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Dan Tuohy's Granite Status: Granite Staters applaud McCain's return to Senate

July 26. 2017 7:22PM
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

It was “vintage McCain,” say Granite Staters who clocked thousands of miles on the “Straight Talk Express” en route to Sen. John McCain winning two New Hampshire presidential primaries.

“It was the ‘straight talk’ from the John McCain of old that made him famous,” said Michael Dennehy, who was McCain’s state campaign manager in 2000, and his national political director in 2008.

McCain, returning to the Senate less than two weeks after surgery for brain cancer, delivered one of his most memorable speeches Tuesday as senators began to debate the possible repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

He let fly a blistering critique at the world’s “greatest deliberative body.’’

“We’re getting nothing done, my friends. We’re getting nothing done.”

He dissed the GOP plan sent over from the House. He countered the White House clamor for results at any cost.

“We are not the President’s subordinates,” he said. “We are his equals.”

And he bashed the talking heads and pundits.

“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and the television and the Internet. To hell with them,” he said. “They don’t want anything done for the public good.”

Dennehy said McCain’s point is not lost on anyone who’s witnessed the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill. His former boss was reaching out to Americans who are sick and tired of a do-nothing D.C., not just encouraging his colleagues to work across aisle to achieve some meaningful health care reform.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, applauded McCain’s remarks with respect to the abridged parliamentary process — senators began debating legislation they knew little about, and a bill that never had a committee review or public hearing.

“This is deeply disturbing and not how a legislative body should function, particularly when it comes to legislation that impacts every American,” Shaheen said. “I agree with Sen. McCain’s remarks on the Senate floor this afternoon: The Senate should work in a bipartisan fashion and in an open and transparent process to fix the problems in our health care system.”

Steve Duprey, a fellow friend and former McCain adviser, said the Vietnam War veteran and hero has the moral authority to remind senators that they are in Washington for the people, not simply their party.

McCain, 80, spoke with measured tones. A scar over his eye from his surgery reminded his audience of another of his latest battles. Duprey, who keeps in touch with McCain, said the senator is in good spirits.

“John McCain is somebody who faces every challenge in life with grit, determination, and, as usual, a good sense of humor,” he said.

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TO RUSSIA with new sanctions? U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, both voted for Russian sanctions, which the House passed overwhelmingly, 419-3, this week, in response to reported Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. “The bill that Congress is sending to the President’s desk this week delivers a strong message to Vladimir Putin and his friends: The United States will not tolerate, much less reward, their aggression,” Shea-Porter said. Kuster pointed to U.S. intelligence reports confirming Russian interference. It puts the Senate, and the President, on the spot.

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MANCHESTER ALDERMAN Kevin Cavanaugh, a Democrat, won handily the special election for state Senate District 16. Former Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, had better name recognition, and lost in what is a Republican-leaning district. “It’s definitely a district that was carried pretty handily by both Governor Sununu and Senator Ayotte,” said Greg Moore, state director for Americans for Prosperity-NH. Democrats seized on the victory as one indicator of resistance to President Donald Trump, and the GOP majority in Concord. DNC Chairman Tom Perez even issued a statement. Special elections can be about many things, but at the core, it’s about organization and which side has grassroots passion. On the eve of the vote, the outstanding question was whether Boutin, who has opposed Right-to-Work legislation and voted for expanded Medicaid, could mobilize the conservative base of his party. In the Senate, the power balance has not shifted much. The body has 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Cavanaugh succeeds the late Scott McGilvray, D-Hooksett. In 2018, look for the GOP nomination to have a vigorous primary for this seat.

It will be interesting to see how much overall was spent on this race. The finance report to the Secretary of State on July 19 showed Cavanaugh raising $125,771, to Boutin’s $108,507. The next finance report is due Aug. 2.

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NOT SO OPEN WATERS: The New Hampshire GOP criticized Democrats for holding a closed-press event featuring U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., this past Sunday. The event was organized by the Strafford County Democratic Committee, not the state party. It was the county committee’s decision to have it closed to press, state party spokesman Wyatt Ronan said. He noted that the state Democrats have always had open fundraisers, including former Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year. And he noted the state GOP blocked all press from its fundraiser in Nashua in May featuring White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. The Strafford County Democrats did not return requests for comment.


• After the resignation of Democratic state Rep. Andrew Schmidt in early June, the governor and council have approved a special election for Sullivan County District 1, which represents Cornish, Grantham, Plainfield, and Springfield. The filing period goes until Friday. The primary is Sept. 19, and the special election is Nov. 7. As of Wednesday mid-day, the Secretary of State’s website indicated one candidate has filed — Brian M. Sullivan, D-Grantham.

• The legal challenge in New Hampshire to Secretary of State Bill Gardner sending some voter registration information to the President’s advisory commission on voter fraud appears to be in a holding pattern, even after a federal court in Washington denied the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s request for a preliminary injunction to block states from transferring data. Gardner says he has the authority to send what is already public information — a voter’s name, address, party affiliation and voting history. State Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union of NH’s complaint, says she hopes the suit continues. “It’s against New Hampshire law,” she says. “We don’t know what this commission is going to use it for.”

• Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Steve Marchand has made more than 85 stops so far, a pace that is dwarfing his campaign in 2016. In a recent fundraising email, he writes that 75 minutes into one event, a woman raised her hand and said, “I just want to thank you for not mentioning Trump.”

Dan Tuohy covers politics and government for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Email news and information to

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