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Dan Tuohy's Granite Status: Much work to unite parties

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 05. 2016 12:48AM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is surrounded by family members as he speaks during a campaign victory party at Trump Tower in Manhattan Tuesday after rival Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Donald Trump locking down the Republican presidential nomination comes amid some serious fence-mending within his party and a pivot to a fall battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

With Ted Cruz out and John Kasich suspending his campaign Wednesday, some GOP leaders called for unity and others hedged.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, as she has for months, said she would support the party nominee, but a spokesman said she would not be giving an official endorsement.

Conservative leader Bill O’Brien, a state legislator and former House Speaker who served as Cruz state co-chairman, said he would not endorse Trump. O’Brien lumped Trump in with Clinton, adding that he would not be endorsing Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, either.

O’Brien sees a GOP that has lost its way.

“I don’t know where my party is going in the future, but for the immediate cycle, it’s not going to be the conservative party that has allowed me to be such an enthusiastic participant over the years,” O’Brien told the Union Leader. “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see where this goes. Unfortunately, I don’t see any good results for Republicans or, therefore, for our country coming out of these recent events. We’ll see and we’ll hope for the best.”

Leaders from both parties seek to fuse together warring political factions after primaries. Clinton is still holding off Bernie Sanders, while trying to woo his supporters and prepare for a general election campaign.

It was an uncommonly rough presidential primary season for Republicans. Trump insulted his rivals with crude remarks and with great gusto. On Tuesday, Trump cited the National Enquirer to link Cruz’ father to John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Cruz then dissed Trump as a “pathological liar.”

After the Indiana primary, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was quick to call for the GOP to unite. Some New Hampshire Republicans are now voicing the same, though state GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn kept a low profile Wednesday.

Trump delegates in New Hampshire continue to call for Horn’s removal, calling her a biased chair.

Juliana Bergeron, RNC committeewoman from Keene, called for cooler heads to prevail.

“The party needs to rally around him,” she said of Trump. “We need to unite.”

Democrats are crowing that Trump will benefit their party up and down the ballot in the fall.

Bergeron says it will not be as tough a sled as some people think because Republicans will not be able to stomach Clinton.

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Republican candidates in New Hampshire will be running on a ticket with Trump at the top. Democrats have previously promoted a hashtag of #TrumpAyotte.

Ayotte, as she has for months, said she would support the GOP nominee. Her campaign spokesman said, nevertheless, that her support was not the same as an endorsement.

“I would like to see what her thesaurus says,” Buckley quipped.

Buckley said GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, oppose Medicaid expansion, and repeal Obamacare would be highlighted during the fall campaign for all the candidates.

“This truly is Trump’s party and they will be running together as a team,” he said.

Many notable New Hampshire Republicans are ready to move on, including getting behind the nominee.

Wayne MacDonald, a former state GOP chairman who supported Chris Christie in the New Hampshire primary, said he will endorse Trump and do what he can to help him win in November.

“You have to give him credit,” he said. “They ran a successful campaign. It’s time for all of us to get together and defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Former state GOP vice chairman J.P. Marzullo said those who will not vote for Trump are playing into Clinton’s hands. “He wasn’t my first choice, but if we don’t unite, we’re going to lose.”

Although O’Brien, a state representative and former House Speaker from Mont Vernon, won’t endorse Trump, fellow Cruz ally Fran Wendelboe has already emailed Trump and his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to see how she can help.

Still, she has some concerns. “Maybe he’ll settle down and think about taking care of business, presidential business,” she said.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, will be supporting Trump, according to the House spokesman.

Renee Plummer, a civic leader and party activist from Portsmouth, had a note of resignation in her voice when asked about the GOP’s presumptive nominee. She said she will support him, as she has made no secret of her interest in Christie playing a potential role in a White House administration.

Veteran political consultant Dave Carney, who worked as political director for the George H.W. Bush White House, said time will heal some of the party rift. He did not endorse anyone in the primary season.

“There’s a lot of raw feelings out there, (but) things will settle down,” he said. “It’s really in Donald Trump’s control.”

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REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL hopeful Ted Gatsas is rolling out the first 50 names on his grassroots coalition, Granite Status has learned. The list represents an array of local and state officials, business people, and activists. They include Bedford Town Councilor Kelleigh Domaingue Murphy and state Rep. Keith Murphy, Littleton area businessman Herb Lahout, Hillsborough County Commissioner Toni Pappas, Manchester Alderman Keith Hirschmann, former Rep. Lee Quandt of Exeter, Rep. Larry Gagne of Manchester, former Rockingham County Sheriff Wayne Vetter, Manchester alderman Nick Pappas, Manchester School Board member Ross Terrio, GOP activist Phil Boynton of Rye, and former state GOP vice chairman Cliff Hurst. Gatsas previously announced a 45-member finance committee.

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THE NHGOP’s “delegates only” meeting Friday could be with fewer sparks now that Trump is the presumptive nominee. The 23 delegates, 11 of whom Trump won in the primary, will vote at state party headquarters for delegates to sit on key committees at the national convention in July. Horn’s proposed slate did not include a single Trump delegate — and listed her as delegation chair. Look for more unity (maybe) on Friday, and perhaps a different delegation chair. Trump’s team had proposed a rival slate that had Lewandowski, his campaign manager, as delegation chair. At this point, there’s a chance Lewandowski, or Trump state co-chair Steve Stepanek, could emerge as delegation chair. It would be fitting, given their success. Former Gov. John H. Sununu was delegation chair for Mitt Romney’s nomination at the convention in 2012. Other past delegation chairs: Peter Spaulding for John McCain in 2000 and 2008, and Ray Wieczorek in 2004, when President George W. Bush was unopposed.

To the victor belong the spoils, right?

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RICH ASHOOH announced a dozen Republicans on a grassroots coalition from Derry who are supporting his campaign for the 1st Congressional District. They include Jim MacEachern, former Sen. Bob Letourneau, former Sen. Jim Rausch, state Rep. and Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores, GOP activist Neil DeLuca, and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry Director Art McLean. Ashooh, a former BAE Systems executive from Bedford, is now the only Republican challenger to Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH, after state Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland suspended her campaign this week. With or without Tucker out of the race, the embattled Guinta has to have one of the toughest re-election bids in the Northeast, given his FEC scandal, right? Not so, according to Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, the two-term Democrat in the 2nd District. Her campaign continues, in fundraising emails, to describe Kuster as “the most vulnerable” in New England. Guinta, a two-term congressman and former Manchester mayor, was singled out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, similar to Buckley lumping Ayotte with Trump. The DCCC attack cites a NHPR interview in which Guinta calls Trump “good for the country.” Neither Guinta nor Ashooh endorsed a presidential candidate during the primary season.

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The percentage of undeclared registered voters dropped to 37 percent in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary, according to the official checklist updated online April 27 by Secretary of State Bill Gardner. The undeclared, aka “independent” voter bloc accounted for 43 percent of the names on the checklist after the 2014 mid-term elections. There were 297,074 registered Republicans, 272,480 registered Democrats, and 347,254 undeclared voters. There were more undeclared voters than Republican or Democrat in every county except Belknap County, where Republicans voters made up 40 percent.

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THE FIRST TELEVISON ad buy for Gov. Maggie Hassan’s U.S. Senate campaign stars her son Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy. Hassan, a two-term Democrat, talks about how her son’s disabilities eventually led her to run for public office. Ben, now in his 20s, accompanies his mother and family at major public events, including when Hassan goes to vote in Exeter. Biographical ads featuring families are traditionally introductory, when candidates reach out to voters at the start of a campaign. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, aired an ad in February with her daughter, Kate, which showed mother-daughter shooting “hoops.” Her daughter talks in the ad about Ayotte’s work as a former attorney general and senator.

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CHRIS SUNUNU, Republican candidate for governor, announced another 14 endorsements. They include Rockingham County Treasurer Edward “Sandy” Buck and his wife, Sharon, of Hampton, Sen. Sam Cataldo of Farmington, former Sen. David Currier of Henniker, Nashua Alderman-at-large Dan Moriarty, John Stabile of Nashua, and Lincoln Police Chief Theodore P. Smith.

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Quick takes:

• Mo Baxley, a former state representative and former director of N.H. Freedom to Marry, has endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Colin Van Ostern. Baxley was on Bernie Sanders New Hampshire steering committee.

• Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, the 2014 GOP nominee for Senate in New Hampshire, endorsed state Rep. William Gannon of Sandown for the state Senate District 23 seat.

• Bernie Sanders’ victory in Indiana on Tuesday was his 18th win of the primary season. His path to the Democratic presidential nomination remains steep, however.

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

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