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DeSantis All-in for First-In-The-Nation Primary

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is running hard into the New Hampshire GOP presidential primary, saying he will compete in the First-in-the-Nation state while also running an all-out campaign in Iowa.

“We’re all-in on all the early states,” DeSantis said Thursday.

And, the Florida governor demonstrated he is also all-in when it comes to taking on Trump directly, hammering the former president over his praise for Hezbollah in the wake of attacks on Israel.

 DeSantis took shots at Trump’s criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and praise for the terrorist group Hezbollah —  in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attack. 

“Now is not the time to do what Donald Trump did by attacking Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, attacking Israel’s defense minister, saying that somehow Hezbollah were very smart. Now’s not the time to air personal grievances about an Israeli prime minister; now’s the time to support their right to defend themselves to the hilt,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday.

And, DeSantis added, in a time of international crisis, he is ready to lead — unlike President Joe Biden. “You’ve got to take that 2 a.m. phone call; you can’t be sleeping like this president did,” he said.

Biden’s administration is mistaken in thinking it can deal with Iran, which has been using Hamas and Hezbollah as proxies to wage war on Israel, DeSantis said. America needs to support Israel’s efforts to eliminate Hamas, starting by cutting funds for Iran.

“(Israel) needs to uproot and eliminate the entire Hamas network and Hamas members,” he said.

Hundreds of supporters and dozens of media members packed into Secretary of State David Scanlan’s office to watch DeSantis file his nomination papers and gladhand with State House staff afterward. 

DeSantis sat with New Hampshire reporters to make his case for the nomination after filing. In a crowded Republican field, DeSantis said he is the only candidate ready to be president on day one.

“If you want a change from Trump, I think I’m the best leader, and I give you the best chance to do well,” he said. “I’ve delivered  more for Republicans, conservative ideas, America First principles than anybody running.”

Trump is facing multiple criminal indictments and, because of that, is unable to focus on the job, DeSantis said. Trump would also be a lame-duck president, only able to serve one term if he were to get reelected.

“I don’t know how, as a lame duck president, with all the stuff he’s dealing with, he can get done what we need to get done.

“A Trump nomination guarantees the next election will be all about Trump, his court cases, his grievances, and his controversies. This sets up Democrats for an easy campaign,” DeSantis said.

“It wouldn’t be about the issues people are concerned about, and it would give the Democrats a huge advantage,” DeSantis added.

While he consistently comes up short of Trump in polling data, usually in second or third place, DeSantis said he is confident he will pick up support closer to the primary. Polls don’t capture the whole picture of the race, he said.

“If you look at the favorability ratings I’ve had, I’m one of the most well-liked Republicans in the country,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis was an early favorite for many Republicans who want to turn the page on Trump, and as a result, he has taken heat from Democrats, Republicans, and the media. 

“I’ve been attacked more than all the other candidates,” DeSantis said.

Minds will start to change once voters can see him up close and learn about his record as governor, he said. He said how he dealt with the COVID crisis, hurricanes, Black Lives Matter protests, and other events showed he is ready and able to lead.

“We showed our mettle when it was called for,” he said. 

Longtime Dem Marchand Busted by AG for Bogus Campaign Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Chris Sununu Joe Biden’s favorite Republican?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music to Democrats’ ears, Republicans say.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOP Votes To Ban Private Businesses, Churches From Requiring Employee Vaccines

After months of vocal opposition to government-imposed vaccine mandates on private businesses, Republicans on the state House Education Committee passed one of their own. They approved an amendment banning any “entity” — including private businesses — from requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Education Committee passed HB255 in the name of medical freedom,” said House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry). “Employers are struggling to fill vacancies, gas and food prices are rising, and chaos reigns at the border – the president has shown his ineptitude to lead. He has instead chosen to rule by mandates. That is not the New Hampshire way – and today’s small victory proved that.”

If the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate goes into effect — it’s currently being challenged in court — it will supersede New Hampshire law. House GOP leadership acknowledged Tuesday’s vote was to send a message, not set policy.

“I applaud the members of the Education Committee who took this amendment up today and did the right thing for New Hampshire,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Jason Osborne (R-Auburn). “While it is my hope that the president pays attention to the message we sent him on the heels of his visit today, I will not hold my breath. I look forward to passing this bill at our first opportunity when it comes before the House in January.”

Critics noted the irony of calling a measure that forbids private business owners from setting their own vaccine policy a “medical freedom” bill.

Gov. Chris Sununu opposed the move for the same reason his administration is suing to stop the Biden administration from imposing vaccine mandates.

“As the governor has repeatedly said, he is opposed to the government either prohibiting or mandating vaccines on private businesses,” Sununu spokesman Ben Vihstadt told the New Hampshire Bulletin when asked about the House Education Committee’s bill. 

Democrats, many of whom also believe government should have the power to decide the vaccine policies of private businesses, dismissed the legislation as a “political stunt.”

“Republican leadership hand-picked the vote, permanently removing from the committee the one Republican member who may oppose this absurd proposal,” said Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton. “This political stunt should be a concern to everyone. The House Speaker’s decision to gerrymander the proceeding is a disgrace.”

Luneau is referring to Pittsfield Republican Jim Allard, who was removed from the committee by Speaker Packard in advance of the vote.

Neither Packard nor Allard responded to requests for comment.

The regulation extends beyond businesses to cover “any political subdivision of the state, corporation, association, club, firm, daycare, public or private school, public or private institution of higher education, partnership, society, nonprofit, joint stock company, or any other entity, including any governmental entity or religious entity.”

Even churches would be banned by government edict from setting vaccine rules for their own clergy and employees.

Supporters of the legislation, including the anti-vaccine organization ReOpenNH, argued government force was required to prevent private businesses from imposing rules on their employees. Business groups pointed out employers impose rules on their employees all the time.

David Juvet with the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association said the state needs to leave those decisions up to private business owners.

“BIA staunchly opposes legislative proposals that would prohibit private employers from mandating vaccination for its workers should they want,” Juvet said. “Requiring vaccination is a safety measure to protect employees and customers and others who may visit the place of business. It’s not unlike other employer requirements from hard hats to hair nets and even dress codes.”

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, said the bill would make it harder for hospitals to keep patients safe.

“It would really hinder their ability to do what they need to do to protect the health and safety of staff and patients,” he said.

Ahnen said vaccines are mandated for a host of illnesses across the healthcare industry. While he doesn’t want to see anyone lose their jobs, hospitals need to be able to take care of the health of the patients and staff. The anti-mandate bill would impede that effort.

The libertarian New Hampshire Liberty Alliance also opposed the legislation. “While we support legislative efforts to mitigate the harm of the federally imposed mandates, this amendment negatively impacts freedom of association by restricting the actions of private entities who wish to require vaccination independent of federal mandates,” it posted on the group’s website in advance of Tuesday’s hearing.


NH Democrats Unified in Vote to Ban Guns from House Chamber

On their first day in session, New Hampshire House Democrats voted in lockstep to ban members from bringing “deadly weapons”–aka “firearms”– into the House chamber, overturning a pro-gun policy passed by a GOP majority four years ago. While pro-2A protesters filled the gallery and Republicans like Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) gave fiery speeches from the floor, Democrats said little, often declining to even answer questions.  Instead, they let their votes do the talking.

Democrats voted 220 to 163 for the gun ban, with the support of virtually every Democrat in attendance. (The House has a 233/167 split.)   An earlier motion to table the rule change failed by a nearly-identical margin, 221-164, with just three Democrats (Jeff Goley, Mark King and Peter Leishman) voting with the GOP to set the measure aside.

“This body has committed a grievous error that violates the constitutional rights of members of this historic body,” House Minority Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) said from the floor.

“This is simply a matter of public safety,” House Majority Leader Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey) said in a statement after the vote. “Allowing lawmakers and members of the public to bring their guns to the State House clearing increases the potential for an avertable tragic event. The amendment passed today restores common sense to our practices in the legislature.”

Perhaps more telling was this tweet from NH Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley several hours before the vote was even taken:

The outcome of the vote was hardly a surprise, but Buckley’s confidence is worth noting.  Holding virtually the entire caucus on an issue like gun rights–which are relatively popular in some of the traditionally-GOP seats Democrats picked up in November’s blue wave–is a sign of party unity that should concern the NHGOP.   Particularly given their own failure to unify behind several of Gov. Chris Sununu’s key issues when they had the majority last year, like fighting internet sales taxes and vetoing subsidies to biomass.

“But remember, Republicans were united today, too,” Stephen Stepanek told NHJournal after the vote. “We stuck together as a block, something we’ve got to continue to do in 2019.”  Stepanek, who is the front-runner to become the next chairman of the NHGOP, acknowledges that Republicans didn’t come through for Gov. Sununu and their own party last year.

“But I believe Republican legislators will stick together this session,” Stepanek said. “They have to. We need to stay together so voters can see the differences between Republicans and Democrats, so they can see that Democrats are chipping away at our basic rights, like the right to keep and bear arms.” Stepanek, a former House member himselfe, said that if elected chairman, he would use his position to promote party unity among the notoriously unruly members of the House GOP.

“If Republicans stick together, the Democrats will give us issues to run on –and win back the legislature with–in 2020,” Stepanek said. “Democrats are going to do stupid things.  They can’t help themselves.”

But is keeping legislators from carrying guns on the House floor really one of those “stupid things?” Do New Hampshire voters, who tell pollsters they support gun control measures like banning so-called “assault weapons” and limiting the size of gun magazines, really care about the right to legislate while armed?

“Anyone who says ‘I’m pro-Second-Amendment, but…’ isn’t really pro-2A,” a protester named Scott told NHJournal outside the House chamber. He declined to give his last name, was wearing a handgun on his belt a waved a sign reading “Ban Idiots, Not Guns.”

According to Joe Sweeney, spokesperson for the NHGOP, the party highlighted Wednesday’s vote to alert gun-rights advocates about the Democrats’ larger anti-gun agenda for the coming session.

“It’s a slippery slope,” he told NHJournal. “If you have members who will vote to take away rights from their fellow members of the House, who else will they vote to take away rights from? Today is mobilizing our people to be ready to fight in a month or so when more anti-gun bills come out.”

“This is the first day of a long two years,” Sweeney said.

NH Dems Say Lack of Gun Ban at State House Is Scaring Away School Children

As promised, newly-elected Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff began the process of banning guns from the House chamber Wednesday morning with a 6-4 vote by the Rules Committee to amend house rules to prohibit the carrying of firearms in Representatives’ Hall.  And, as is often the case, Democrats say they’re doing it “for the children.”

While he acknowledged the existing policy of allowing armed citizens and legislators into the House chamber has never created a problem, Shurtleff says he’s concerned about school kids.   “In addition to being the place we make laws, it’s also a classroom. We have fourth graders coming in to view us in session and I think like any classroom we don’t want firearms present,” Shurtleff said.

Democratic State Rep. Lucy Weber took the argument a step farther during the Rules Committee debate. “There has been a chilling effect on willingness of schools to send their kids here,” Rep. Weber claimed.

Rep. Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack), leader of the GOP House minority, pushed back against that claim, saying it is “unfair and inaccurate to say that fourth graders have been in any way impacted by this. I have not seen any school grade that has felt inhibited about coming for a school tour,” the Union-Leader reports.

Hinch also objected to the ban in general, saying in a statement that “by removing this basic right, we are effectively making the chamber a gun-free zone and less safe environment for our colleagues.”

Since a GOP-controlled House first revoked the ban in 2011, House rules on the matter have changed along with changes in party control of the legislature.   In addition to turning the House chamber into a gun-free zone, Shurtleff told NHPR that, if the gun ban went into effect, he would ask the Department of Safety to increase the State Police presence at House Chamber.

The response to the committee vote from Republicans and Second Amendment supporters was immediate.  “The ink is barely dry on their oaths of office and they’re already trampling the constitution,” former state representative JR Hoell of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition told NHJournal.

“This is the Democrats’ first shot fired in their battle against the Second Amendment. The most important aspect of this vote is that they are telling us they don’t trust their fellow legislators to have firearms. If that’s how they feel about their fellow politicians, how do you think they feel about the rest of us,” Hoell asked. “Their next step is to ban [the rights of] citizens.”

And a tweet from the NHGOP noted the irony of Speaker Shurteff taking away guns from law-abiding citizens then asking for more police protection: “Think about this logically. The @NHDems want extra protection when they ban guns around them, conceding they keep people safe. Is Speaker Shurtleff going to ask for extra protection when he walks around town, too?”

Former Speaker Bill O’Brien, who led the GOP’s first successful effort to repeal the ban, told NHJournal that suggestions about children being too scared to come to the state house were laughable.  “The number of children visiting the State House hasn’t changed at all over the years, with or without the ban.  What we have here is an exercise in virtue signaling,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien agrees with his fellow Republicans who are concerned about anti-Second Amendment activism from the new Democratic majority in Concord. “Democratic legislators will be playing to their base, not serving the people of New Hampshire,” he told NHJournal.  “They’ve got to show [anti-gun billionaires] Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer that all the money they sent up here wasn’t wasted.”

“My friends in the pro-2A [Second Amendment] community are telling me that, from their perspective, nothing the Democrats might try next would surprise them.”

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.

For Republicans In 2018, The Kids Are NOT Alright

A new poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics has a lot of news about young voters, Republicans and the 2018 midterm elections—none of it good.

First the bad news: According to the IOP’s Spring 2018 IOP National Youth Poll, voters under the age of 30 really don’t like Republicans in general and President Trump in particular. Things were bad for Republicans  last fall when 65 percent of young voters wanted Democrats controlling Congress, and just 33 percent picked the GOP—a 32 percent Democratic advantage.

Believe it or not, that number has actually gotten worse. In the IOP’s new poll, the GOP now trails Democrats by 42 percent, 69-28, when it comes to partisan preference among young voters.

The same with President Trump, whose dismal approval rating among young voters a year ago (32 percent) is now down to an abysmal 25 percent. To put that number into context, President Nixon’s overall approval rating when he resigned was 24 percent.

Republican partisans tend to dismiss bad poll numbers from the under-30 set because of they don’t tend to turn out on Election Day, particularly for midterms like 2018.  Which is why the worst number for the GOP in this new poll may not be the depth of the partisan divide, but the height of the political passion.

The IOP poll found a record-high level of interest in voting in the November midterms.  “The percentage of young voters who say they definitely plan to vote this year is 37 percent,” said IOP’s Polling Director John Della Volpe.  “That’s 14 points higher than in 2014 when the GOP took control of the US Senate, and six points higher than the last wave election in 2010.”

“We’re seeing a voter intensity among young people unmatched in recent times, and it will only get hotter as the election nears,” Della Volpe said.

If that intensity holds up, the GOP’s chances of holding the House will be completely washed away.

Consider a state like New Hampshire, where Republican Gov. Chris Sununu won in 2016, a presidential year, by just 3 points. (He lost among young voters by 5 points, by the way).

In midterm elections, turnout among under-30 eligible voters in New Hampshire averages just 20.3 percent, according to research by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tuft University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. If 37 percent of young voters actually do turn out in New Hampshire this November, Sununu and the state GOP will be wiped out by a Democratic tidal wave.

Is it likely that youth voter turnout in the Granite State will nearly double over its average, from 20 up to 37 percent? Probably not. But even if it just goes up by 25 percent, Republicans like Sununu will struggle to hold onto office. Which may be why Tufts CIRCLE ranks Gov. Sununu as one of the 10 governors most vulnerable to the impact of young voters in 2018.

Then there’s the impact on congressional races.  If under-30 voters really do turn out as the IOP poll indicates, competitive districts like NH-1 (Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter isn’t seeking re-election) become an almost-certain lock for Democrats.

More bad news for Republicans. And once again—it gets worse.

The left-leaning Voter Participation Center tracks the voting behavior of demographic groups like Millennials, unmarried women, minorities, etc. and their influence on election outcomes.  Their most recent report found that this group, which includes voters under-30, makes up a smaller segment of the New Hampshire electorate than in any other state.

In other words, the Granite State may be as good as it gets for the GOP. And right now, it looks very, very bad.

NH Dem: Repealing Second Amendment “A Good Discussion To Have”

Is it time to repeal the Second Amendment?  Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging just that, and at least one New Hampshire Democrat thinks it’s worth considering.

Rep. Katherine Rogers (D-Merrimack) has long been active in the New Hampshire state house pushing gun control measures (she prefers the phrase “gun violence prevention”) and in an interview with the NH Journal, she said “it’s an interesting discussion that we should have.”

“I think that the United States Constitution is a living, breathing document and it’s always time to revisit and to look at our Constitution,” Rep. Rogers said.

“So I think having this discussions is good, and maybe the op-ed by Justice Stevens leads to a lot of interesting discussion. That’s a good thing. I don’t know if I’m ready to say let’s get rid of the Second Amendment, but I think it’s an interesting discussion for everybody to have,” Rogers said.

Jonathan Weinberg, one of the student leaders of the #MarchForOurLives rallies in New Hampshire singled out Rep. Rogers, along with state senator Martha Hennessey (D-Hanover), for supporting students’ efforts on gun control. Last week, students from the group presented a petition signed by several hundred area students to Gov. Sununu and the state senate urging the legislature to change state law and allow local school districts to declare their schools gun-free zones. The measure failed 14-9.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire GOP is following the lead of President Trump, seizing on the Stevens op-ed to urge gun-rights supporters to get involved in the 2018 elections.  Just hours after President Trump tweeted about Justice Stevens’ call for repeal (“NO WAY! We need more Republicans in 2018 ad must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!”) the NHGOP posted “,” featuring a video by party chairwoman Jeanie Forrester. In the video, she warns New Hampshire residents that “The Left is openly advocating the repeal of the Second Amendment…It’s unconscionable.” (See full video below)

Forrester demands elected Democrats like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Annie Kuster “must denounce this un-American threat to our liberties.”

For their part, Democrats don’t seem worried. Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley responded to the video by mocking the GOP.

Is welcoming a conversation about repealing the Second Amendment and mocking gun-owners concerns a sign that the New Hampshire Democratic Party is moving left on the gun issue, along with their national party?  Do they believe that gun control could be a winning issue in the Granite State?

“Oh, please,” says Republican Bill O’Brien, former Speaker of the NH House, “throw us in that briar patch!” O’Brien believes that even among Democratic voters, support for gun rights in New Hampshire is strong.

“We’re not afraid of guns here,” O’Brien to the NHJournal. “I don’t know who [the Democrats] are talking to with these messages—maybe the academic crowd, college students? Let them run on gun control and see how most voters react.”