By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
SATURDAY, JUNE 14: THE CANTOR LOSS, THE TESTERMAN EXIT. The exit of conservative leader Karen Testerman from the U.S. Senate race Friday was under discussion for some time.
But the timing couldn’t have been better. Not only did she step aside and back former Sen. Bob Smith on the final day of the filing period, but it was also just three days after conservatives nationwide were energized by U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking loss to college professor Dave Brat in that momentous Virginia GOP House primary Tuesday night.
Coincidental or not, the Cantor loss made the proverbial iron white hot, and the time was right to strike, to try to coalesce to take on front-runner Scott Brown, the moderate favorite of the state GOP establishment. While Testerman said Thursday that Jim Rubens was part of the discussion, she and Smith made it clear Friday that there couldn’t have been much of a serious discussion that included the former state senator.
Smith and Testerman said they do not consider Rubens a conservative, brushing aside as “shallow” his endorsement by the Republican Liberty Caucus and ignoring his backing by several individuals who are associated with the Tea Party in New Hampshire, such as Kevin McHugh , chairman of the New Hampshire Conservative Majority Project and Russ and Lydia Cumbee, Tea Party activists from Franconia. He announced those endorsements on Thursday.
Smith, even with Testerman and her backers with him, remains an underdog in the race, not only to Brown but also arguably to Rubens, at least at this point. It is now up to him and his backers to try to supplant Rubens as the leading alternative to Brown.
We’ll know in a few weeks if Smith has been able to raise a significant amount of money to challenge Rubens for that position. Rubens has pumped much of his own money into the race and now has the “Save America” super PAC as well as the RLC in his corner.
But Dave Brat had little money when he defeated Cantor. His victory energized the conservative movement nationally, and New Hampshire was no exception.
While Scott Brown is not an incumbent, he served time on Capitol Hill, representing Massachusetts, and is viewed by the conservative wing as “establishment.” His supporters say that’s nonsense, and that he has shown himself as an independent voice.
Whether Smith is the only “true conservative” in the race is a matter of opinion. Rubens and his backers would disagree.
Who will parlay the “Brat bounce” into a serious challenge of Brown for the GOP mantle?
Rubens called the Brat win “an air raid siren loud enough to be heard even through the Washington establishment’s tin ear…(Washington’s) river of campaign money will not defeat the candidate who has built the grassroots support.”
Smith called it “an ominous sign to Scott Brown, the central planners (his favorite term) and the establishment. The loss is a clear indication that when conservatives unite and stick to the principles of the Republican platform, we win. Money doesn’t vote and doesn’t guarantee an election victory.”
Even Brown found a silver lining in the Brat win. He said it is Jeanne Shaheen who should be worried because, his campaign manager wrote in a memo, supporting President Obama’s immigration policies (which Shaheen does and Brown does not) is a liability.”
The campaign manager, Colin Reed, wrote that a “political wave” favoring the GOP is building and Brown is “taking nothing for granted” and running a retail campaign (as Brat did).
The Brat effect on the 1st District U.S. House GOP primary race is a split decision.
Yes, Frank Guinta is a virtual, if not literal, incumbent. He has been backed by the House GOP establishment in the person of House Budget Committee chair and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Guinta served with Eric Cantor, and late last year, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy co-hosted a fundraiser for Guinta in Washington.
On the other hand, Guinta was elected in 2010 by identifying with the Tea Party and was defeated in 2012 when Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter identified him with the Tea Party.
His primary foe, Dan Innis, does not identify himself with the Tea Party, is openly gay and moderate on social issues. But, on the other hand, Innis is the out-spent outsider in this race.
The 2nd District GOP race is a contest between two fiscal conservatives, although Gary Lambert’s support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a state Senator has put him out of favor with some on the right and has earned him criticism from conservative outside groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which, while not endorsing in the campaign, is clearly favorable to Marilinda Garcia.
The “Brat bounce” could also be felt at the state Senate level, where several Republicans face primaries from conservatives and heat from conservative groups such as the AFP.
Last Wednesday, for instance, state Sens. David Boutin of Hooksett and Nancy Stiles of Hampton were hit with another mailer sent to their constituents by AFP. This one pointed out that each senator in 2010 signed the AFP pledge to “work tirelessly” to cut taxes and the size of government, but this year voted to increase the gasoline tax and in favor of Medicaid expansion.
The Brat bounce has provided energy for conservatives, but will it last? We won’t know for sure until Sept. 9.
FIRST EXPENDITURE REPORT. A new super PAC set up to help former state Sen. Jim Rubens win the New Hampshire U.S. Senate seat has filed its first independent expenditure report with the Federal Election Commission. The report shows that since the beginning of the month, it has spent $41,365.
The New Hampshire PAC to Save America, whose donors are not yet known, has paid $20,965 to Spectrum Marketing Companies of Manchester for direct mail services. A very positive pro-Rubens mailer went out this week calling him “an authentic conservative.”
It has also paid $12,000 to the Portsmouth digital marketing agency CatchFire Creative for Facebook and Google advertising and for “creative development” of an advertising campaign, according to its filing with the FEC.
The PAC has also paid $8,400 to CBS Outdoor for billboard advertising buys.
DEMS MEETING TODAY. More than 500 Democratic delegates from across the state are meeting this morning at Memorial High School in Manchester for the state party’s annual convention.
They are hearing from the top officeholders: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Gov.Maggie Hassan and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster, along with other elected officials.
Retiring Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen and House speaker Terie Norelli are being honored, and they, along with Hassan, will be honored for their work in bringing Medicaid expansion to the state.
This year’s Convention Co-Chairs are Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard and Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen.
The Burling Legislative Award and Anita and Norman Freedman Award will be presented and the party platform will be approved.
Among 31 resolutions to be voted on will be measures supporting Social Security and campaign finance reform, and commemorating the fifth anniversary of marriage equality.
IRONY? Sen. Shaheen this week voiced concern about the cost to the City of Portsmouth of cleaning up the contamination of the Haven Well at the Pease International Tradeport.
Shaheen also asked the Air Force to “conduct additional testing to insure that any private well in the vicinity is safe.”
Some Republicans with long memories pointed out that in 2001, when Shaheen was governor, she announced that the state was moving toward “the nation’s toughest standard for arsenic in drinking water.”
But two years later, a day care center located in a building and on land owned by Shaheen and her husband, Bill, in Madbury was cited by the state for exceeding the maximum allowable amount of arsenic in its water supply.
Records show the problem was corrected within a year, however.
SHAHEEN, CHICAGO AND AN “ENERGY TAX.” Sen. Shaheen’s stop in Chicago Friday for fund-raising stops presented a convenient opportunity for Scott Brown and the state Republican Party to again allege that the Democratic incumbent has backed a national energy tax – something Shaheen’s camp flatly denies.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, one of Shaheen’s fund-raising stops was an event hosted by the National Resources Defense Council Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters.
The state GOP pointed out that the LCV gave Shaheen a “pro-environment” grade for a vote last year against a Republican amendment that, the LCV said, would “prevent Congress from enacting legislation that would place a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions.
According to the LCV, “This amendment would limit Congress’s ability to address climate change, which poses a severe threat to our economy, health, and environment, and would rule out a promising source of revenue for the government.”
The Republicans have also cited Shaheen’s vote last year for an amendment to “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to ensuring that all revenue from a fee on carbon pollution is returned to the American people.” Before the amendment was voted on, its sponsor, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said it would “allow us to put a price on carbon.”
State GOP Chair Jennifer Horn said Shaheen “voted for legislation that was intended to establish a new national energy tax that would cost thousands of jobs and raise the price of power for New Hampshire ratepayers. Now she is fundraising with the same radical environmental groups who have praised her efforts to kill legislation that would have protected working families from this tax. This is just another example of Jeanne Shaheen’s willingness to vote with the liberal special interest groups that are bankrolling her campaign instead of standing up for her constituents.”
But the Shaheen camp has said she did not support an energy tax.
The NHGOP insisted she did.
“It’s laughable for her to deny supporting a national energy tax when she voted to establish one and thwarted efforts to block one,” said party spokesman Lauren Zelt. “It’s a desperate election year stunt designed to distract from her support for policies that will kill jobs and increase energy costs in New Hampshire.”
Added Brown campaign manager Colin Reed: “It’s deeply troubling that Senator Shaheen and her staff are so out-of-touch that they are no longer even aware of the bad votes she’s taking.”
DEM POLLING. A top Democratic pollster was in the field in New Hampshire Friday, asking questions about Sen. Shaheen, GOP challenger former Sen. Brown, key issues, and President Barack Obama.
The poll by Garin-Hart-Yang asked about environment issues, including a proposal to allow the Montreal-Portland Pipeline to carry oil from Canada, through New Hampshire, to Portland, Maine. Brown doesn’t back the idea, we’re told. Both Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte have questioned the proposal.
Questions also focused on the Affordable Care Act and Shaheen’s overall support for President Barack Obama, having voted in line with his positions 99 percent of the time.
While the pollster did not say who is paying for the poll, a good guess would be the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is listed on the Garin-Hart-Yang web site as a client.
GREGG AND RENDELL. Former U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg will make a rare public appearance in New Hampshire on Wednesday.
Republican Gregg will join former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell for an analysis of the nation’s debt at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
The program is expected to include a discussion of the implications for New Hampshire.
It is being sponsored by the NHIOP, the New Hampshire Forum on the Future, the Warren B. Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire, The Concord Coalition and Fix the Debt.
FOR THE LOVE OF POULTRY. The Republicans sent a guy dressed in a turkey costume to taunt Gov. Hassan at her reelection filing on Thursday about her upcoming trade mission to Turkey.
That’s fine, but when trackers videotaped the “turkey” confronting state Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, and Buckley alleging that he smelled alcohol on the turkey’s breath, it brought back memories of poultry and elections.
Back in 2004, when Buckley was challenging Ray Wieczorek for the District 4 Executive Council seat, we wrote that Buckley supporters delivered a frozen chicken to Wieczorek’s campaign offices in a spat over the logistics of a debate.
And old-timers remember the Chub Peabody chicken. The Democratic former Massachusetts governor sent a mock chicken (that looked a bit lot like the GOP turkey, come to think of it) to chide Warren Rudman at campaign stops for not debating him as often as he would have liked when made a quixotic run against Rudman in 1986.
_ Right Now Women PAC, devoted to getting Republican women elected, will hear from U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota at a fund-raiser June 26 in Manchester, also featuring Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
_ Having returned from Nevada where he was involved in the defense of rancher Clive Bundy, Rochester 9/12 leader Jerry DeLemus on Friday filed his candidacy for Sheriff of Strafford County, promising to be a “constitutional sheriff.”
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political columnist/reporter in New Hampshire. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column as news breaks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)