FRIDAY, JAN. 2: HAPPY 2015, NEW HAMPSHIRE. We’re off — off into a year when so many political questions will be raised and only some of them will be answered.
We’re off into another chaotic year – focusing on presidential politics on down to the State House, as: 1) the New Hampshire Primary campaign ramps up, and 2) the local New Hampshire political scene becomes rampant with speculation about the state campaigns that will come later.
Here are just some of the questions – some obvious, some not so obvious – we, and perhaps you, are asking as we head into 2015.
On the presidential primary front:
_ Who will be leading the polls a year from today, when there will be only about a month left until Election Day?
_ The national Republican and Democratic parties think they have ironed out the primary calendar to ensure there will be no rogue challenges to the early states (New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, South Caroline). Fat chance. The question is, which state(s) will inevitably try to jump the line, catapulting Secretary of State Bill Gardner into the national spotlight — still again?
_ Which candidate now viewed as a major likely contender won’t make it to the starting gate and won’t formally announce for President?
_ Will former Gov. John H. Sununu stay out of the presidential primary campaign, or will he endorse Jeb Bush out of respect for his old boss, former President George H.W. Bush? Or will he look elsewhere?
_ What will happen when Chris Christie “goes all Jersey” on a grizzled, battle-tested Granite Stater at his first (or maybe second) town hall?
_ Will any GOP candidate for President skip New Hampshire and try to win the nomination without campaigning in earnest here?
_ Three-part question: How will Bernie Sanders be polling against Hillary Clinton a year from now? What number will he need in order to be viewed as a legitimate spoiler? What is the definition of a “serious challenge?”
_ And of course, next January, will Elizabeth Warren be doing New Hampshire diner and factory tours as part of her own campaign? Or will she be a surrogate for Hillary Clinton?
_ Where in New Hampshire will Hillary Clinton kickoff her presidential campaign and will her husband be at her side?
And locally speaking:
_ Will there be a point in 2015 at which Gov. Maggie Hassan begins to address national issues, thus sending a message that she will indeed take on Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2016?
_ Will Jeb Bradley and Chris Sununu begin to send signals that they are also looking ahead to 2016 and may be headed for a Republican primary for governor?
_ Will Democratic Executive Councilors Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas begin to act and sound like candidates for higher office at some point this year?
_ Will Dan Innis reemerge on the political scene? If so, will he send signals that he’s eyeing another run for Congress, or possibly set his sights on the Executive Council seat that Chris Sununu may be ready to vacate?
_ Safely in office for another six years, will Sen. Jeanne Shaheen continue to vote with President Obama 99 percent of the time? And if she does, will anyone care?
_ Who will Scott Brown endorse in the GOP presidential primary and in what other ways will he make his comeback after his loss?
_ Having successfully painted Carol Shea-Porter as a rubber stamp for Obama, how will Frank Guinta distinguish himself as independent of the House GOP leadership?
_ Speaking of Shea-Porter: Will she signal her intentions for 2016 this year by commenting on the votes of Sen. Kelly Ayotte? Or will she stick to keeping an eye on her friend, Guinta?
_ Will outside pro-Democratic groups start spending money going after Ayotte in 2015, or will they wait until after the New Hampshire Primary?
_ Who will be on fall ballot for Manchester mayor and Nashua mayor?
_ And of course, what in the world will happen in the New Hampshire House this year? Will there be a motion (and 20 seconds) for a roll call on every vote called for by Speaker Shawn Jasper?
We could go on. But feel free to tweet, Facebook or add your own questions about New Hampshire politics 2015 in our comment section.
But what about some of those who rarely, if ever, get their names in the paper – or on the web? These are the collective backbone of the political parties and the political campaigns. The volunteers. The grassroots activists. Those who make telephone calls, knock on doors, stuff envelopes – and more—and do not get paid.
We couldn’t possibly name them all. And we won’t try to name the “top” volunteers or the “best” volunteers.
But we’ve reached out and come up with some representative samples of the type of people who make New Hampshire special, politically speaking. The type of people who will work tirelessly for a candidate – from presidential to state representative – without expecting a dime in return.
Let’s be clear. These are representative of the hundreds of volunteers out there.
Republican Maureen Mooney of Merrimack: A former state representative and state Senate candidate (she lost in the 2014 GOP District 11 primary) who volunteered for U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown in the midterm election, for John McCain in his primary campaigns and has worked for candidates dating back to Craig Benson (for Governor) and Jeb Bradley (for Congress).
Democrat Chaz Proulx of Raymond: An early and strong supporter of outgoing Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, described as “always willing to perform (he is a musician), research, write, do visibilities — anything that is needed.”
Republican Tom Thomson of Orford: Yes, Tom has a famous name in New Hampshire politics. He’s not an “under-the-radar” hero. He’s well-known. He’s mentioned here because his tireless dedication to the cause of fiscal conservatism is representative of many GOP volunteers who have been inspired by the “axe the tax” message first conveyed by his father, the late Gov. Meldrim Thomson, Jr.
Democrat Jay Surdukowski, a Concord attorney who, we’re told, not only organizes meet-and-greet events, but also wrote and hand-addressed letters to every Democrat in his ward prior to state Sen. Dan Feltes’ primary win in September.
Republican Michele Holton of New London: A businesswoman who finds time to organize, organize, organize her area, and she is also famous for her Strawberry Shortcake Social.
Democrat Bonnie Doherty of Manchester: For decades, this elementary teacher has been a top volunteer in local, state and national campaigns.
Republican Bev Bruce of Tuftonboro: A Republican’s Republican who has volunteered on finance and volunteer committees for Walt Havenstein, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jeb Bradley and more.
Democrats Pat and Chick Colony of Harrisville: Their son, Joel, worked for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign in 2008 and then became a legislative assistant in her Washington office, while they have hosted countless house parties for Rep. Ann Kuster, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and are connected to every key Democratic player in the Monadnock region.
Republicans Paul Clark of Nashua and Alice Bury of Amherst: They volunteered in the NHGOP’s Nashua office and, we’re told, were tireless phone callers, each making more than 10,000 calls during the midterm campaign.
Democrats Sonia Prince and Joanne St. John of Nashua: Described simply as “local powerhouses who get the job done, large or small.”
NO #FITN SPEAKER. One might think that the upcoming Republican State Committee annual meeting would be a good place for a GOP presidential candidate to make a splash with his (or her) first visit of 2015.
But we’re told that won’t be the case. It will be all business on Jan. 10 as the party elects party officers and considers bylaw amendments.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte will host a meet and greet with coffee and donuts before the meeting.
POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR: Jeanne Shaheen didn’t make our “most fascinating” list, although her campaign manager, Mike Vlacich, did. That’s because she’s wasn’t fascinating; she was just steady, tireless, relentless.
During the midterm campaign, her fortunes were up, then down, then up again. She may have bent, but did not break, and while Democratic incumbent senators were losing across the country, Shaheen held on to defeat the furious challenge of Scott Brown and his allies.
Shaheen had her allies, too. Plenty of them, and far more money than Brown in her own campaign account.
Still, November could have been the election that sent Jeanne Shaheen into retirement. It didn’t happen.
There are plenty of opinions on that. But one admirer put it this way: “For 40 years Jeanne Shaheen has been an intimate part of the fabric of New Hampshire. Through her active family, her involvement in state and local causes, running campaigns, serving three terms in the state Senate, three terms as governor and as a U.S. Senator, Jeanne Shaheen has created a very personal connection with the people of New Hampshire. The people of New Hampshire know Jeanne Shaheen and they trust her.”
So, for the above reasons, Jeanne Shaheen is our 2014 “Politician of the Year.”
And now, finally, on to 2015.
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political reporter/columnist in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)