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State Senate GOP Says ‘Fighting for Families’ Is 2023 Priority

Senate Republicans want to help New Hampshire families succeed and stay healthy with a range of proposals as part of their newly unveiled 2023 legislative agenda. It covers taxes, school choice, access to healthcare, and the state’s First-In-The-Nation status. 

 “This year, we are making it our mission to focus on helping our struggling families who are facing rising costs across the board,” Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) said Wednesday at a State House press conference.” After enduring more than two years of hardships wrought by federal financial mismanagement, it is critical we continue to help our New Hampshire families.”

With the House of Representatives essentially tied between the two parties, the state Senate is likely to play an even larger role than usual in legislating. Bradley, who took over the top spot after the retirement of Chuck Morse, is seen by members of both parties as a savvy political operator who can navigate partisan political waters.

Bradley makes no secret of the fact he is focused on fiscal issues. He touted continued business tax cuts and pledged his party would “never, ever implement income, sales or capital gains tax.” He also said any budget surplus should go to property tax relief and the state’s Rainy Day fund.

While Republicans celebrated the additional cuts in Business Profits Taxes and Business Enterprise Taxes that took effect January 1, Democrats denounced them.

“These tax cuts are being downshifted to towns and WILL come back to hardworking New Hampshire families in the form of sweeping property tax increases across the board,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party communications director Colin Booth on Twitter. “But don’t expect the @NHGOP to take any credit when that happens.”

But state revenue has increased since the business tax cuts have begun phasing in, as has state revenue to cities and towns. In the last budget, the state provided $100 million to local governments to take pressure off property taxes.

Asked for data showing fewer state dollars going to cities and towns as a result of the business tax cuts, Booth declined to respond.

Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry) focused on education in her remarks. “We will defend academic opportunities for our students by continuing to support our state’s Education Freedom Account Program and empower parents by providing transparency into their children’s learning environment.”

Carson also touted plans to “reform the state’s bail system,” which will likely undo previous changes that critics say have kept dangerous people on the streets.

“Our comprehensive agenda brings Granite Staters to the forefront. Exactly where they should be,” Carson said.

Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) said her conference will announce its agenda next week but previewed its goals of working on issues like property tax relief, access to affordable housing, and, of course, access to abortion up to birth.

“Protecting the civil rights of women should be one of the top priorities of the legislature and the Senate Democrats will never back down from supporting women making their own reproductive healthcare decisions,” Soucy said in a statement.

Democrats in Concord spent Wednesday trying and failing to allow for proxy voting and attendance via online video services like Zoom. Democratic House members have been suing the state for the last two years to allow members to attend sessions and vote remotely. They have yet to prevail in court, and their most recent appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The other Democratic priority on Wednesday was trying to get the rule allowing members to carry concealed weapons in the State House changed. Democrats failed there as well, meaning House members will remain armed if they choose while in session.

The GOP, as part of its agenda, is also pushing for a law to protect New Hampshire’s First-In-The-Nation status in the presidential primary process. The Democratic National Committee announced new rules late last year that would force New Hampshire out of the top spot in the nominating process. Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) said Wednesday she plans to spearhead the effort to fight off any challenge to New Hampshire’s position.

“Unfortunately, we found that our historic tradition has been under attack by those looking to maybe repurpose it for their political gain,” Birdsell said. “Know that we will respond aggressively to anyone that attempts, like the DNC or anyone, who attempts to take that away from us.”

Scanlan Reopens Manch 6 Recount, GOP Expects to Hold Seat

With control of the State House down to a razor-thin margin, Secretary of State Dave Scanlan announced Thursday he plans to look again at one of the already recounted races, potentially returning a seat to the GOP.

On Monday, Democratic hopes of winning control of the House of Representatives were boosted when a recount of Hillsborough District 16, Manchester’s Ward 6, appeared to show incumbent Republican Larry Gagne lost 22 votes, handing a one-vote victory to challenger Maxine Mosley.

Almost immediately, however, Republicans suspected an error had occurred. Vote changes of more than a handful of ballots are rare. Rarer still are candidates losing votes in a recount. Scanlan, a veteran of many recounts, also took note of the unusual numbers.

“It’s unusual if it changes by more than 10 or 11 votes,” he told NHJournal.

Thanks to an audit of the district, it became clear that some 20 to 25 ballots were missed during Monday’s recount, bringing into question the results. Scanlan released a letter Thursday explaining the situation.

“Ballot counting will be continued in Hillsborough County state representative District 16 recount. The routine reconciliation process indicated that reconciliation and recount number were not equivalent,” the statement read. “The total number of ballots cast and counted for the office of governor in this district is greater than the total accounted for so far for the [Gagne v. Mosley] race. This indicates some ballots have not yet been counted in the recount.

“As a result, the process of recounting the ballots cast in that race will now continue on Monday, November 21, at 4 p.m.”

Republican House members told NHJournal they are pleased, but not surprised, by the decision. And they are very confident Gagne will ultimately hold the seat based on his original 1,820 to 1,797 margin.

“Every vote matters and should be counted. Anyone afraid to finish the recount should be questioned as to what they are afraid of finding,” said Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “This is a direct result of Republicans demanding transparency in our elections, and I look forward to bringing more sunshine into our voting process. The voters I represent in Ward 6 have a right to know all of their votes will be counted.”

There have been 17 recounts thus far, with a total of 29 currently scheduled, in the wake of last week’s midterms. Scanlan said it was a difficult decision to reopen the recount given the heightened scrutiny of the election process. But his office has more data available this year than in past years thanks to increased efforts to make sure the election results are accurate.

“It’s important that we get everything right,” Scanlan said.

The secretary of state has also created the Special Committee on Voter Confidence to examine concerns about election integrity in the state. While the committee has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud, its final report has yet to be released.

Republicans currently have a one-seat majority in the House. A race in Rochester is tied. As a result, a Gagne win would be a significant development in determining control of the lower chamber.

Some candidates, mostly Republicans, requested recounts in races where they trailed by more than 100 votes, and it is extremely unlikely those outcomes will change during a recount. 

Manchester’s Ward 6 race isn’t the only one getting another look. Scanlan also announced 27 absentee ballots found in the Rockingham District 6 race could change the results. Democrat Eric Turer beat Republican Melissa Litchfield 1,213 to 1,198, a difference of 15 votes. However, an audit of that race found 27 absentee ballots were not counted on election night or during the recount this week.

Scanlan is asking the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission to order the 27 absentee ballots be counted and made part of the total.

It is a situation that echoes the 2020 election fiasco in Bedford, where election officials failed to count 190 absentee ballots and then attempted to hide their mistake from the general public.

National Dems Target NH State House, But Packard, GOP Aren’t Worried

A national Democratic organization that works to win state legislative elections is targeting Concord with the goal of wresting control from the Granite State GOP. But despite its money and aggressive rhetoric, local Republicans say they aren’t worried.

“Good luck with that,” said New Hampshire GOP chairman Steve Stepanek, a former member of the House himself.

According to a report in the Daily Beast, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is targeting legislatures in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Minnesota.

“We know what we’re up against, but we are making a play to undercut GOP power in the Michigan House and Senate, the Minnesota Senate, and the New Hampshire House and Senate,” DLCC President Jessica Post said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

And while Democrats pushing the plan are angry the Democratic National Committee has refused to fund their efforts, President Joe Biden came through with a direct fundraising appeal on the DLCC’s behalf to help fill their war chest.

“State legislatures are the key to stopping Republican abortion bans, attacks on L.G.B.T.Q.+ rights, bills that undercut our democracy by making it harder for people to vote,” Biden wrote in an email to the DLCC mailing list. “Not just that, state legislatures are essential — I mean it, essential — to lowering prices for American families and building an economy that works for everyone.”

And, the DNC says, it is spending on federal races in New Hampshire and other swing states which will help drive up turnout for every Democrat on the ticket.

State Rep. Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, who may be making a play to lead the House Democratic Caucus, touted the state party’s campaign to take control in Concord. He said at a recent party gathering that the team behind the Democrats’ fall push has put together a data-driven organization focused on winning the House and Senate.

“We have built an unprecedented campaign,” Wilhelm said.

But despite the big talk — and big money– House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) told NHJournal he feels very good about his party’s prospects to hold both the House and Senate.

“Their chances of flipping the legislature are extremely thin. How anybody could think they could flip the House or Senate with the disastrous fiscal policies Democrats have imposed at the federal level,” Packard said. “And if the Democrats did take over here, the terrible fiscal policies of Washington, D.C. would come to Concord. Let me tell you, that’s not what the voters of New Hampshire want.”

As for resources, Packard says Republicans will have the money they need “to get out the message about what Democrats would do if they take over.

“And that stunt in Rockingham County– where I live –and their claim that it was a printer’s mistake? That’s beyond laughable. It was a trick and they got caught. Where did the printer get the name of the ‘Rockingham Board of Elections?’ It’s a typical Democratic stunt, trying to fool the voters.”

State Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester), one of the members working on the House campaign efforts, said state Democrats need the out-of-state cash and all the help they can get, because the Democratic Party is not a winning organization in the Granite State.

“It is not surprising that New Hampshire House Democrats will once again benefit from large out-of-state contributions and D.C. support. In their last report one couple in California gave them $40,000,” Berry said.

“If this was a race of New Hampshire money only, they wouldn’t have two pennies to rub together,” he noted. “The Committee to Elect House Republicans has a record number of donors (over 950), virtually all of whom are from New Hampshire and over three times the number of donors as the House Democrats. Sadly, extremist liberals from New York and California are more than willing to finance the lies and half-truths of New Hampshire House Democrats, but we weathered their storm in 2020 and we will do it again in 2022.”

Another asset for GOP legislators? Having popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu at the top of the ticket. Polls consistently show he is popular with both Republicans and independents, and he is credited with helping his party flip the state House and Senate in 2020, even as Joe Biden was beating President Donald Trump in New Hampshire by about eight points.

With Biden’s job approval numbers deeply underwater among Granite State voters, he is unlikely to help Democrats improve their performance over two years ago.

Still, Democratic Party state chair Raymond Buckley sees a blue wave coming, despite recent polling that puts Republicans on top when it comes to the economy, crime, and border security. The national funding could be just what Granite State Democrats need to buck the trends.

“Granite State Democrats more than doubled our voter turnout in this year’s Primary Election over the last midterm when a Democrat controlled the White House,” Buckley said in a recent email to his fellow Democrats. “Even with a limited number of contested primary races, over 90,000 Democrats turned out and voted, as opposed to 2014’s 40,000. There is so much at stake this November, and Granite State Democrats have shown time and time again that we are fired up and are doing what it takes to win.”

Both House Democratic Leader Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) and Senate Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) declined to comment for this story.

The political website CNalysis, one of the few that analyzes state legislature races, reports the New Hampshire State House “tilts Republican” and predicts Republicans are likely to hold onto their majority.

And Packard said he sees a strong showing for the GOP as voters worry about inflation, soaring grocery prices and high energy costs — all under the leadership of Biden and the Democrats.

“People are hurting like hell right now. And if Democrats ran things in New Hampshire and Washington, they would be hurting even more,” Packard said.

GOP’s Murphy May be Called to Testify in Crypto 6 Case

Keith Murphy, the NHGOP’s hand-picked candidate for state Senate, could end up explaining to a jury his business relationship with the defendants in the infamous Crypto 6 money laundering case.

Ian Freeman, the last of the Keene Crypto 6 defendants headed to trial, faces more than 30 federal felony counts for his Bitcoin business operation, which included running Bitcoin ATMs in various business locations. One of those ATMs was set up in the Manchester location of Murphy’s Taproom, a restaurant owned by the senate candidate.

Freeman’s attorney says he may call Murphy as a witness for the defense.

“All I was doing was providing a little wall space for the machine,” Murphy told NH Journal.

Murphy, a former GOP state representative, was picked by state GOP Chair Stephen Stepanek to replace state Rep. Michael Yakubovich (R-Hooksett) on the November ballot for the District 16 race. Yakubovich dropped out just days after the September 13 primary due to health issues.

“It’s not how you want to be in the Senate, but that’s how it goes,” Murphy said.

Federal law enforcement agents seized the Murphy’s Taproom ATM during the March 2021 raids of several homes and businesses connected to Freeman’s activities. Freeman is accused of operating a multimillion money laundering scheme that helped facilitate online scammers, according to court documents.

Murphy said he has not been in contact with any federal law enforcement agency since the machine was removed.

Freeman’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Sisti, said Murphy may be called as a witness, but it is too early to say definitively. “I don’t know yet,” Sisti said.

 Murphy said he has not been contacted about being a potential witness.

Freeman has maintained he did nothing wrong selling the cryptocurrency through his churches and is adamant that he wants his day in court. Contacted last week, Freeman confirmed he had one of his Shire Free Church Bitcoin ATMs in Murphy’s Taproom since March of 2016.

Murphy said he was never directly involved in exchanging cash for Bitcoin or vice versa. The ATM was in the restaurant as a courtesy for some of his customers, he said.

“We had customers who wanted to pay with Bitcoin,” Murphy said. “This provided a way for them to convert their own money to Bitcoin easily.”

Murphy said he does not remember the exact details of the arrangement he had with Freeman, but said he did not make any money from the machine.

“Occasionally, they would hand me a little money to pay for the electricity. But there was no set fee for the arrangement,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s recollection runs counter to Freeman’s understanding of his own business. According to Freeman, his ATMs brought in money for the host business through a percentage of the total transactions.

“The Shire Free Church is not a business, but we obviously had to compensate our venues for the space/power/internet they provided,” Freeman said. “All our venues received one percent of gross sales from their machine. Many crypto vending machine operators only pay a flat fee per month to their venues. Our venues were very pleased with our arrangement as they did very well on busy months.”

Freeman took in millions of dollars through his Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin ATMs, according to court records. He allegedly used personal bank accounts and accounts for made-up churches like the Shire Free Church, the Crypto Church of NH, the Church of the Invisible Hand, and the Reformed Satanic Church, to operate his Bitcoin empire. Part of the scheme Freeman ran helped cyber criminals swindle money from victims of lonely heart scams, according to prosecutors.

Business was good and the government alleges Freeman has secreted away millions of dollars in cash and cryptocurrency.

Four of the other Crypto 6 defendants, Renee Spinella, Andrew Spinella, Aria DiMezzo, and Nobody (also known as Rick Paul), have taken plea deals. The fifth suspect, Colleen Fordham, had her charges dropped earlier this year.

Bolduc’s ‘Reckless’ Comments About Russia Spark Criticism, Calls to Withdraw

Gen. Don Bolduc’s appearance on Fox News was meant to highlight his military bona fides. Instead, it sparked a backlash from a respected Pentagon reporter and a call for him to drop out of the U.S. Senate race from at least one prominent Republican.

“Don Bolduc made reckless, dangerous, irresponsible comments regarding the escalation of the Ukraine war which renders him unqualified to serve as a U.S. Senator,” said Republican Corky Messner. “There are 100 Senators who will be called upon during these times to make critical decisions. Bolduc cannot be trusted to make those decisions.”

Messner defeated Bolduc in the 2020 GOP primary before going on to lose to incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. He was outraged by Bolduc’s comments on “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton” Sunday night. And he wasn’t alone.

In the interview, Bolduc repeatedly claimed there were direct military actions the U.S. and NATO could take against Russian forces in Ukraine. He suggested the CIA or military could “get in there on the ground” in Ukraine, using “indirect fires and direct capabilities” to attack Russian targets. At one point, he said the U.S. could use “special operations troops in a way that we get in there,” though without “boots on the ground.”

His comments were viewed as so extreme, Fox News Pentagon correspondent Jennifer Griffin called them out when she appeared on the show a few minutes later.

“I have to respond to comments from Gen. Bolduc,” Griffin said. “He really was way off the mark talking about what the U.S. really could do on the ground.

“Clearly, Brig. Gen. Bolduc is not a student of history. He’s a politician. He ran for Senate in New Hampshire and failed. He is not a military strategist. To suggest the U.S. would put an indirect fire or special operations or CIA on the ground to give Putin any excuse to broaden this conflict is extremely dangerous talk at a time like this.”

“I was surprised to hear it,” the host replied.

It was not Bolduc’s first media misstep. In November, he was roundly criticized for calling Republican Gov. Chris Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism.” Bolduc also claimed he drove the governor from the U.S. Senate race.

Messner says enough is enough.

“Politician Bolduc has a reputation for outrageous, divisive political comments which demonstrates that he has very poor judgment. In the past, Bolduc’s comments could be laughed off, walked back, or cleaned up by his supporters,” Messner said.

“But now, Bolduc’s extreme comments are dangerous to all Americans, your sons and daughters, Ukraine, Europe, and the world. Politicians must have the prudence and judgment to avoid statements that potentially could push the Ukraine conflict to a wider war. Don Bolduc does not have that prudence and judgment.

“I am calling for politician Don Bolduc to withdraw from the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race and to end his campaign.”

Not surprisingly, the Bolduc campaign is not ready to fold up its tent. Asked about Jennifer Griffin’s criticism, the campaign declined to comment.

UPDATE: After this article was published, Bolduc’s spokesperson Jimmy Thompson sent this statement:

“If recent world events have taught us anything, it’s that American leadership matters on the international stage. As usual, Senator Hassan has been missing in action, and needs to be replaced. But you can’t defeat a career politician like Senator Hassan with another career politician like State Senator Morse or Town Manager Smith. It’s going to take a true outsider like General Bolduc, and that’s why he is the frontrunner in this race.”

 

Hassan Confirms Support for COVID Cash to Convicts, But Also Pushed Restitution Efforts

A day after NHJournal’s report on her vote to keep COVID checks going to convicted criminals, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan confirmed her support for the policy. At the same time, she pointed to a letter confirming the funds could be seized to go toward victim restitution.

Many New Englanders were shocked to learn convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had received a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act passed on a straight partisan vote in March. Last week, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Nathaniel Mendell asked the court to let the government confiscate the funds from Tsarnaev as restitution for the victims of the 2013 bombing.

Republicans opposed the ARP provision sending funds to incarcerated felons like Tsarnaev, and they proposed an amendment to prevent it. The amendment was voted down on a 49-50 vote, with all 50 Democrats in favor of keeping the checks flowing. If a single Democrat had supported the amendment, it would have passed.

Hassan refused to respond to NHJournal’s questions about her vote. However, after the news broke, she gave a statement to Fox News that did not contradict the reporting but instead touted her efforts to partially undo the policy.

“Sen. Hassan believes that the funds Tsarnaev received must be seized for victim restitution,” Hassan’s spokesperson Laura Epstein told Fox News in a Friday email. “She led the successful push in the Senate to help ensure that this could happen.”

Epstein referenced a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department from Hassan and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) asking for clarification on whether state officials would be able to seize the money they and their fellow Democrats voted to send all incarcerated felons.

“We strongly support state efforts to seize criminals’ Economic Impact Payments and to ensure that these payments benefit families victimized by crime rather than incarcerated criminals,” the two senators wrote. The Treasury Department confirmed the funds could be confiscated to pay outstanding restitution orders.

“To the extent permitted by applicable state and local law, amounts paid in the third round of [economic impact payments] may be subject to garnishment by state governments, local governments, or private creditors, as well as pursuant to a court order (which may include fines related to a crime, administrative court fees, restitution, and other court-ordered debts),” a Treasury official wrote.

But what about the millions of COVID relief payments that went to convicted murderers, rapists, and other felons who don’t have court-ordered debts? They would keep the money they received, thanks to the ARP plan as passed by Democrats and signed by President Joe Biden.

Hassan sent her letter to the Treasury Department two months after her vote to kill an amendment blocking the checks, a fact her GOP critics noted.

“It sounds like Hassan was for giving money to convicted murderers before she was against it,” quipped New Hampshire GOP Executive Director Joe Sweeney.

State Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) told NHJournal Hassan’s vote “is just one more outrageous example of how out of touch Maggie Hassan is with New Hampshire. Funding the radical progressive agenda and voting to send stimulus money to the Boston Bomber, a convicted mass murderer who already resides in prison at taxpayers’ expense for the rest of his pathetic life, is not representing our New Hampshire values. Time for the 603 way rather than the D.C. way.”

Morse is expected to enter the GOP U.S. Senate primary for a chance to challenge Hassan in November. Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, who has all but announced his candidacy, tweeted his comment: “There’s only one correct answer here from Sen. Hassan: ‘Yes, I regret voting to send stimulus checks to Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and convicted cop-killer Michael Addison.’ Period. Full stop.”

The status of Addison’s COVID relief check is still unclear. Addison is New Hampshire’s only death row prisoner, convicted for the murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. He remains on death row despite the state’s repeal of its capital punishment law in 2019.

Paul Raymond with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections told NHJournal the DOC had no record of Addison receiving the ARP COVID relief funds. However, he also said New Hampshire allows prisoners like Addison to maintain bank accounts outside the DOC system, and it’s possible the funds could have gone there.

In a sense, this story isn’t news. The day the Senate voted down the amendment blocking these funds, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, murdered three people and terrorized a city. He’ll be getting a $1,400 stimulus check as part of the Democrats’ ‘COVID relief’ bill.”

The left-leaning Washington Post claimed at the time this statement was untrue and gave it ‘Two Pinocchios” in its fact-checking section. After the news of Tsarnaev’s payment last week, the Post acknowledged Cotton was correct and amended their reporting.

 

 

GOP House Kicks Off 2022 With Big Redistricting Win

MANCHESTER — House Republicans notched a big win Wednesday on the first day of the legislative year, passing the redistricting bill that gives them an edge in the 1st Congressional District currently held by U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas.

“It’s the biggest thing that matters,” said state Rep. Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, vice-chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting.

The new map moves 75 towns from one district to another and makes the 1st District favorable to Republicans. It also makes the 2nd Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, more favorable to Democrats.

Rep. Ross Berry, R-Manchester, a member of the House Special Committee on Redistricting, said making one Republican and one Democratic district in the state is the right thing to do for voters.

“I think it was the right thing to do, we’re making two districts that are competitive,” he said.

House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, said the committee ought to be congratulated on the hard work the members did in order to generate the bill, including holding 10 pubic sessions, one in every county.

“They made transparency and open dialogue a priority throughout these sessions by being present in person and live streaming every public meeting. They included public testimony as part of the decision-making process, as well as an online map and testimony submissions.”

Democrats like Nashua Rep. Manny Espitia decried the map as an example of “partisan gerrymandering” and accused Republicans of gaming the system to their advantage. Rep. Paul Bergeron, D-Nashua, said the Republicans on the committee ignored the will of the people when they drew the new districts.

“Granite Staters gave clear direction requesting compact House districts that keep cities together and that local representation be provided to communities. It is a shame that community interests have been ignored in favor of blind partisanship,” Bergeron said in a statement.

Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, said the redistricting bill that was passed on Wednesday is laughable.

It is extremely disappointing to see the New Hampshire GOP reject that public input, choosing to draw laughably gerrymandered districts instead.  We will no longer be able to brag about doing it ‘the New Hampshire way’ if these districts pass into law, as the Granite State will have become just another state that favors partisanship over community interests,” Smith said. 

Berry rebutted Democrats’ claims about “fair maps” with a bit of math:

“While the minority of the committee speaks of fairness of the current districts, they have won 90 percent of the contests under the current map,” he said from the floor. There have been five congressional elections in each of the two districts since the maps were re-drawn after the 2010 Census. Democrats won them all except Rep. Frank Guinta’s 2014 win in the 1st district amid a national GOP surge.

The vote totals for the redistricting bill and amendments ended up being close in some cases, and there there was an effort to delay voting in order to allow members not present on Wednesday to vote on Thursday or Friday. 

It’s not clear if the Democrats could have overcome the votes even if they had all their members present. Republicans had both the majority and the desire to win, according to Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry.

“Republicans are together on redistricting,” Baldasaro said.

Democrats began Wednesday’s session by yet again expressing their concerns over meeting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, even in the 30,000 square-foot space at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester. Republicans responded that most working Granite Staters were on the job and in person, and there was no reason House members couldn’t meet in such a large, well-ventilated space.

There were attendance issues, but they were a result of ice-covered roadways in parts of the state, not the virus. State police said icy conditions on roads in central and southern New Hampshire Wednesday morning were responsible for at least 80 crashes in five hours.

Sources tell NHJournal the House GOP leadership was uncertain about whether to “special order” the vote on the newly-drawn maps on Wednesday. But after seeing a solid Republican margin throughout the morning, the decision was made to bring them to the floor. A minor rebellion by a handful of Republicans nearly tabled the vote on the new state House district map, but Speaker Packard cast the tying vote to keep the motion from passing.

With the big win early, the trick for the GOP is to make no unforced errors for the rest of the legislative session. The party got a black eye nationally over a few members engaging in vaccine conspiracy theories last year, among other controversies. There are still bills coming up for a vote on vaccine mandates, bail reform, and abortion. Rep. Dan Eaton, D-Stoddard, said the GOP is likely to trip itself up without any help from his fellow Democrats.

“I don’t think they can resist the urge, and I don’t think they need us to throw bait,” Eaton said. “They have their own folks who can’t resist the temptation to shoot themselves in the foot.”

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.

 

Anti-Vax Protestors Target NH House Majority Leader’s Private Home

A small band of anti-vaccine mandate protestors brought their message to Republican House Majority Leader Jason Osborne’s home on a quiet Auburn cul-de-sac Sunday afternoon, just days after nine people were arrested for repeatedly interrupting an Executive Council meeting in Concord.

Dozens of cars and trucks draped with American and Gadsden flags drove around outside Osborne’s residence, blaring horns and playing loud siren-style sounds.

Some protesters mistakenly believed they were protesting the home of the Speaker of the House. That post is held by Rep. Sherman Packard of Londonderry.

“Outside of Speaker of the House (sic) Osborne’s residence in Auburn,” one protestor said in a video posted online. “Lot goin’ on right now, lot goin’ on.”

At issue is a $27 million grant from the federal government designed to help boost vaccination rates and the nine people arrested last week protesting against that funding. On Wednesday, New Hampshire became the only state in the union to refuse the federal funds.

While Gov. Chris Sununu publicly admonished the Republican-led Executive Council for declining the federal giveaway, Osborne has consistently been an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates. When New Hampshire Democrats publicly decried the council’s 4-1 vote to refuse the funds, Osborne released a statement mocking them.

“The Democrats’ fustian can only be reconciled within the context of blind authoritarian indoctrination. It is ironic that these representatives have claimed to not want to invade people’s privacy, but openly advocate for policies to force employees to be vaccinated or lose their job,” Osborne wrote.

“Whether it is using blatant coercion or threatening to monitor your bank accounts for transactions over $600, the Democrat Party has made it evident that there is no limit to how many of your liberties that they intend to trample on when given the opportunity.”

So, why were vaccination and mandate opponents protesting his house?

“Jason is compromised and is now the target,” wrote a participant on the RebuildNH Telegram chat group. “He is not for the freedom people of New Hampshire unless he calls for the resignation or impeachment of Sununu immediately.”

“And, Jason’s address is public record!”

The claim, according to this user, is that Osborne said the nine people arrested at the Executive Council meeting “probably deserved it,” and “should have been locked up a long time ago.” Others complained the Majority Leader had allegedly called the more aggressive protesters “a-holes.”

“The safety commissioner told me the arrestees disrupted the meeting,” Osborne wrote in a Facebook thread. “I have no reason to not believe him. Luckily for us all, I am not a judge and this is not a court. The truth will come out.”

The RebuildNH organization is viewed as a fringe group of extremists outside the political mainstream, opposing a vaccine taken by nearly 80 percent of voting-age Granite Staters. In addition to helping organize the Executive Council protest at which state employees were threatened and had to be walked to their cars by law enforcement, they’re repeatedly — and falsely — claimed the vaccine has killed more than 15,000 people in the U.S. Their source is the same as the bizarre “Vaccine Death Report” document distributed by Rep. Ken Weyler (R-Kingston), a conspiracy-theory manifesto that posited a secret papal plot for world control and the existence of “creatures with tentacles” in the vaccine.

Protesting private homes has become more common on both political extremes. Progressives have protested outside the private homes of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Democrat Sens. Krysten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.V.). Sununu’s home and neighborhood have repeatedly been targeted by RebuildNH activists and their allies.

Osborne tells NHJournal he’s unimpressed.

“I am just glad my neighbors were so busy watching the Pats game that they couldn’t be bothered by the distraction,” the Majority Leader said. “Perhaps if these folk do not wish to be called ‘a-holes,’ they should stop acting like ‘a-holes,’ showing up to homes blaring sirens and screaming profanities through a bullhorn.”

 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The reference to a RebuildNH Telegram conversation has been clarified from the original version of the article. The person making claims about Osborne may or may not have been an actual member of RebuildNH.

 

Sununu Unloads on Executive Councilors After Vaccine Vote

Gov. Chris Sununu took direct aim at his fellow Republicans on the Executive Committee the day after they voted down federal COVID-19 funding, calling their actions uninformed and irrational.

During a Thursday morning interview on WGIR radio, Sununu singled out Executive Councilors Joseph Kenney and David Wheeler by name, saying they live in a “bizarro world” of conspiracy and misinformation.

“You don’t even know how to argue it at some point because logic has left the building,” Sununu said. “They are listening to social media nonsense and misinformation, and there is zero rational argument.”

Sununu also mocked their claims to be “quote-unquote conservatives” after their proposal the state order private businesses to stop requiring vaccines for their employees.

“That’s what Communist Russia does,” Sununu said.

Sununu also called out Wheeler for claiming the U.S. Constitution guarantees every person a job and for suggesting the state track down every person who has had COVID-19.

“When people start waving the flag and Constitution but clearly have never read the Constitution, it can be a little frustrating,” Sununu said. “These are not conservative values, these are not Constitutional values, it’s emotional nonsense.”

Wheeler did not respond to requests for comment, but Kenney told NHJournal he disputed Sununu’s take on the vote, saying he is concerned about people losing their jobs because of President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

“I totally disagree with the governor and I think he is out of touch with working men and women of this state, many who have lost their jobs because of employment vaccine mandates,” Kenney said.

The federal vaccine mandate on private companies, which Sununu has vowed to challenge in court, has not gone into effect. Biden announced on September 9 he was instructing the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to use its emergency powers to force every employer with 100 or more workers to require the vaccine or impose weekly testing. OSHA’s rules still have not been finalized, and many legal experts believe the courts will almost certainly shoot them down.

Still, many private businesses are requiring vaccines on their own, like the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system where 99 percent of employees are currently in compliance.

Kenney did not have hard figures on how many people have lost their jobs in New Hampshire because of mandates, but he said 16 hospital staffers in the North Country recently walked off the job because of them.

Sununu blames much of the turmoil on anti-government Free Staters who tried to impeach him for using executive orders during the pandemic. The same group now wants him to use executive orders to interfere with private companies over vaccine mandates, he said.

State Police arrested nine people Wednesday during the Executive Council meeting for allegedly disrupting the meeting.

When asked, Sununu would not commit to campaigning for Wheeler and Kenney next year.