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Dan Tuohy's Granite Status: Clinton 'shot for treason' comment earns Baldasaro rebuke

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 20. 2016 6:58PM
Veterans advocate and N.H. State Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) speaks in defense of presidential candidate Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan in May, (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)



Saying that Hillary Clinton "should be put in the firing line and shot for treason," one of Donald Trump’s New Hampshire delegates stirred up an outrage that crossed party lines Wednesday.

The Republican presidential nominee’s campaign distanced itself from Al Baldasaro’s remarks.

The Marine Corps veteran and state representative from Londonderry was standing by his comment in the immediate aftermath of the controversy. 

Meanwhile, the Secret Service confirmed it is investigating Baldasaro’s comments, even as a Trump campaign spokesman said the nominee "does not agree" with the sentiment.

"The U.S. Secret Service is aware of this matter and will conduct the appropriate investigation," Nicole Mainor, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said in a statement.

The Trump campaign said that Trump and the campaign in no way approved of Baldasaro's comments.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn delivered a quick rebuke.

"Representative Baldasaro’s comments are appalling and have no place in public discourse," Horn said. "Calls for violence in politics are never appropriate. I condemn his statement in the strongest terms possible and urge him to immediately apologize."

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said Horn did not go far enough in repudiating such a "disgusting, offensive" comment that the presumptive Democratic nominee be executed.

"Baldasaro has embarrassed the Granite State long enough," Buckley said. "I’m calling on Chair Horn to repudiate his dangerous and divisive remarks and to publicly ask for his resignation."

Baldasaro’s comment was made in an interview on Jeff Kuhner’s talk radio show on WRKO 680-AM. He was saying he was disgusted with the former Secretary of State’s handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

Democrats cast Baldasaro’s comment as reflective of the GOP nominee.

"Donald Trump’s overtaking of the Republican Party — and his constant escalation of outrageous rhetoric — is in danger of mainstreaming the kind of hatred that has long been relegated to the fringes of American politics where it belongs," said Clinton spokesman Jennifer Palmieri. "This week at the Republican convention, we’ve seen the clearest embodiment yet of this dangerous phenomenon."

Clinton’s campaign expressed concern about the rhetoric at the convention earlier this week. In one fundraising email, a Clinton spokesman criticized the GOP audience chant of "Lock her up, Lock her up," as abnormal political behavior.

Republicans disavowed Baldasaro’s comments. Former national committeeman Tom Rath, one of the 23 New Hampshire delegates, called it "irresponsible and inappropriate."

"Al’s a guy who’s fiery and outspoken," and the remark was totally out of line, Rath said.

Baldasaro, who is a co-chair of Trump’s state veterans coalition, has appeared on stage with Trump on a number of occasions.

The controversy comes as Trump and running mate Mike Pence work to unite the GOP.

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AS A CITIZEN LEGISLATOR, Baldasaro is one of the highest elected state officials from New Hampshire in Cleveland for the GOP convention. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH, decided to stay in New Hampshire and focus on their re-election campaigns.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Ia., and former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani were among big-name Republicans speaking to the New Hampshire delegation in Cleveland. Both offered glowing words for Ayotte, which aggravated Ayotte’s lesser-known GOP opponent, Jim Rubens, who claimed the party was inappropriately meddling in a primary.

Ayotte has said she will support Trump, but not officially endorse because she’s focusing on her own race and New Hampshire.

Steve Stepanek, state co-chairman for Trump, said it’s a "shame that Kelly Ayotte is not getting behind Donald Trump."

"I think it’s a mistake on her part," Stepanek said in an interview with the Union Leader. "He’ll have significant coattails."

Rich Ashooh, a Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH, says he will support Trump, but steered clear of referring to it as an endorsement. [READ: Ashooh says Guinta lying about campaign finance scandal]

"I don’t know what the difference means," Ashooh said during a radio debate Wednesday. "I support him. I’m telling you I support him and we all need to unify behind him."

It sparked quite an exchange. An excerpt of it:

Guinta: "My opponent refuses to endorse Mr. Trump. My opponent said he’s only focusing on himself. I’m very different. Look, I’m a team player."

Ashooh: "I put my record against anybody as far as helping good Republicans win."

Guinta: "Then why won’t you endorse Trump? Why won’t you endorse Trump then?”

Ashooh: "I’m running for the 1st District."

Guinta: "So you’re about yourself, not about the team."

Ashooh: "Let me tell you something. I’m about the 1st District. This is where I live. Donald Trump has not called me and asked me for help on his campaign."

Guinta, interjecting: "He didn’t call me either."

Ashooh: "Nor are the voters of the 1st District asking me for their advice on who they should vote for for President."

[Dueling Trump watching parties in NH tonight as the nominee gives his acceptance speech in Cleveland]
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. BUSINESS LEADER Sean O’Kane has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mark Connolly, the former deputy secretary of state and former state Securities Bureau director. O’Kane is a former commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, and a past general manager of the Center of New Hampshire conference center at the Radisson in Manchester. He served as a co-chairman for Gov.Maggie Hassan’s 2012 campaign.

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THE REPUBLICAN race for governor punched into higher gear this week with the four major candidates working to separate themselves from the pack. Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith said it’s become a three-person race, which is a knock on fellow conservative Frank Edelblut of Wilton. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas took aim at Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, describing his school policy as "the liberal Hassan-Sununu education agenda," because he voted for a contract supporting Common Core curriculum standards. David Abrams, a spokesman for Sununu, called the Gatsas criticism "another feckless political attack by a career politician struggling to gain traction in the race." He said Sununu has consistently opposed big government intervention in New Hampshire and support for local control that empowers teachers and parents. This race is on fire.

On Thursday, Gatsas announced 11 new endorsements. The list includes Deering GOP activist Donna Marzullo, Raymond businessman Craig Jewett, former Belknap County Sheriff Steve Hodges of Gilford, Laconia business owner Steve Whalley, and Laconia and Belmont Fire Chief Ken Erickson.

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THE NEW HAMPSHIRE Democratic Party is opening seven coordinated campaign offices this week to support the ticket this fall. The offices are in Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth, Franklin, Londonderry, Laconia, and Nashua.

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COLIN VAN OSTERN, an Executive Councilor from Concord and a Democrat running for governor, has picked up additional endorsements in Manchester. They include Manchester Alderman and state Rep. Chris Herbert, Manchester School Board member Sarah Ambrogi, state Rep. Jean Jeudy, School Board member Leslie Want, and state Rep. Mary Freitas. Aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Garth Corriveau, and Patrick Arnold have previously backed him. Van Ostern will hold an open house at his Manchester office Aug. 6.

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FORMER PORTSMOUTH Mayor Steve Marchand is taking his Democratic gubernatorial bid north of the notches next week. Marchand will launch a four-day North Country tour on Monday, and one of his talking points is his opposition to the Northern Pass project.
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Quick takes:

• Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is set to speak to the New Hampshire delegation over bacon and eggs Thursday morning in Cleveland.

• Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, the 2014 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, says he was honored to be on the long list of people mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump.

• U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who defeated Brown in 2014, has been mentioned as a VP prospect in a few past presidential election cycles. Her name’s not cropping up in similar fashion in 2016, but given her long friendship with Clinton, could there be a cabinet spot for her, should Clinton win Nov. 8?

Dan Tuohy covers politics and government for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Email news and information to dtuohy@unionleader.com. Follow on Twitter: @tuohy.


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