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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Even before State of the Union, battle lines were drawn

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 31. 2018 10:54PM

Even before President Trump gave his first state of the union speech Tuesday night, his bold offer to generate buzz and political support behind it drew strong battle lines in New Hampshire on social media.

Trump sought to parlay the speech's visibility into cash for his reelection campaign by offering supporters a chance to see their name flashed on the campaign's website during the speech.

In a solicitation Monday, Trump offered those willing to pay at least $35 the opportunity to see their name displayed during a live-streaming of the address on the website.

"This is a movement," the solicitation says. "It's not about just one of us. It's about ALL of us, which is why your name deserves to be displayed during Tuesday night's speech."

Alicia Preston of Hampton is a longtime, Republican political operative who has been critical of Trump at times in the past.

"Trump fans who know me, get the defibrillator out. I honestly don't understand the uproar of his fundraising email that says he'll scroll a donors name on his campaign website during a live stream of the SOTU," said Preston who worked on George Pataki's presidential campaign in 2016.

"Every President in my memory has used the SOTU as a fundraising mechanism. Obama even went on a national tour to raise money following at least one. I kinda think this is more clever than the traditional emails moments after it ends."

Former State Sen. Burt Cohen of New Castle attacked it.

"Beyond belief," Cohen said. "Cannot be legal."

Kait Smith, a former political consultant from Portsmouth, said it's shrewd.

"I thought it was so smart. It drives traffic to his website and raises money," Smith said.

Bonnie Welch, a Democratic activist from Newington, said it cheapens the process.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the pitch had generated $1 million in contributions from more than 75,000 individuals, according to Cassie Smedile, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Money raised by solicitation in this way benefits not just Trump's campaign but also the RNC, she said.

"Because of the overwhelming response, our digital folks have to recalibrate how the names appear in order to get everyone on there at a speed that is still legible," Smedile said.

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When Gov. Chris Sununu abruptly pulled the plug on consideration of a turnpike toll increase, he clearly signaled to his base that he's committed to opposing all state tax and fee increases as his 2018 re-election campaign approaches.

"New Hampshire has a long and proud tradition of resisting unnecessary encroachment of government into their lives, and have stood strong against previous, unnecessary tax increases," Sununu said.

The first-term Republican underlined that point by announcing his intention to veto two pending bills that would impose new taxes.

Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, is sponsoring a $10 registration fee (SB 410) on canoes and kayaks to beef up the state's Fish and Game Fund.

"The Canoe Tax is designed to raise revenue for the sake of raising revenue," Sununu said.

Sen. David Feltes, D-Concord, is championing legislation (SB 463) to require sellers of architectural paint to recycle the empty cans, the cost of which would be included in the retail price for paint.

"While all are in agreement that paint must be recycled, there is no demonstrated deficiency with our current system," Sununu said calling the bill the "paint tax."

"This is a bureaucratic scheme in search of a problem."

Sununu has also followed in the line of several predecessor governors to vow he'll fight efforts that could force New Hampshire businesses to collect sales taxes from out-of-state residents placing orders here.

The U.S. Supreme Court has before it a South Dakota law that now requires a seller without a physical presence in that state to college and send sales taxes to it.

"As Governor, I am going to do everything in my power to fight this outrageous attempt to force New Hampshire's businesses to collect out of state taxes. We are a no sales tax state. That applies across the board, to our citizens and those in other states. Period," Sununu said.

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State Rep. Steve Negron, R-Nashua, takes another major step in his 2nd Congressional District campaign with three full days of meetings in Washington, D.C. next Tuesday through Thursday. RightVoter, Negron's campaign consulting firm, has set up the trip for Negron and campaign spokesman Roger Wilkins said that will include sessions with Republican party officials, current and former elected officials and several "center-right" organizations.

A major focus of the trip will be on Thursday with meetings about national security and veterans health care. As an Air Force veteran, Negron has made both issues central themes of his GOP primary bid.

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Another 2nd District Republican hopeful, Dr. Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton, announced two significant endorsements from the North Country, former State Sen. Fred King of Colebrook and State Rep. Bing Judd of Pittsburg.

King was a former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a Coos County commissioner.

"Simply put, what others promise Dr. Levenson delivers and I have the utmost confidence in his ability to hold the Washington politicians accountable and deliver real results for the North Country," King said.

Judd has given a half century of public service as a former longtime Pittsburg selectman, state forest ranger, Fish and Game commissioner and a first responder on the town's fire and police departments.

"I am supporting Dr. Stewart Levenson because he is a conservative reformer who has a proven record of taking on special interests and when it comes to the North Country, we need someone who will stand up every day for our seniors, veterans, and families," Judd said.

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Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth turned some heads as a Democratic hopeful for the 1st District seat with impressive fundraising numbers.

Now she's gone out and used some of that $400,000 to buy hire some top campaign talent.

Among those to join Sullivan's team is a polling outfit, Global Strategy Group, that did work for retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

Her media consultant will be Joe Trippi, most recently a senior strategist for newly elected Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama. Trippi became nationally known as a leading architect of Howard Dean's presidential campaign.

Sullivan's direct mail and digital media companies have New Hampshire ties. Strategy Group did a women's vote mail campaign for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's 2014 reelection campaign and Blueprint Interactive did digital media for Planned Parenthood and the Senate majority PAC's work supporting Sen. Maggie Hassan's 2016 win.

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Deaglan McEachern, Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat, produced a campaign video that spells out his views on what he called the "core four" issues in this race: jobs, healthcare, education and opioid addiction.

McEachern said he was moved to run for this office when his wife, Lori, faced a debilitating health crisis in 2014 that left them in debt.

"No American should have to drown in a mountain of debt while fighting for their life. Healthcare is a right in this country, but it isn't affordable," said McEachern, who supports a single-payer health care system.

He also favors more focus on vocational education, stiffer regulation of drug companies and more competitive wages for teachers.

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Friday marks an important anniversary in presidential primary politics here.

On that day in 1968, Richard Nixon announced his run for the presidency at the Holiday Inn in Manchester.

Longtime Republican campaign operative Sean McCabe has been working with the Richard Nixon Foundation to properly mark the occasion and Pat Buchanan, Nixon's speechwriter and 1996 New Hampshire primary winner, has been lining up some media engagements to promote it.

What's worth noting about those times 50 years ago, McCabe said, is many of the prominent issues then are relevant to current history.

At that time, America was having debates of isolationism versus engagement abroad, the need for a "Russian reset," dealing with China as an emerging world power and social unrest at home over the Vietnam War that led to marches on Washington and other major cities.

It sure sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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Congrats to Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who won the Mel Thomson Award at the New Hampshire Republican Party Annual Meeting last Saturday in Bow. "It is a distinct honor to be chosen as the recipient of the Mel Thomson Award, 'Principle above Politics.' Governor Mel Thomson worked tirelessly to uphold the principles he believed in for the State of New Hampshire and embodied what it means to serve our state."

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