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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Shea-Porter's 1st District seat getting a serious look from some

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 11. 2017 11:46PM

When it comes to the suddenly open race in the First Congressional District, it feels like the busy rush at the grocery store deli on a weekend: Take a number.

Political figures in both parties are giving this race a serious look now that Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-Rochester, has announced her retirement.

She calls it a pause; if she tries to come back to elective office, the voters, not her or the media, will decide if it amounts to a real retirement.

On Sunday, we brought you Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, an intriguing, potential Democratic candidate. A former Marine with a Harvard graduate school degree who worked in the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs before moving to New Hampshire a few years back.

Now there’s another Democrat with military and legal skills who could decide to mount his own primary bid. That’s Terence O’Rourke, 39, a New England native who lives in Alton and currently is the city attorney in Rochester.

“I’m definitely very much considering it and really appreciate the kind comments and encouragement I’ve received from friends who heard I was,” said O’Rourke, who was born in Haverhill, Mass.

He was a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army and a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, N.C., who was deployed to advise the Iraqi Army while serving in a special forces group in Iraq.

His many military honors include the Bronze Star Medal. He left the service with the rank of captain.

O’Rourke has worked as a county prosecutor in Rockingham and Carroll counties as well as an assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama trying hundreds of cases.

He serves on the Alton Budget Committee and with his wife, also an attorney, they have three kids.

They lived in Portsmouth from 2008-10.

“It’s definitely new to me. I’m looking at all the laws to make sure I don’t trip myself up but know I’ve got to move quickly so I expect to make a decision in about three weeks,” O’Rourke said.

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The smart ones who really have no interest in Congress but don’t hate being mentioned waste little time taking themselves out of the running.

Earlier this week it was former House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth; state Sen. Dan Innis, R-New Castle; Sen. David Watters, D-Dover; and ex-Democratic candidate for governor and Rep. Jackie Cilley, D-Barrington, who all said, “No, thanks.”

“I’m not ruling anything out in the future but this coming fall I’ll be running for the state Senate,” Innis said.

On the Democratic side some of this is because all signs point to Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, getting into this race.

Pappas looked to be the giant killer in 2016 but stepped aside to let Shea-Porter have a fourth and final campaign to unseat Rep. Frank Guinta, R-Manchester.

Now Pappas is saying all the right things while admitting this will be a quick exploratory process (read: likely yes). You are already seeing some folks foreshadow they’ll probably be with Pappas when all is said and done.

Pappas said he won’t announce his intentions until after the Nov. 7 elections so as to allow some special elections to take place first.

“If I don’t want to become a candidate then I want to make sure others have ample opportunity to explore, and if I do become a candidate I’ll want to set up a formal campaign structure and begin the process of running,” said Pappas, who has already set up an exploratory committee.

“I’m cognizant of the fact that local elections are going on across the district on Nov. 7, so I don’t want to interfere with that process at all.”

The response of former Democratic Rep. Peter Sullivan, long a party leader critic, informs of the bitter rancor that does exist on the margins in the party ranks.

“Nobody has a problem with Chris personally,” Sullivan posted. “The problem is Ray Buckley’s long history of putting his thumb on the scales in primary after primary. The party’s neutrality provision has become a comical farce. There is no way that Renny Cushing, Marjorie Smith, or any of the other potential candidates would have a level playing field.”

The goodwill Pappas has built up over the years will mute some of this unrest.

Meanwhile some of the other, “potential” Democratic candidates include former Portsmouth Councilor Stefany Shaheen, Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard, former Somersworth Mayor and ex-Strafford County Attorney Lincoln Soldati, ex-AFL-CIO President and Manchester state Rep. Mark MacKenzie, Rep. Mindi Messner, D-Rye, and former Rye Rep. Tom Sherman.

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The surprise announcement last week that Revenue Commissioner John Beardmore would be leaving his post for the private sector has Gov. Chris Sununu looking for a quick replacement.

Sununu must have felt he had his budget, tax and operations team pretty much in place.

Those close to Sununu are saying there’s a simple solution even if it’s only for the balance of Beardmore’s term: Bring back former Commissioner Phil Blatsos of Goffstown.

The last Republican governor, Craig Benson, had elevated Blatsos to the top post after serving in the agency for more than two decades. Those closest to Blatsos said he hasn’t ruled out coming back if Sununu makes that request. Consider the idea officially floated.

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Frank Gaffney Jr., the president of the conservative Center for Security Policy, was the keynote speaker before Belknap County Republicans in Laconia on Wednesday night.

Gaffney charged that President Trump has been surrounded by moderates prosecuting a weak foreign policy led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Gaffney calls the “diplomatic equivalent of a dead man walking.”

“He clearly does not enjoy the confidence of the President,” Gaffney said.

During a telephone interview, Gaffney said he’s worried Trump will decertify the Iran deal of the Obama administration but allow it to be renegotiated, which he called the “worst of both worlds.” Gaffney wants Trump to permanently kill it.

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Since it’s spreading like a national brush fire in other key states, let’s douse any flames starting about big money having gone to leading New Hampshire Democrats coming from disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Over the past 15 years, Weinstein has been a big bundler for major Democratic candidates, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

But this cash cow didn’t spread the wealth to the Granite State as there’s no record of a single donation from Weinstein or his controlled committees to the state party or any major figure including the all-Democratic New Hampshire Congressional delegation.

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President Trump certainly made plenty of friends in coal country with his executive order that short-circuits the Clean Power Plan.

But in New Hampshire you may recall this had bipartisan support as then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., joined a minority of Senate Republicans to cross the aisle and support these reductions in carbon emissions by a third of 2005 levels. The target for the reductions was 2030, but all that changes now.

President Obama adopted it by rule after the Congress failed to pass it into law.

The power companies sued contending the rule went beyond what the federal government could order of a private company absent a federal statute.

“The Trump administration’s decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan continues a dangerous agenda that will harm the environment and public health,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

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Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., has lined up some impressive speakers for a field hearing at Keene State College Friday morning on expanding broadband access to rural areas of the state.

Hassan has championed a bipartisan bill with Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to create a spectrum pipeline to provide more capacity.

The speakers include Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Consolidated Communications State President Mike Reed, University of New Hampshire Broadband Services Director Brian Shepperd and Tom Strickland, president and co-owner of Sequoya Technologies.

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The State Employees Association marked its 100 days working without a contract with an informational picket outside the Department of Transportation late last week.

“Throughout all this time, Gov. Sununu refused to meet with labor leaders to discuss the state of the contract,” said Rich Gulla, president of the SEA which is Local 1984 of the Service Employees International Union.

“The governor and his team have made it clear they have no intention of working together to better the working conditions of state employees.”

Sununu’s office declined to respond to a request for comment.

The union got support on social media and elsewhere from leading Democrats.

“It’s unacceptable that the Governor refuses to even meet with @SEIU1984,” posted Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester.

“I’m committed to fighting w/them for a fair contract.”

Since it’s a few weeks before Cavanaugh’s other election, his aldermanic opponent in Ward 1, couldn’t resist taking his own shot, this one at Cavanaugh.

“Perfectly appropriate @SenCavanaugh involved in state issues — that’s his job as senator. But #MHT needs a full time Alderman. #NHpolitics,” tweeted Ward 1 Alderman opponent Christopher Stewart.

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David Solomon contributed to this report.

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