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SCOTUS Ruling on Religious Ed Funding Affirms NH School Choice Approach

The U.S. Supreme Court is catching up to New Hampshire’s parental-rights approach to education, affirming that parents who use publicly-funded choice programs are free to choose religious schools.

In a 6-3 ruling released Tuesday, the court found Carson v. Makin that First Amendment protections for religious expression prohibit the government from discriminating against religious schools when states offer a school choice program to parents.

Maine has many rural communities — encompassing almost half of all the state’s 260 school districts — that cannot afford to support a middle school or high school. The state has long offered families tuition assistance so they can access education services for their children. But in 1981, Maine passed a law preventing parents from choosing a religious school.

The Supreme Court found that prohibition was unconstitutional.

“The State pays tuition for certain students at private schools—so long as the schools are not religious. That is discrimination against religion,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a big change for some 18 states with similar bans, New Hampshire is at the forefront of school choice religious freedom. New Hampshire’s tuition assistance programs, and Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) can be used for any school, including religious schools.

“New Hampshire has no religious test for tuition aid or EFAs, so the ruling confirms New Hampshire’s position as correct,” said Drew Cline, chair of the state Board of Education.

According to Andrew Wimer with the Institute for Justice, New Hampshire changed its laws on tuition assistance last summer. Wimer said the ruling strengthens New Hampshire’s religious freedom against any future attack.

“Today’s ruling does not change anything in New Hampshire, but does ensure that if a future legislature were to put the same restrictions back in place it would likely be found unconstitutional,” he said.

The law change came after the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Croydon couple Dennis and Cathy Griffin who wanted to send their grandson to a private Catholic school, Mount Royal Academy.

“We are happy the legislature did the right thing in removing politics from school funding by allowing individual choice on how our tax dollars are applied to our children’s education,” said Dennis Griffin said last year. “Cathy and I feel Mount Royal Academy is the best choice for our grandson’s education and the government should not be restricting the use of our tax dollars from funding our choice.”

Croydon, a town of about 700 people, does not operate a middle school, instead giving families tuition money they can use to send their child to a school in another district. But Croydon’s School Board refused to give the family the money because Mount Royal is Catholic, and New Hampshire at the time still had an anti-Catholic law on the books

Most of the laws prohibiting states from using public money for private religious schools come from a anti-Catholic movement started in the 1870s by U.S. Rep. James Blaine, a powerful Republican from Maine. Blaine’s response to the immigration of Catholic and Jewish families from Europe was to endorse a nativist movement to make sure the immigrant schools would not get any funding.

At the time, many public schools taught a form of Protestant Christianity.

New Hampshire’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut applauded the ruling, saying it affirms New Hampshire in its commitment to religious freedom.

“Schools of all kinds – public, non-public, religious or non-religious – have the distinct duty and ultimate responsibility to provide the best education possible for their students. This Supreme Court ruling clarifies what has always been so — that we do not discriminate against anyone, period. This ruling will ensure that school choice remains an opportunity for every student throughout the nation, and that there will be equality available among all educational institutions. There is no place for discrimination here in New Hampshire.”

New Hampshire Democrats were largely silent on the decision, with no member of the state’s federal delegation making any mention of it. They also declined to respond to requests for comment.

Granite State Democrats have long opposed school choice, especially the funding for parents who want to send their children to religious schools. During the debate over EFAs last year, state Sen. Tom Sherman (D-Rye) complained, “There’s just no accountability to property taxpayers whose money is being used for private, religious and home school.” 

Sherman is now the Democratic nominee for governor.

Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) specifically cited the anti-Catholic “Blaine Amendment” language in the state constitution in her opposition to the EFA program.

“The New Hampshire Constitution prohibits taxpayer dollars from being directed to private or religious schools. Now more than ever, when legislators on both sides of the aisle have identified property taxpayer relief as a priority, it is difficult to understand why we would remove safeguards for the use of taxpayer dollars and ask hardworking Granite Staters to pay for the private education of other children and families.”

And former state Rep. Tamara Meyer Le (D-North Hampton) was removed from the House Education Committee in 2019 after a profanity-laced social media rant against private and religious education. “F*** private and religious schools,” Le wrote.

Despite Court Ruling, House Dems to Keep Fighting For COVID Exceptions

Democrats are vowing to keep up the fight over COVID-19 restrictions at the State House even as more voters are ready for an end to pandemic living.

On Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston denied New Hampshire Democrats an injunction against House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry). Democrats have been pushing for Packard to allow for remote attendance for legislators. House Minority Leader Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) responded by saying he would continue the remote legislation lawsuit.

“While we are disappointed that the First Circuit denied our request for a preliminary injunction, it is important to note that the court did not rule that disabled people must risk death to serve in the legislature and represent their constituents. The court’s decision only related to a preliminary injunction, not the Speaker’s denial of minimal accommodations for representatives with disabilities,” Cote said in a statement.

Cote, 61, lives with cerebral palsy and has not been to Concord for a vote in more than two years. He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Packard successfully argued that as Speaker he enjoys “legislative immunity” and is exempt from following the Americans with Disabilities Act, and therefore the injunction fails.

“This opinion reaffirms the importance of the integrity of the legislature and the legislative process. Both the First Circuit and District Court evaluated the plaintiffs’ arguments and ruled against them. My next step is to continue working on legislation that will benefit the state of New Hampshire and keep pushing us forward,” Packard said in a statement.

Spencer Kimball, an associate professor at Emerson College and the director of the school’s polling center, said the politics of the pandemic have shifted away from favoring Democrats as the virus has become less threatening.

“I have been looking at COVID restrictions and see a big difference nationally between Democratic voters where 38 percent see COVID as a major health threat, while that number is about 17 percent among independents and 14 percent among Republicans,” Kimball said.

The COVID-19 virus seems to be in retreat, with cases and hospitalizations dropping drastically in recent weeks across the country and in New Hampshire.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Tom Sherman, (D-Rye) who is running to unseat Gov. Chris Sununu, was asked if he would impose a mask mandate “on day one” after taking office. “It really depends on the numbers,” Sherman said. “You have to look at what’s called the epidemiology, which is how pervasive is it in the community.

“If the numbers say it is [necessary], then we may need to do that, but that would not be my first response, Sherman added.

Kimball said, with the threat perception changing, COVID restrictions could be a loser for Democrats heading into the midterms.

“Democrats may be overplaying their COVID hand, but if COVID was to increase they may find themselves in a stronger position. Time will tell,” Kimball said.

In New Hampshire, most adults have some level of protection against COVID-19, according to recent UNH Survey Center data.

Currently, one-quarter (of adults) say they have tested positive for COVID since the pandemic began. Six in 10 adults say they are vaccinated and boosted, another 17 percent are vaccinated but not boosted, and 22 percent are not vaccinated at all. Overall, seven in eight Granite Staters likely have some protection against COVID-19 through vaccination or recent infection,” The UNH data report states. 

David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University Political Research Center, said Democrats need to be alert to parents who are tired of mask mandates and school lockdowns harming their children.

“It’s hard to say whether or not mask advocacy on its own will be a cutting issue in November. More likely is a scenario where Democrats will say mask policies and required vaccinations ultimately saved lives and Republicans will say that mask mandates were an overreach, setting back education a couple of years,” Paleologos said. 

Democrats who align with teachers unions, which have backed stricter COVID restrictions like remote learning and masking, have had a rough time at the ballot box.

“Traditionally, education and healthcare are wheelhouse issues for the Democratic Party. If Republicans chip away at these two pillar issues (like they did in Virginia and New Jersey last fall), Democrats may face some dark November days,” Paleologos said.

Glenn Youngkin took the Virginia governor’s race, in part, because parents were upset with COVID lockdowns. In New Jersey, incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy barely beat a challenge from Republican Jack Ciattarelli.

Cote took over the leadership after the death of state Rep. Robert “Renny” Cushing (D-Hampton.) Cushing died this month following a two-year battle with prostate cancer. His family told The New York Times Cushing’s death was partially brought on by complications from COVID-19.

Cushing first brought the lawsuit to the federal court and pushed for a ruling on the appeal for the injunction ahead of the current legislative session. Even as he was dealing with cancer treatments, Cushing remained active throughout the pandemic, missing few votes over the last two years. 

House Speaker Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) died from COVID-19 in 2020 shortly after the first socially distanced House session of the biennium at UNH’s athletic complex.

With Cushing’s Passing, Who Will Lead House Dem Caucus?

CONCORD — New Hampshire Democrats face a difficult dilemma in the wake of the death of House Minority Leader Renny Cushing: Fight or flight?

Do Democrats hold a vote to pick a new leader, which would almost certainly lead to a divisive leadership fight; or do they stick with acting Minority Leader Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) and ride out the rest of the session?

What most voters probably don’t realize is that by state law, Democrats do not get to pick their leader. Under New Hampshire’s Constitution, the authority to name the leaders for both parties rests not with the party caucuses, but with Speaker of the House Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry).

“Technically, it’s up to the Speaker,” said Secretary of State David Scanlan. “But how we get there is up to the Democrats.”

Democrats can vote for a leader, but the choice has to go through the Speaker of the House. 

“The minority caucus has to determine what they are going to do,” said Clerk of the House Paul Smith. “But there’s nothing in the rules that [says] the Speaker has to name anyone to anything.”

When Republicans lost their leader, Rep. Dick Hinch, to a COVID-related illness just over a year ago, they didn’t face this situation because he was Speaker. The position is elected by the entire House and there are clear rules in the Constitution and state law about picking a replacement.

“Within 30 days after a vacancy occurs in the office of president of the Senate or speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate or House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall select a successor from among its members.”

Smith said when there has been a death of a party’s leader in the past, the party has chosen to keep the acting leader in place for the remainder of the session. Given there are just a couple of months left in the current legislative session, Smith said Democrats could keep Cote in place for the time being.

Packard was not available for comment on Tuesday, and Cote did not respond to a request for comment. 

Former House Speaker Shawn Jasper said he could not recall any past Speaker ignoring the wishes of either party when it comes to picking leadership.

“(The Speakers)  just can’t do that on their own,” he said.

While Democrats could keep Cote in place, Jasper said, much legislative work remains to be done in Concord and the party might want to hold a leadership vote.

“What complicates the matter here is that (Cote) has not been coming to the State House. It will be very difficult for him to be effective for the next couple of months. He needs to be on-site,” Jasper said.

According to multiple sources inside the Democratic caucus, Cote is “terrified of COVID,” and as a result has refused to attend any in-person gatherings.

“You can’t run the caucus from your basement,” one concerned Democrat told NHJournal.

Greg Moore, who served as the chief of staff for the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said it has been a difficult couple of years, with both parties losing their leaders.

“It’s been a tough legislative session for the House,” Moore said.

Moore thinks Democrats are likely to hold a leadership vote in the coming weeks. Cushing was well-liked on both sides of the aisle, and he had the ability to lead. That is something Democrats will miss.

“When you lose your leader, you want to have somebody who has the force of the vote,” Moore said. “That gives the caucus a lot of confidence.”

If there is a caucus in the coming weeks, Moore said the candidates who ran against Cushing last time are likely to be top contenders. Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) and Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), who both challenged Cushing for the Minority Leader post, did not respond to requests for comment.

Moore said the ultimate decision will be made by the members.

“It’s up to the caucus what they want to do,” Moore said.

In DC, Dems Go Maskless to SOTU. In Concord, NHDems Go to Court to Fight Return to House

On Monday, House Minority Leader Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) asked a federal court to rush a ruling on House Democrats’ lawsuit to block a return to regular session in the State House chamber.

On Tuesday, Democrats crowded into Congress, maskless, to cheer on President Biden’s State of the Union speech.

Granite State Republicans took note.

“I saw a headline this morning that the [U.S.] Capitol’s attending physician notified Congress that masks are no longer required ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address,” New Hampshire Speaker of the House Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) told New Hampshire Journal Tuesday afternoon. “So we’re talking about putting hundreds of people — members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, cabinet officials, and all the guests — packing them all into a room together, and Democrats say that’s all right. But we can’t go back to the [N.H. House] chamber?

“The Democrats keep saying ‘listen to the science.’ Well, we’re the ones listening to the science and the latest CDC guidelines. They aren’t,” Packard added.

The House Democrats’ lawsuit seeks remote options for legislators unwilling to return to in-person work. Since the start of the pandemic, House members have met in sports complexes, the University of New Hampshire and the convention center at the Manchester DoubleTree by Hilton.

Lawyers representing Cushing filed a motion on Monday in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston seeking an expedited ruling in Cushing’s lawsuit against Packard. Cushing wants legislators to be able to log on for the House session remotely. Packard has rejected this request and, thus far, has prevailed.

The appeal was heard in the federal appeals court in September, and no ruling has yet been made. Since September, however, Gov. Chis Sununu has effectively called for an end to pandemic restrictions, and the Centers for Disease Controls have adjusted the masking requirements.

The New Hampshire House is now set for its first session in Representatives Hall on March 10, the first time that House members have gathered in Concord since the start of the pandemic.

Cushing wants the federal appeals court to issue a ruling before the state of the session on March 10, claiming members have been risking their health for months because of Packard’s refusal to allow remote access to lawmakers.

“Some of the Plaintiffs have chosen to risk death by attending committee meetings and House sessions. Others have heeded the advice of the CDC and their doctors and chosen to not spend hours inside with unmasked, unvaccinated people. None of the Plaintiffs should have ever had to make a choice between the risk of death and their duty to their constituents. None of them should have to expose themselves to the extraordinarily dangerous conditions in Representatives Hall,” the motions filed Monday states.

Cushing did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Packard has said the return to Representatives Hall in Concord will not be a problem.

“We have managed smartly throughout the pandemic with many risk-mitigation measures in place to ensure the people’s business continues to get done,” Packard said. “We’re now in a different phase of the pandemic, and without some return to normalcy, we risk long-lasting damage to this historic institution and its traditions.”

According to Cushing, holding the session in the State House will mean many members of the legislature will not be able to take part due to health concerns, and their constituents will be denied their representation. This despite a year of widely-available vaccinations and boosters, in a state with one of the lowest rates of hospitalization and death in the nation.

“You’d think, with the Biden White House and the Congress going maskless and the CDC’s new guidance, that Democrats would be ready to move on,” Packard said. “Because it’s time. It’s time to get back to the normal way of doing things. It’s been two years. We can’t be cowering in a corner and afraid of going out and doing anything. We’ve got to get back to normal life.”

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.”

ANALYSIS: Biden’s Visit a ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ for NHDems

President Joe Biden picked New Hampshire as the first stop on his national tour to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package. Based on the polls, he’s not doing local Democrats any favors.

“The bill I’m about to sign is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results,” Biden said at Monday’s White House signing ceremony. The spending proposal garnered the votes of 19 Republicans in the U.S. Senate, 13 in the House, and is polling well with the general public. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds 63 percent of Americans support Washington spending $1 trillion “on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”

Unfortunately, just 41 percent of Americans in that same poll approve of the job Biden is doing in office. Among independents, 45 percent strongly disapprove. And about 50 percent of suburban voters give Biden a “thumbs down,” too.

In swing states like New Hampshire, the numbers are even worse. When ABC News looked at results in the eight states believed to have the most competitive U.S. Senate races, including New Hampshire, they found Biden’s overall job approval rating was a dismal 33 percent.

Biden’s numbers are killing the polls for the rest of his party. As ABC News reported last weekend, the GOP’s 10-point margin in the “generic ballot” question is the largest in the 40 years the network has asked the question.

The Green Bridge in Woodstock, N.H.

One of the Democrats being hurt by Biden’s sagging polls is Sen. Maggie Hassan, who’s expected to appear with Biden when he stops by a bridge in Woodstock, N.H. to promote the trillions in spending Democrats have passed so far this year. In last month’s poll from the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Hassan had a 44 percent approval rating — identical to Biden’s.

By comparison, independent Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, who hasn’t backed away from opposing some of the more progressive policies of his fellow Democrats, has an approval rating in West Virginia 28 points higher than Biden’s.

It’s just another data point in the growing evidence that Granite State Democrats’ performance in 2022 is likely to closely track that of the party as a whole. And every appearance by Biden will help more closely tie local Democrats like Hassan and U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas to the president and the national party.

Not everyone believes that is bad news.

“It is significant that President Biden has picked New Hampshire for his first stop after signing the infrastructure legislation,” veteran N.H. Democratic strategist Jim Demers told NHJournal. “It highlights the importance of bipartisanship, it’s been a long time since such a significant vote included the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell.

“And the backdrop of the Green Bridge in Woodstock symbolizes one important aspect of the bill, funding for roads and bridges all across the country, many that have been in dangerous disrepair for years. Infrastructure has been talked about in Washington for a long time but you have to hand it to President Biden, he got it done.”

Hassan has tried to build on the bipartisan message, too. Her press releases are filled with the “B” word — sometimes four such press announcements celebrating ‘bipartisanship’ in a single day. But Hassan has largely voted with her party leadership, including on the latest trillion-dollar spending package. And there are already Democrat-funded ads touting her support for the “Build Back Better” social welfare/green energy policy spending proposal the House is expected to pass this week.

And then there’s that most problematic of questions around the president’s visit: What’s the point?

Partisans will debate the various elements of the bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden signed on Monday. But what do billions for roads, bridges, broadband and electric car chargers have to with the issues Granite Staters are actually worried about: inflation, energy prices and the worker shortage?

New Hampshire has among the highest percentage of homes heated by oil and propane in the nation. They’re looking at price hikes this winter of 50 percent or more. What is the Biden administration doing to drive those costs down?

New Hampshire has one of the lowest rates of unemployment and employers are running ads pleading for workers to return to the workforce. And Joe Biden is coming to New Hampshire to brag about spending billions to create even more competition for scare workers?

The same with inflation, which isn’t going to be helped by increased government demand for goods and services. That’s the Biden pitch?

Once again, this infrastructure spending may be needed. It may be a smart investment. But it’s almost entirely unconnected from the voters’ priorities of the moment. It’s as if your house is on fire, and Joe Biden pulls into the driveway in a new car he says was a great deal. It may be. But it won’t help put out the fire.

Hassan will be standing right by President Biden at the Woodstock Bridge. How is this a winning strategy in a state where Biden’s approval has collapsed and not a single elected Democrat has 50 percent statewide approval? Heading into a midterm election in which the GOP has record-setting polls?

“What else can she do?” a Granite State Democratic strategist told NHJournal. “Her fate is tied to Biden and the Democrats. It’s too late to pull a ‘Manchin.’ She has to count on the calendar — there’s still a year until the election.”

At least one Republican agrees. “A year is an eternity in politics,” says GOP strategist Tom Rath. “She’ll be tougher than folks think.”

She’ll need to be. The last time a GOP wave hit New Hampshire, the 2010 backlash to Obamacare, Republicans won the U.S. Senate and both House seats. Wildly-popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch held on with less than 53 percent of the vote.

And even Hassan’s biggest boosters concede: She’s no John Lynch.

OPINION: NH Dems ‘Doris Day’ Record on Redistricting Reform

“I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin,” quipped Oscar Levant. He could have been talking about New Hampshire Democrats and redistricting.

Press coverage of the proposed congressional redistricting map from the GOP majority is full of pearl-clutching over the fact that a map drawn by politicians that will impact the political balance of power is (you may want to sit down for this) political.

During a hearing on Thursday, state Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Windham) a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, scandalized those in attendance by stating the obvious. “This is a political process, as the Supreme Court has said repeatedly, both the New Hampshire Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a political process. That’s why it’s done by the legislature. So, was that something that was taken into account? Of course, it was.”

Democrats responded to this modest display of candor with outrage.

“Today’s presentation confirmed what we have known all along – that Republicans have no reason outside of partisan politics to justify the drastic redrawing of congressional districts they have proposed,” said Deputy House Democratic Leader and Ranking Redistricting Democrat David E. Cote (D-Nashua) in a statement. “Republicans clearly do not believe they can win congressional seats without rigging the districts in their favor as today’s presentations confirmed.”

In fact, based on conversations with New Hampshire Republicans, they feel particularly confident about being able to win at least one seat — and maybe two — with the current congressional maps. This year. It’s the years after that are at issue.

The most important math for the NHGOP is this: In the six New England states, there are three Republican governors. There are currently 31 New England members of Congress — House and Senate — and one Republican: Susan Collins.

Why? Ask Massachusetts, where about 35 percent of the state consistently votes Republican for president and where Republicans are regularly elected governor — and there isn’t a single competitive congressional district among the state’s nine seats. There’s only one district in the entire state, the 9th, with a Democratic advantage less than D +10, and the Democrat won it last year with more than 60 percent of the vote.

How does that happen? It doesn’t hurt to have districts that look like this:

Massachusetts 7th Congressional District

The same is true in New York, where Democrats are planning to ignore the recommendation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission and gerrymander out as many as five of the eight current GOP seats. And progressives at The Nation magazine are urging them to do it. (Read “N.Y.’s Redistricting Might Just Save Joe Biden’s Presidency.”)

In Maryland and Illinois, Democrats are planning “extreme gerrymandering” to make GOP victories all but impossible.

Granite State Democrats’ reply? “That’s New York, not New Hampshire!”

Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District

Which is where Doris Day makes her appearance.

From 2007 until 2011, Democrats controlled all of New Hampshire government. Gov. John Lynch was wildly popular and Democrats had votes to spare in the legislature. At any time, they could have passed a nonpartisan redistricting law — similar to the one they passed in 2019 and 2020 when they had a majority but Republicans controlled the governor’s office.

But when Democrats had the chance — they didn’t. In fact, a modest reform proposed in 2009 that would have had a seven-member, bipartisan commission draw up a map for the legislature’s consideration was voted down by the Democratic-controlled House in a voice vote.

Are New Hampshire Democrats being hypocritical? Of course, they are. Just like the Republicans of New York and Maryland, who would absolutely draw themselves as many GOP districts as possible if they could.

If New Hampshire Democrats were in power today, and they saw the coming 2022 GOP tidal wave, does anyone doubt they would draw maps to protect as many members as possible? Of course, they would.

It’s called “politics.” And in a democracy, it’s the only game in town.

Democrats can swoon and gasp and claim to be shocked, shocked! by the very notion. But like Doris Day, it’s all just an act.