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Cops Called as NHGOP Candidate, Supporters Attacked on Campaign Trail

The violent attack on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home has raised the profile of political violence. But GOP state Senate candidate Lou Gargiulo says he and his supporters have been dealing with it for days — including incidents that required police involvement.

Gargiulo, a Hampton Falls businessman, is running for the District 24 seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Sherman, (D-Rye.) He is squaring off with outspoken progressive Rep. Deb Altschiller (D-Stratham) in this Seacoast district.

And while he knows the old adage that “politics ain’t beanbag,” Gargiulo says it is getting rough on the campaign trail.

“There’s an extraordinary amount of hostility from some people,” he told NH Journal.

In recent days, Gargiulo’s supporters in Seabrook had a truck driver attempt to swerve into their group twice before he got out of his vehicle looking for a physical confrontation.

“That’s beyond the norm,” Gargiulo said.

Over the weekend, Gargiulo had an iced coffee thrown at him. His wife had a power tool battery thrown at her.

“If that hit her in the head it could have killed her,” he said.

There is always some tension in the closing days of a political campaign, Gargiulo said, but this cycle has seen those sentiments ratcheted up several notches. It is not just that people stop and scream profanities and make obscene hand gestures, he said. People are screaming and making those gestures while they have children in their car and some of the screamers are elderly women, he noted.

“I’ve been screamed at by women in their 70s and 80s,” he said. “There’s no filter anymore.”

Gargiulo says Altschiller has been silent as he and his supporters have been subjected to this harassing and violent treatment.

“My opponent has not said anything,” he said. “This behavior is beyond the pale.”

Altschiller did not respond to a request for comment.

Gargiulo said the driver first drove up to a group of about 10 to 12 of his supporters holding campaign signs and swerved at the group. After driving past them, he turned his truck around and veered toward them a second time, Gargiulo said. The driver then pulled over, got out of his car, and started looking for an altercation.

“He wanted to get into a fistfight,” Gargiulo said.

After that scary situation was diffused, police were called about the matter. Seabrook Police did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.

On Sunday, after his wife was nearly pelted with the power tool battery, Gargiulo contacted the police himself. Rye Police Chief Kevin Walsh said officers are investigating the battery incident.

Gargiulo sees the partisan divide becoming sharper as Democrats sense the coming election is likely to be a tough one for their time. 

“They can feel they are on the brink of a huge red wave and mentally they cannot handle it,” he said.

Gargiulo said Democrats are seeing their election message centered on abortion rights falling flat, and they have only themselves to blame. Granite Staters are worried about record inflation driving up costs at the grocery store and making it hard to heat their homes this coming winter.

“I see hostility, I see anger, it’s because they are not prepared to lose,” Gargiulo said.

In the wake of the attack on Paul Pelosi, Democrats and their allies in the media have tried to argue that GOP messaging is promoting political violence. In particular, they point to Republicans like First Congressional District Republican Karoline Leavitt who say they doubt the outcome of the 2020 election.

Republicans respond by noting the repeated acts of violence targeting people on the right, from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to more than 100 crisis pregnancy centers over the past six months, to the shooting at a Republican congressional baseball team practice that injured six.

While there are always disagreements surrounding politics, even in a quiet community like Rye, Walsh says has not seen this level of anger before. Walsh said the tenor current of political discourse is discouraging.

“It’s America, you can use your words and voice your opinion,” the police chief said. “The component we’re missing is you’re supposed to respect each other. My parents brought me up that you’re supposed to respect that people have different viewpoints.”

Neil Levesque, executive director at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, told Jack Heath that St. Anselm College is releasing a new poll Tuesday night, and the early numbers show “independents are breaking toward Republicans.”

“It’s trouble at the end [for Democrats] because inflation is the issue that’s swaying these independent voters toward Republicans,” Levesque told Heath.

Will Energy Policy Politics (Finally) Heat Up in New Hampshire?

The U.S. government just told American households should expect to see their heating bills jump as much as 54 percent over last winter.

The many Granite Staters who rely on heating oil and propane could wind up spending $500 more to heat their homes this year, it reported.

Here in New Hampshire, a state that already pays the fifth-highest electricity prices in the continental U.S., the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) announced an overall bill increase for most residential members of about 17 percent starting next month.

New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocates Donald M. Kreis says “Your electric and natural gas bills are about to go up, substantially, and you are not going to be happy about it.”

State Rep. Michael Harrington (R-Stafford) a former member of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) agrees. “Regrettably, Don is correct. Rates are going way up this winter,” he told NHJournal.

And that’s on top of a 30 percent surge in the cost of gasoline in the past year, from $2/gallon to around $3.10.

That’s a lot of economic pain, which would traditionally mean an opportunity for political gain. So, why aren’t any New Hampshire politicians talking about energy prices?

It’s not hard to make the case that New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is on the wrong side of the issue. The top reason for rising prices is the lack of access to natural gas, and New Hampshire’s federal legislators are supporting policies to restrict natural gas production.

“In New England, most of our electricity is produced by burning natural gas,” Kreis notes, observing that on a typical day, “56 percent of the electricity in New England was being produced by natural gas generators.  So when the price of natural gas goes up, our electricity rates increase as well.”

That is certainly the case for co-op customers. “Natural gas and electricity prices in New England are closely linked,” said Brian Callnan, NHEC Vice President of Power Resources & Access. “As the price of natural gas has risen over the past several months, so has the cost to purchase electricity to serve our members.”

Natural gas prices are soaring in part because we had a relatively warm summer. Gas that would have been stored for the winter was used to generate electricity for AC. But they’re also rising because global demand is surging, while the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are discouraging natural gas production and transportation.

Pipeline politics are popular among Democrats. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. In July, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced they were canceling the Atlantic Coast pipeline due to “legal uncertainty” in the face of repeated challenges from progressive pipeline opponents. And the plug was pulled on the PennEast pipeline just months after winning a major victory before the Supreme Court for similar reasons.

Then there are the restrictions on production. “Under the Biden administration, no new drilling has been allowed on federal lands,” Harrington says. “Remember, the Bureau of Land Management owns about 10 percent of the land west of the Mississippi River. So over the past eight months, existing wells have closed, as all wells do eventually. But unlike last year, new ones didn’t open. As this continues, prices for natural gas will continue to go up.”

If this looks like a perfect storm of pain for energy customers, the forecast is actually worse. The Build Back Better plan backed by Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen includes huge increases in energy costs for consumers, according to analysts. A big one is the $150 billion “Clean Electricity Performance Program,” which will raise costs on utilities that don’t increase their level of carbon-free electricity each year.

That, in turn, will force Granite State utilities into price competition for that in-demand power and costs are all but certain to rise — thanks to policies pushed by Democrats. Those policies can be defended as part of the fight against climate change, but it’s hard to argue they aren’t adding to consumers’ costs.

If you’re a member of Congress running for re-election, this is not an argument you want to have. And in the past, Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, along with Hassan and Shaheen, have largely been able to avoid the most extreme green politics in their party. The “Green New Deal” resolution in the House has more than 1oo cosponsors, but none of them are for New Hampshire. Hassan and Shaheen have repeatedly refused to take a position on the legislation, either.

But if the expensive green policies currently in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill are still there when Democrats pass the bill, the Granite State’s delegation will have no place to hide.


GOP Insiders Warn Dems Over Secretary Of State Vote: Your Partisan Today, Ours Tomorrow

“If Democrats pick Colin Van Ostern today, they are voting to elect Secretary of State [Bill] O’Brien tomorrow.”

That’s the warning of one longtime New Hampshire politico to regarding Tuesday’s legislative vote for Secretary of State. Once Democrats turn the job into a plum gig for loyal partisans, it will never go back.

This is the sentiment many NH political activists and observers expressed to NHJournal as the Secretary of State election approaches.

“I hate to be alarmist, but I really believe that if New Hampshire loses its place as the ‘First in the Nation’ primary, America loses something. And if New Hampshire loses our reputation for having an even-handed, non-partisan Secretary of State, we will be in real danger of losing that primary.”

So says political consultant Josh McElveen, who has been pointing out the dangers posed by Colin Van Ostern’s openly-partisan advocacy for the office. He’s organizing a rally on Monday morning at 10:30am outside the LLB in Concord to remind legislators of what is at stake.

“If we have a Secretary of State with a partisan agenda, one who’s raised more than $250,000 dollars from partisan sources—people who gave that money with some sort of expectations—those outside of New Hampshire who want to take away our ‘First in the Nation’ status will use that against us,” McElveen told NHJournal.

Many Democrats reject the argument that electing Van Ostern in any way endangers New Hampshire’s place on the primary calendar. “Gardner did not create NH’s reputation as a state where anyone can run for President and launch a national campaign,” former New Hampshire state rep and outspoken Democratic activist Judy Reardon tweeted. “See primaries before he became SoS – 1968 (McCarthy) and 1972 (McGovern) for example.”

But the argument against Van Ostern isn’t that he’s a Democrat—Gardner is, too. Instead, the concern is over the fact that Van Ostern is a partisan political activist who was his party’s nominee for governor in 2016 and is widely expected to run for elective office in the future.

“I have kept my pledge not to use this office as a stepping stone. I’ve never run for office and I never would,” Secretary Gardner told NHJournal. “My opponent has only pledged not to run ‘in 2020.’”

At the Union-Leader, Kevin Landrigan reminds readers that Van Ostern began his campaign for the Secretary of State’s job with a pledge to “do everything in my power to help elect a legislative majority in support of [his] platform. I intend to recruit and campaign and raise money for these candidates,” Van Ostern said at the time.

He soon backed away from that pledge, but as Landrigan reports, his allies and former aides stepped up and money flowed to Democratic legislative candidates, anyway. This is hardly a surprise given Van Ostern’s background as a political operative.

Notably absent are New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate Democrats, neither of whom have endorsed Van Ostern for Secretary of State despite supporting his previous candidacies.

“This is a matter for the Legislature to decide,” Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement, while a spokesperson for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office simply said she “is not getting involved in the race.”

“If the Secretary of State’s job devolves into a partisan political office with partisan practices like fundraising and campaigning, it will never go back,” McElveen said.

A Republican state house insider had a similar message for NHJournal: “How many times have the Democrats had control of the legislature? Something like less than 10% of the last 100 years. A vote for Van Ostern now is a vote for a hardcore conservative in 2020 when the GOP takes over the legislature.”

And another GOP activist put it even more bluntly: “They have no idea what they’re going to unleash. What—do they think we’re going to watch them elect someone like Van Ostern, and then when we take back the House, we’ll bring Billy [Gardner] out of retirement?”

A GOP majority in 2020 is hardly a certainty. What is all but certain, however, is that there will be a Republican legislative majority in the New Hampshire General Court again. And if history is any guide, in the near future.

Democrats may want to keep that in mind as they cast their votes on Tuesday.