning about the lower bid from EGA Architects. Rep. Cliff Newton said the Commission kept him and other delegates in the dark about the lower-cost bid on the 215-bed proposal.

“Strafford County Commissioners and administration never informed the delegation of the EGA’s lower cost plan. Instead, they chose a much more expensive and institutionalized building plan without exploring different options that would have been acceptable to the entire delegation,” Newton said.

When contacted Tuesday about the EGA bid, Maglaras initially told The Rochester Voice he never saw EGA’s bid. That’s despite the fact the NHJournal found records showing the Commission was presented with all six bids, including EGA’s, on the project in 2022 when they voted to go with Warrenstreet. By Wednesday, Maglaras blamed politics for the kerfuffle, and said he was misunderstood.

“I said that there was never a $40 million proposal put before us,” Maglaras said. “These claims by some of the Republican members are misguided and are inflammatory and political in nature.”

According to Maglaras, the EGA bid quoted the Commission a cost of $350 a square foot to build the new home. But that number was never going to work, he said. EGA cited its work building the Carroll County Nursing Homes 10 years ago in its bid to Strafford. However, the construction company hired by EGA in Carroll told a slightly different story, Maglaras said.

“I brought in Bonnette, Page and Stone who was the contractor that actually built the Carroll County Nursing Home designed by EGA and they told the entire delegation in a public meeting it would cost $600 a square foot to construct a similar facility today and that the (Carroll County) home does not meet present federal design standards,” Maglaras said. “Architects don’t build buildings, construction companies do. You need to compare apples to apples not apples to cherries.

Comparing Maglaras’ math, that means the EGA bid would have cost as much as $83 million at $600 per square foot, instead of the $50 million the company quoted. The Warrentstreet project costs close to $1,300 per square foot.

The Republicans on the delegation have twice blocked the Commission from getting bonds for the $180 million proposal, and the Nursing Home project is currently stalled out. Maglaras wants to see the project get back on track.

“We have offered to meet with all the parties to see if we can’t move the process forward. The offer still stands and we will be reaching out to them,” Maglaras said.

Grand Jury Indictments Move Former Sheriff Brave’s Case Forward

The criminal case against former Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave is moving into the next phase as a grand jury returned eight felony indictments on Friday.

Brave is accused of stealing $19,000 in county money, tampering with evidence, and multiple counts of perjury. Brave was charged in August. The indictments effectively mean a grand jury confirmed the charges had merit. That clears the way for trial.

Brave resigned as sheriff last week after prosecutors caught him lying about living outside New Hampshire. Brave violated his bail when he moved to an apartment in Tewksbury, Mass., in October.

The move also meant Brave was legally ineligible to serve as an elected county sheriff. Brave went on paid administrative leave in August and had been collecting his pay until last week. He reportedly took home more than $10,000 since moving out of state.

Assistant Attorney General Joe Fincham and Assistant Attorney General David Lovejoy accused Brave of stealing taxpayer money by collecting his salary while living in Massachusetts. The prosecutors pushed to get Brave’s personal recognizance bail revoked until he quit the job.

Lief Becker, Brave’s attorney, said the resignation corrected the residency problem, and prosecutors dropped the move to send Brave to jail pre-trial.

Fincham and Lovejoy still want Brave to face consequences for reportedly lying to the court about where he lives and about his finances. Though he managed to stay out of jail by quitting his job, the prosecutors want Brave to face a contempt hearing for his other lies discovered in recent weeks.

Rockingham Superior Court Judge Daniel St. Hilaire revoked Brave’s free public defender last month as prosecutors showed he lied about being unable to afford private counsel, telling the court in October he couldn’t afford it. However, at the start of October, he reportedly paid more than $50,000 upfront for a year’s rent on the Tewksbury apartment. Later that month, Brave bought himself a 1968 Porsche 356.

When investigators went to the Dover apartment where Brave told the court he resided, they spoke to his now ex-wife, Jamie Brave. That was when they learned Mark Brave no longer lived in New Hampshire, and that he came into a substantial amount of money from selling the couple’s Dover home.

According to Jamie Brave, both she and her husband walked away from the sale of their home with $240,000 apiece. Brave also got the couple’s Mercedes SUV in their divorce agreement. And while Brave claimed he was paying tuition for two of his three children, Jamie Brave told the investigators he was paying for one child’s tuition.

On the public defender application, Mark Brave claimed he got $190,000 from the house sale and ended up with $3,500 after he used his money to pay off marital debts.

Whatever sanctions are on the table for the contempt hearing, they pale to the theft case, where he faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.

The indictments handed up by the grand jury include a Class A felony theft charge, two Class B felony charges of falsifying physical evidence, and five Class B felony charges of perjury. Class A felonies carry potential seven-and-a-half to 15-year prison sentences, and Class B felonies come with three-and-a-half to seven-year terms.

A Year Later, No Action from AG Formella on Dems’ Illegal Mailers

In August 2022, a Massachusetts mail shop represented by Hillary Clinton’s attorney dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal mailers into the New Hampshire GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District. The mailers, which violated state and federal law, were part of a $44 million national Democratic strategy to interfere in GOP primaries.

More than 14 months later — and with the 2024 GOP primary season approaching — New Hampshire’s top cop has taken no action, even as Democrats eye the Republican primary for governor. And critics say if they can do it illegally and without consequence, why not?

The facts of the case aren’t in dispute. In the final weeks of the 2022 Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District, voters were hit with a wave of political mailers promoting Bob Burns as the most Trump-friendly candidate in the race. The mailers also accused his mainstream GOP competitor, Keene Mayor George Hansel, of not supporting the former president — a key issue to Republican primary voters.

Anonymous campaign mailer touting Bob Burns, sent by a Democratic mail shop in Massachusetts.

The mailer worked. Hansel, viewed as the strongest Republican to take on U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu, was defeated by underfunded MAGA candidate Burns. Kuster handily defeated Burns 56-44 percent in November.

However, as NHJournal reported at the time, those mailers were sent to GOP primary voters not by New Hampshire Republicans but by Reynolds DeWalt, a Democratic political mail shop based in New Bedford, Mass., that has printed products for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Voters had no way of knowing that because the illegal mailers had no disclosures of any kind, a clear violation of state and federal election laws.

Yet more than a year later, no charges have been filed, and no actions have been announced by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella or any other law enforcement agency. And while the state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in September 2022, the agency declined to answer any questions about whether or not an investigation is even underway.

Granite State Republicans fear the lack of enforcement means even more illegal Democratic campaign material will pour into the 2024 primaries, particularly for governor.

Formella claims his office is actively investigating the mailers, telling WFEA radio host Drew Cline in a recent interview that he is on the job.

“That [case] remains under active investigation; I’ve spent a fair amount of time on it myself because I feel it’s important,” Formella said. “The challenge is when you’re trying to investigate across state lines, getting subpoenas domesticated, getting documents, getting people to sit for interviews, it takes time. My goal is to take the strongest action possible.”

One obstacle may be the mail shop’s legal counsel, notorious Democratic operative Marc Elias, who has worked for the Democratic National Committee since 2009 and also worked for the presidential campaigns for Vice President Kamala Harris. However, Elias is best known for helping his client, the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign, fund the now-debunked “Steele Dossier” promoting the so-called “Russia Collusion” hoax.

Plus, any federal investigation would involve the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, which may lack motivation to take down political actors inside the president’s own party.

And then there is the Massachusetts problem.

Sources tell NHJournal that any New Hampshire investigation involving out-of-state political mischief by Bay State players would go through the office of progressive Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell. Campbell’s partisan activism is no secret; she is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is often used as a springboard for higher office. Current Democratic Gov. Maura Healey launched her gubernatorial campaign after winning her second term as attorney general.

Campbell’s ability to influence an investigation creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Formella’s office declined to say what kind of cooperation it is getting from Massachusetts officials, if any. Campbell’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Democratic Party’s strategy of promoting weak Republican candidates in GOP primaries in 2022 paid off, particularly in New Hampshire. In the 2nd District race, Burns spent less than $16,000 in primary ads, while the Democrats Serve PAC spent $562,000 boosting his candidacy to GOP voters.

In the U.S. Senate race, MAGA Republican Don Bolduc’s ad spend was an anemic $33,760. But Democrats spent more than $3 million helping him defeat former state Senate President Chuck Morse. Bolduc lost to the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Maggie Hassan, by nine points.

Burns has spoken publicly about entering the GOP gubernatorial primary, where Morse and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte are already running. Even if he doesn’t, it is possible a Trump win in the presidential primary contest would inspire a MAGA Republican to enter the race and represent the activist base of the party. And thanks to Democrats, that MAGA candidate might not need to raise a penny to mount a competitive race.

Thus far, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has done nothing to prevent that. Instead, Formella is already hinting his office may take no action at all despite the clearly illegal conduct of the Democrats.

“My goal is to take the strongest action we can,” he told Cline. But he added that, “at a minimum, we will issue reports to the public about exactly what happened.”

AG: Dem Sheriff Brave Used Taxpayer Money for Multiple Affairs

According to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave used taxpayer money to subsidize his love life and lied about it to a grand jury.

“The decision to charge an elected constitutional officer was not made lightly,” Formella said. “However, no person is above the law, and the evidence in this case required action. It is my hope that the public will be reassured that there will be equal justice under the law for every person in this state – including public officials.”

Brave denied any wrongdoing Thursday morning when he turned himself in to state police. He has blamed his downfall on county politics, not his multiple affairs.

“I will go in civilian clothing, no weapons, and bring my $40 for the bail commissioner,” Brave told Foster’s Daily Democrat prior to his arrest. “I expect I will be photographed and fingerprinted. What I want is to get ahead of this situation and to get a trial date.

“I will fight this all the way. If I had done anything wrong, I’d own it. But I, 100 percent, did nothing wrong.”

Brave also blamed racism by county officials for the investigation that resulted in criminal charges. Formella said Thursday saw no evidence that racism played a part.

“That is unsubstantiated,” Formella said.

Brave allegedly stole $19,000 from Strafford County taxpayers through a scheme in which he submitted fake receipts for expenses related to his affairs, according to Formella. He also repeatedly lied about his actions, at one point roping U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester) into his fabrications.

He is charged with one count of theft by deception, two counts of falsifying physical evidence, and five counts of perjury. If convicted on all counts, Brave would face a 31-to-64-year prison sentence.

According to Formella, Brave tried to hide the fact his spending was connected to his affairs by falsifying one receipt to remove the identity of a female companion, and by submitting numerous false justifications for reimbursement. They included attending conferences and meetings that he did not attend or did not occur, or for organizations that did not exist. 

Formella said that county officials became suspicious about Brave’s spending and alerted the state in April. Once the Attorney General’s Office began to investigate, Brave lied to investigators and a grand jury, Formella said.

The first perjury charge involved a female employee who traveled with Brave to Florida. The woman told investigators she did not stay in the same hotel room as Brave. Instead, she claimed, she stayed with family.

The woman later admitted to the grand jury that she did stay in the same hotel room as Brave. But the sheriff is alleged to have repeated her earlier version of events.

The second perjury charge concerned allegations that Brave stated he attended events for a fictitious law enforcement organization. 

The third perjury charge related to a trip Brave took to Maryland. Brave told the grand jury he was scheduled to meet with Pappas, but that the congressman had to cancel the meeting and gave Brave a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol as an apology. 

“Records from the congressman’s office indicate that no such meeting was ever scheduled, and no such gift of a flag as an apology ever took place. Rather, based on investigation, Sheriff Brave is alleged to have actually met a paramour who lived in the area,” Formella said.

The fourth and fifth perjury charges concerned a dinner cruise and hotel stay for Brave in Boston. He told the grand jury he purchased the tickets in advance so he and a male deputy could attend a charity fundraiser. But the investigation found Brave bought the tickets on the same day as the cruise for himself and another paramour to attend the event together – which was on the paramour’s birthday.  

Brave is further alleged to have alternatively claimed in his testimony that he did not remember the trip, that no one stayed with him at his hotel, and that he did not recall if his paramour spent the night with him. After hotel surveillance video showed he was lying, Brave then admitted the paramour spent the night with him at the hotel for romantic and sexual purposes, according to Formella.

Brave is still the head of the Strafford County Sheriff’s Department. Formella said his office does not have the legal ability to remove Brave from office.

“There’s a process to remove him, but that will be up to county officials,” Formella said.

County Administrator Ray Bower did not respond to a request for comment. 

Brave, a Democrat, became the state’s first elected Black sheriff in 2020. During his campaign, he aligned himself with the Black Lives Matter movement, promising to get police officers out of schools. However, he contracted with a local school department to have a deputy assigned to schools once elected.

Brave has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, and he still has some powerful political allies. He is represented by the influential and well-connected Democratic law firm of Shaheen and Gordon — the “Shaheen” being Billy Shaheen, husband of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

In July, when news of the investigation broke, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington continued to list Brave on the endorsements page of her Warmington for Governor website.

After Brave’s arrest, his name was removed from the list of endorsements.

New Hampshire GOP state chair Chris Ager released a statement after Brave’s arrest.

“Sheriff Brave’s corrupt acts are yet another example of Democrats’ brazen lack of consideration for the communities they serve,” said Ager

“While hard-working Granite Staters struggle to make ends meet, Democrat Sheriff Mark Brave thought it was okay to defraud taxpayers for his personal gain, and then lie about it under oath.”

“Contrary to what Brave clearly believes, Democrats are not above the law.”

Brave Leaking Confidential Information, Commission Says

The feud between Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave, who is currently under criminal investigation, and his fellow Democrats on the County Commission took a turn Friday with the three commissioners accusing Brave of leaking confidential information and misleading the public.

Brave is facing allegations of theft and abuse of office which are being investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit. Brave broke news of that investigation, and also revealed he has already been investigated by outside firm Municipal Resources Inc. in a separate matter initiated by the commissioners.

Brave said he is being investigated for taking a female employee on a trip to Florida using county money, and for allegedly paying the woman’s housing expenses also with county money. Brave is denying any wrongdoing.

Additionally, Brave claims the dispute is a case of political bullying. Brave and all three elected commissioners are Democrats.

Now, Commissioners George Maglaras, Robert Watson, and Deanna Rollo are pushing back, issuing a letter accusing Brave of “misleading the public.”

“For whatever reason, Sheriff Brave has made the choice to disclose parts of the MRI report while answering questions about the separate Attorney General criminal investigation. It is unfortunate that Sheriff Brave has chosen to release only portions of the MRI report to the public, portions that when taken out of context are helpful to himself, but misleading to the public,” the letter states.

In January, MRI was hired to look into Brave. The report from MRI is not being released to the public, and County Attorney Tom Verlardi denied NHJournal’s Right to Know request. Velardi stated in his response to NHJournal that the MRI report is considered a personnel record, and therefore exempt from the Right to Know law, 91-A.

Financial records obtained by NHJournal show the county paid more than $2,500 for the investigation and report. In other words, even though Strafford County taxpayers paid for the MRI report, they are not allowed to see it.

The commissioners stated that while they want to release the full report, they are unable to do so under New Hampshire law. They also argued Brave is using the MRI investigation to muddy the waters around the unrelated inquiry by the Attorney General’s Office.

“We are disheartened that Sheriff Brave would choose to go on a publicity tour using parts of the MRI report to defend himself in the totally separate Attorney General criminal investigation. We would very much like to have the contents of the MRI report made public so that confidence is restored in those county officials trying to hold all county employees responsible for their noncriminal actions, even an elected sheriff. Our wish for disclosure of the report, however, does not change our statutory obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the report as a confidential disciplinary record,” their letter stated.

The MRI investigation was initiated weeks after Brave’s wife, Jamie Brave, was arrested for DUI in Portsmouth. NHJournal learned Brave was a passenger in the car at the time of the arrest and that he was too intoxicated to drive, according to police reports. A police officer brought the sheriff to the house of a friend and placed him in the friend’s custody, raising questions about whether Brave received special treatment.

Brave has claimed in the media that he was investigated for allegedly not telling the truth to the commissioners about the arrest. He also accused Maglaras of using a racial slur. Brave told the Rochester Voice that Maglaras called him “the token Black guy and the token’s gonna be up soon.”

Jimenez’s letter to Brave recommends that Brave place himself on the state’s Laurie List, or EES, for police officers with known credibility problems.

Brave’s name is not on the most recent public EES released on July 6 by the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Under state law, police officers placed on the list have the opportunity to keep their identities secret pending appeal.

Disgraced Dem Woodburn Stays Free For Now

Former Democratic leader Jeffrey Woodburn won’t have to start serving jail time yet, despite convictions for criminal mischief stemming from allegations of domestic violence.

The one-time state Senate Minority Leader from Coös County plans to appeal his criminal mischief sentence while preparing for a new domestic violence trial. In March, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled he did not get a fair trial the first time and reversed the domestic violence convictions but let the criminal mischief charges stand.

Last week, Coös Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein gave Woodburn until July 14 to file his sentence appeal for the criminal mischief charges. The new domestic violence trial is set for next spring. 

Woodburn was originally sentenced to two years in jail with all but 60 days suspended. 

Woodburn allegedly bit his then-girlfriend during a brawl after a Christmas party in 2017. Days later, he allegedly kicked the door to the woman’s house when she refused to let him inside. Earlier that year, in August 2017, he reportedly kicked her clothes drying, breaking the appliance, according to court records.

Woodburn has been fighting the charges for years, becoming a recurring headline for state Democrats. Woodburn was formally charged in August 2018 but still ran for reelection in the face of calls for his resignation. He won the Democratic primary but lost in the general election that year. 

Woodburn’s appearance in the news again as he fights the convictions coincides with news stories of other New Hampshire Democrats linked to violence against women.

Former State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) ended up in jail for weeks after the 2022 midterm elections on charges of stalking a woman and her family. State Democrats, desperate to edge out the House GOP’s razor-thin majority, stayed silent about Laughton for nearly a month. Democratic leaders only called for Laughton’s resignation when it became clear they would not have the majority with or without the Nashua seat.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen burned political capital backing President Joe Biden’s judicial nomination of lawyer Michael Delaney. Sexual assault victims, including Chessy Prout, opposed Delaney. Prout was a 15-year-old sexual assault victim who sued the elite St. Paul’s private school in Concord. Delaney, who represented the school, used his expertise in court to strip the teen girl of her anonymity.

Delaney’s nomination was finally torpedoed in May after weeks of heavy criticism from victims and advocates, but not before Hassan and Shaheen endorsed him.

Court Orders Defamation Case Against Buckley, NHDP to Move Forward

New Hampshire’s top Democrat played fast and loose with the facts, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled, and now he is facing a defamation lawsuit for spreading falsehoods about a GOP candidate.

The State’s highest court decided that a defamation lawsuit filed by state Rep. Dan Hynes (R-Bedford) against the state Democratic Party and its controversial chairman Ray Buckley can move forward in Hillsborough Superior Court.

At issue is a 2018 campaign flier claiming Hynes, who was running for state Senate at the time, was a convicted extortionist who had been disbarred. But the flier got several key facts wrong. Now Buckley and his party are exposed to potential liability.

“Dan Hynes targeted woman-owned businesses for extortion. Hynes was charged by Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, convicted by the State of New Hampshire for ‘theft by extortion’ and disbarred,” the flier stated.

But Hynes’s conviction in a 2009 extortion by theft case was annulled, which makes the flier fundamentally false, the court ruled.

Rep. Dan Hynes (R-Bedford)

“Under New Hampshire law, annulled convictions should be treated as if they never happened. Because a criminal arrest, conviction, or sentence potentially implicates one’s personal freedom, these are the most extreme steps the State can take against individuals. The effect of New Hampshire’s annulment statute is to, as a matter of law, render the arrest, conviction, or sentence void for the purposes of public discourse,” the ruling stated.

“The fact that the plaintiff was convicted undeniably exists, but as a matter of New Hampshire law, upon annulment, it is false and misleading to fail to state that the conviction was annulled.”

And while Hynes was disciplined for his actions with a suspension of his law license, he was never disbarred.

That was enough of a mistake to warrant a trial, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, overriding a lower court that had dismissed Hynes’ case.

One common defamation defense is to claim the person making the charge wasn’t aware of the facts and made an innocent mistake. Unfortunately for Buckley, the Supreme Court noted that the hit piece mailer included the addresses of internet links to relevant court documents, including Hynes’ annulment. The hit piece also included an internet link to documents concerning Hynes’ law license suspension, meaning Buckley and the NHDP knew or should have known he was not disbarred.

“The inclusion of this citation in the mailer could lead a reasonable jury to find that the defendants were subjectively aware that the plaintiff had not been disbarred and, therefore, subjectively aware that the language in the mailer was untrue,” the ruling states.

Buckley and the state party declined to comment on the court’s ruling or answer questions about the false statements in the campaign flier.

According to court records, Hynes sent a “Cease and Desist/Demand Letter” to Claudia Lambert, Claudia’s Signature Salon owner in Concord, in 2009. Hynes claimed that because Lambert’s salon charged women more money for haircuts than men or children, she was engaging in gender discrimination. 

Hynes’ letter demanded that she stop charging women more money and that she pay him $1,000. Lambert’s husband contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and during a sting operation, an investigator witnessed Hynes taking $500 to settle his claim of unfair trade practices. During that meeting, Hynes reportedly said he had sent other letters to other hair salons and was currently in negotiations with these businesses and their attorneys.

Hynes was convicted, ordered to pay restitution, and had his law license suspended for a year. The conviction was later annulled after completing all the terms of his sentence.

NHDems Star in ‘Don’t Run, Joe’ TV Ad Urging Biden to Bow Out

President Joe Biden may see himself as another FDR or LBJ, but progressive Democrats worry that, if he is the party’s banner carrier in 2024, their political hopes will be DOA.

And so, with Biden’s approval ratings languishing around 41 percent and new polls showing him losing a head-to-head match-up against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), the progressive group RootsAction has launched an ad in New Hampshire featuring Granite Staters urging, “Don’t Run, Joe!”

The ads will air on WMUR during evening news broadcasts as well as on late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, according to a statement from RootsAction. In the ad, Rep. Ellen Read (D-Newmarket) summarized the message by saying, “Our ideas are way more popular than Joe Biden is.”

Reached this week by NH Journal, Read said the ads are meant to spark a conversation among Democrats about a better way forward than the current status quo. Biden, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate the same year Richard Nixon was re-elected president, is part of what is wrong with current American politics, Read said.

“He’s part of the old guard who does the bidding of crony capitalists,” Read said. “Joe Biden represents that last 40 years of the same old, same old.”

And when Read says “old,” she means it.

“It is clear that Democrats can put forward a better candidate than Joe Biden,” Read said. “And it is clear he has some cognitive decline. He has some good days and some bad days.”

Read, a vocal supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the last two presidential primaries, said the Democratic Party needs to strongly consider moving away from Biden and the way things have been done. Biden is too moderate and too old, she said.

It’s a sensitive issue for the 80-year-old Biden, according to media reports. In response to the drumbeat of coverage regarding his age and mental acuity, Politico quotes the president barking at a staffer “You think I don’t know how f—ing old I am?”

In a new poll released by Newsweek on Tuesday, nearly 60 percent of voters said Biden should not run again, and most cited his age as the reason. In June, a University of New Hampshire poll found 65 percent of Granite Staters said they did not want Biden to run in 2024. More significantly, just 54 percent of self-identified Democrats wanted Biden on the ballot, down from 74 percent a year earlier.

Another area of common interest could be Biden’s ongoing battle to strip New Hampshire Democrats of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. When news broke about the calendar Biden pushed on the DNC, RootsAction immediately spoke up.

“We believe President Biden’s move to replace New Hampshire with South Carolina as first-in-the nation is motivated by naked political self-interest, and nothing more,” RootsAction co-founder Jeff Cohen told NHJournal.

“Joe Biden should climb down from attempting to manipulate the Democratic primary schedule for his own narrow political purposes. As we pointed out when announcing the Don’t Run Joe campaign, ‘A president is not his party’s king, and he has no automatic right to renomination.'”

All of which means the Don’t Run Joe campaign could find fertile political ground in the Granite State. The push began just hours after last month’s midterms elections ended with text messages to local Democrats. “It’s up to NH Democrats to choose a bold leader who can defeat the fascistic Republican Party and help other Dems win,” one of text read.

RootsAction says Biden’s “moderate” policies on a host of issues like climate change, student loan debt, voting rights and healthcare have failed, and he is not likely to win in 2024.

Read has been disappointed in the anti-worker politics coming out of the Biden Administration, citing the recent railroad worker contract as an example. Biden’s team stopped rail workers’ unions from striking by forcing them to work under a contract already negotiated.

Read does not have a specific candidate in mind to replace Biden just yet. But she said with the midterms done it is time for liberals and progressives to reassess priorities. She said Biden has too often used progressive positions like student debt relief and marijuana decriminalization as campaign tools in a cyclical ploy for votes.

“We need people who will not play partisan games anymore,” she said. “Everyone is sick of the bitter divide we’re experiencing. The answer is not more (centrism,) the answer is good faith engagement.”

Mainstream New Hampshire Democrats have largely stayed out of the question about Biden’s reelection. Senator Maggie Hassan (D) for example, rarely mentioned Biden during her campaign this fall and dodged questions about his possible 2024 run. One establishment Democratic insider told NHJournal that “Biden’s victories and accomplishments” in recent weeks have made the president more popular among Democrats, and that if he runs, he’ll certainly be the nominee.

Progressives are still pushing the other way.

Former Rep. Sherry Frost, D-Dover, is an early backer of the effort to oust Biden.

“I am eager to support a candidate who understands the fatal dysfunction in our economy and is willing to hold the ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations to their obligations,” Frost said in a statement. “I am not confident that Biden is that candidate, and while I appreciate his rescuing us from another Trump term, I believe we need someone else to champion the big and systemic changes we need to continue to strive toward our more perfect union.”

Biden is expected to formally decide whether he will run again sometime around Christmas. So far, the only declared candidate in the 2024 race is former President Donald Trump.

Read is not concerned about the optics of the Don’t Run Joe campaign possibly harming Democrats. The campaign is meant to get Democrats thinking about alternatives, but it won’t interfere with Biden if he does get into the race. The Biden dissidents will stand down for the good of the party, she said.

“The Don’t Run Joe campaign ends after (he) decides whether to or not to run,” she said.

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.