AFP-NH Gears Up for Busy Election Season
As many Granite Staters are thinking of Christmas presents and eggnog, our resident politicos are gearing up for a busy campaign season. With a January 10th New Hampshire Primary and then a top-tier governor’s race, not to mention hundreds of state legislative seats up for grabs after a 2010 wave election, there will be plenty to keep groups like Americans for Prosperity ready.
NH Journal spoke to Corey Lewandowski, who serves as the Executive Director for AFP’s New Hampshire chapter, about two events the group sponsored last week, and what lies ahead for 2012.
On Wednesday, AFP-NH sponsored a rally outside the State House in support of the right-to-work legislation, which if passed would prevent workers from being forced to join a union. The bill initially passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Lynch and was up for a veto override vote in the House. Lewandowski estimated that 150-200 attended the rally on the day of the vote, which he stated was “at least even with the number of union members that were there.”
Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman were both scheduled to speak to the assembled legislators that morning; Lewandowski said that both were invited to speak to the assembled right-to-work supporters but declined due to scheduling conflicts.
“We were very happy with the results of the people that came to the State House to show their support [for right-to-work legislation],” said Lewandowski, “we were more disappointed with the results of the vote in the legislature.” The House vote fell short of the majority needed to override the governor’s veto. Lewandowski, however, expresses optimism that the issue will be revisited in 2013 – under what he hopes will be a Republican governor.
Early State Examination
On Thursday, AFP hosted an event in Washington that explored the controversies surrounding the early primary schedule. The event, billed as an “Early State Examination” featured panelists including pollster Glen Bolger, Politico Senior Editor David Mark, and FairVote Director Rob Richie, took place at American University and focused on Iowa and New Hampshire’s influential role in selecting and vetting presidential candidates.
“I was there to defend New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation status,” said Lewandowski of his role at the conference, “Obviously we’ve had a long history of being the first in the nation. Bill Clinton…was the first President elected without winning the New Hampshire Primary since 1952.”
“I had to go down there and make sure people understand that New Hampshire is the right place to have a First-in-the-Nation Primary, and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep that in our possession,” he continued.
Lewandowski said that Bolger, a Republican pollster with Public Opinion Strategies, emphasized that candidates who fail to win either Iowa or New Hampshire stand a very reduced chance of maintaining the momentum necessary to propel them to their party’s nominating convention. Lewandowski cited the example of Rudy Giuliani, whose once-promising candidacy ended early in the 2008 cycle due to his decision to forego competing in Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on Florida.
A key item up for discussion at the event was a proposed “regional primary” where the early primary spot would rotate to a different state every election cycle. Another proposed solution that got airtime was the notion that the political party organizations should have a greater role in determining the early contest schedule. Lewandowski, for his part, dismissed both ideas as power grabs by other states that are often “jealous” of New Hampshire’s historic favored status.
“The people of New Hampshire take their responsibility very seriously…they’re accustomed to doing it, the media market in New Hampshire is one that does not dictate that the wealthiest candidate or the candidate that spends the most money will necessarily be the nominee, and the retail politics side of things – if New Hampshire were to be removed – would also be removed.”
So, how can we expect to see AFP-NH’s approximately 25,000 members in action during the upcoming election cycle? Lewandowski states that AFP does not engage in electioneering, but rather focuses on educating its members and other voters on the organization’s top issues, which center around lower taxes and smaller government.
At the state level, AFP-NH will focus on continuing support for right-to-work legislation, as well as supporting so-called “supermajority legislation” that would require a 60 percent majority to pass any tax or fee increase and will likely take the form of a Constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot.
AFP-NH also plans to reintroduce its well-known candidate pledge and grading system. Candidates for the state legislature are asked to pledge to oppose any tax or fee increases and work to decrease the size of the government. Lewandowski notes that the 2012 version of the pledge will likely include support for right-to-work. Candidates are then graded on a scale of A+ to F based upon their positions of AFP’s target issues.
Lewandowski states that while about 75 percent of AFP-backed candidates won their seats in the historic 2010 wave election, he expects the pendulum to swing back in the upcoming election. “Statistically, in the state of New Hampshire, its going to be impossible to keep the supermajorities which the Republicans current enjoy,” he says, predicting that the Republicans will hold on to between 250 and 260 House seats as opposed to their current 294, and that the Democrats will win back several seats in the State Senate.
When it comes to the Presidential candidates, AFP will avoid making an endorsement of any kind during the Primary election, but when the nomination process is completed for both parties in August, the organization will do a side-by-side comparison where the two candidates will receive scores on AFP’s top issues.
After a banner 2010 election cycle, Lewandowski seems determined to keep his anti-tax powerhouse relevant and make AFP and increasingly powerful player in Granite State politics and policymaking. With 25,000 members and a recent track record of success, New Hampshire observers will surely be keeping their eye on AFP’s agenda and accomplishments.