November 12. 2012 6:12PM

Kathy Sullivan: For NH Republicans, some advice from the winning side


What a great election! President Obama was elected to a second term, and Maggie Hassan is the first Democrat to succeed a Democratic governor in over 150 years! Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter join Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to make history by becoming the first female federal delegation!

To thank the New Hampshire Republican Party for helping to make this happen, and in an effort to be bipartisan, I am going to offer some advice to help you rebuild:

1. Enough with the crazy stuff. I was a geeky adolescent, reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" and all the rest. But I understood something important: it's all FICTION. You do not have to give up your fascination with fantasyland, but channel your energies productively by watching post-apocalyptic television like "The Walking Dead" or "Revolution." Then repeat after me: Barack Obama was born in the United States, we don't need a state militia to protect us from zombies, and polio was eliminated because of vaccines.

2. Retire John H. Sununu. In a tweet from a rally in the campaign's closing days, Ovide Lamontagne/Mitt Romney strategist Jim Merrill announced that Kelly Ayotte was introducing "the one, the only, the incomparable, the indefatigable, Governor John Sununu." Merrill, like other Republican leaders, has blinders on when it comes to the former governor.

Sununu's claim that Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama was racially based hurt Mitt Romney. An earlier comment that the President needed to learn how to be an American reinforced the Republican Party's image problem on race. Add Sununu's open antipathy to marriage equality and you have a spokesman who is grossly out of step with today's mainstream. Ayotte and other Republicans should avoid Sununu in the future; it doesn't help a senator with national ambitions to pal around with someone described by CNN commentator Donna Brazille as using a "racist dog-whistle."

3. Give up trying to repeal marriage equality - forever. You don't have the votes or the governor in 2013-2014 to do it anyway. Plus, you are on the wrong side of history. Voters under the age of 40 disagree with the GOP platform on this issue. More and more voters over the age of 40 are feeling the same way. Deal with it by getting ahead of the civil rights issue of the 21st century by pushing for equal treatment of gays and lesbians under federal law.

4. Religion and politics do not mix. You spent a lot of time claiming there was a war on religion during this last election. There isn't; people just do not want your religious beliefs injected into laws governing private behavior. If your religion does not believe in birth control, then don't use birth control, but leave prescription contraceptive and insurance coverage alone.

5. Face up to climate change. If you can't accept that human activity is contributing to the problem, fine, but admit it: the climate is changing. For the sake of your kids and grandchildren, and the future economic well-being and security of the country, take the lead in formulating common-sense strategies to handle the effects of rising sea levels and warmer temperatures. Democrats have not done enough on this issue, so you have a real opening to enact infrastructure regulations (like burying new transmission lines) and adopt policies (no flood insurance for new structures in flood zones) to reduce the cost from natural disasters.

6. Develop a small-government strategy that doesn't slash services. New Hampshire still has three layers of government: state, county and local. Combining these resources across municipal and county boundaries would permit efficiencies in the delivery of services without cutting the services themselves. Do we really need 10 county sheriffs, 10 county correctional facilities and 10 county attorneys?

7. Fix your gender problem. Kelly Ayotte, who did not come up through party ranks, is the exception to the rule that New Hampshire Republicans do not promote women. There are only three Republican female state senators. Other than Jennifer Horn, who comes from the extreme wing, where are the Republican spokeswomen? And do something about the outright sexism. For example, look at the faux news web site, NHJournal, the brainchild of Republican operatives. It posts the most unflattering pictures possible of female Democratic candidates, making your party look like it is run by 12-year-old boys.

8. Stop trashing public education. Most people send their children to public schools. They want their kids to have a good education. Instead of proposing to turn curriculum decisions over to the Legislature, work with educators on how to strengthen basic math and reading skills, and do something to shrink class sizes.

Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.