January 16. 2013 10:44AM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Manchester Alderman Arnold announces run for mayor

Senior Political Reporter

wEDNESDAY, JAN. 16: IT'S OFFICIAL. Manchester Ward 12 Alderman Patrick Arnold has made now made it official: Hee's challenging two-term incumbent Ted Gatsas for mayor of the state's largest city.


Arnold issued the following statement:


"I'm running for mayor because I believe in the city of Manchester and our bright future. I believe our city has countless opportunities to attract innovative new businesses and create good jobs. I believe our schools have the potential to be the best in the state, and that our quality of life should attract people and businesses from all over the country. What we need are leaders at City Hall who are willing to put politics, personal agendas, and ego aside and make the best decisions for the people of Manchester.

"Unfortunately, Mayor Ted Gatsas is allowing these opportunities to slip away. Growth and development have stagnated. Our schools rank near the bottom in the state. Our city’s young families are choosing to raise their children elsewhere. In spite of these realities, Mayor Gatsas continues to tell us that everything is just fine. He's wrong. 

"Furthermore, Mayor Gatsas has led our city into one financial boondoggle after another. That's why I'm running for mayor: to capitalize on the opportunities we have to improve our city while keeping property taxes low. We need a new type of leader, a new way of doing business, and a new vision for Manchester."


As an "off year" on the state and federal level, the mayoral race could be the most closely watched race in the state in 2013.


Although the city's elections are nonpartisan, Arnold is a Democrat and Gatsas is a Republican. See our earlier report below.


(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)


WEDNESDAY, JAN. 16: ARNOLD FOR MAYOR. It appears Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas will have serious opposition in his bid for a third term in November.

Ward 12 Alderman Patrick Arnold has told Manchester Democrats he intends to run for mayor. His law partner, Earl Carrel, said Arnold has told his fellow attorneys at Backus, Meyer and Branch that he is "seriously contemplating" running.

And, if there was any lingering doubt, a "Patrick Arnold for Mayor" Facebook page went up this morning.

Although the city election is officially non-partisan, in reality it traditionally divides along party lines.

Arnold is a Democratic activist who is in his second term as an alderman. He is a former lobbyist and executive director of the Campaign Ratepayers Rights who attended the New Hampshire School of Law and Univerisity of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Gatsas is a Republican former alderman and former state senator.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

TUESDAY, JAN. 15: UNOPPOSED ALL. While the New Hampshire Republican State Committee faces a contested race for a new chairman later this month, all officers of the New Hampshire Democratic Party will be elected unopposed in March.

The party said Tuesday its filing period for candidates for officers closed at 5 p.m. on Tuesday with only one candidate filling for each position, meaning there will be no contested elections.

Officers will officially be elected on March 9 at the next state committee meeting.

Raymond Buckley of Manchester is seeking his fourth term as state chairman. He is also currently president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs and a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark of Portsmouth is unopposed for a fourth term as party first vice chair, while Dorothy Solomon of Albany is running unopposed for her third term as second vice chair.

State Sen. Bette Lasky of Nashua is running for her second term as party secretary and Brian Rapp of Claremont is running for his first full term as treasurer, having first been elected to the post last August.

Attorney Dan McKenna of Derry is seeking his first term as party legal counsel.

Buckley appointed former state senator and attorney Deborah Reynolds of Plymouth as the party finance chairman.

Democratic National Committee members attorney Kathy Sullivan of Manchester and former state Sen. Peter Burling of Cornish were unanimously reelected to second terms in April 2012. DNC member-at-large Joanne Dowdell of Portsmouth was appointed in 2009.

The Republican State Committee will elect a new chairman on Jan. 26. Top candidates for the post are Jennifer Horn of Nashua and Andrew Hemingway of Bristol.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

TUESDAY, JAN. 15: PARTYING WITH JOE. Is Vice President Joe Biden looking ahead to 2016?

Is he trying to get an early jump on Hillary Clinton (and others) in the first-primary state?

Well, we can tell you this:

As New Hampshire Democrats prepare to go to Washington for President Barack Obama's inauguration, Biden has invited a select group of Granite Staters to a reception at his official residence on Sunday.

Among those on the invite list are state state Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, state Sens. Lou D'Allesandro and Donna Soucy, lobbyist Jim Demers, who was Obama's original supporter in the state, Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire President David Lang as well as Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster.

In other inaugural news, we've learned that Amber Barbagallo of Milford has been selected to carry the New Hampshire banner in the Inaugural Parade. She is a 2012 graduate of Plymouth State University and the current finance director for the New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus PAC.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

MONDAY, JAN. 14: SEEKING IMMIGRATION REFORM. Columnist, commentator and former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen is spearheading the launch of a new bipartisan advocacy group he says will promote immigration reform from a "center-right" perspective.

With immigration expected to move to center stage in Washington this year, Cullen has founded a 501(c)4 non-profit called Americans-By-Choice, which he hopes to develop into a leading national voice promoting a "pragmatic" approach to reform.

Cullen, the son of Irish immigrants, has joined with five New Hampshire-based immigration reform advocates who comprise the group's board.

Democratic immigration attorneys George Bruno, a former state Democratic chairman, and Ronald Abramson, a native of Chile, join three Republicans on the board: state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, Turbocam International founder and chairman Marian Noronha, a native of India, and Lithuanian-born businesswoman and former teacher Kristina Lenzi.

Cullen said he has hired Stephanie Webb, the former finance director for Ovide Lamontagne's campaign for governor, to work with him on the launch.

The group's web site, Americans-By-Choice.org, and its Facebook page are up and running. Cullen said he has filed the necessary paperwork for non-profit status.

Donations to 501(c)4 organizations are not tax deductible.

Cullen said that as the son of naturalized parents, he has long been interested in immigration and long frustrated with the overall Republican approach to the issue.

"Immigration reform is good policy,"he aid. "From my experience, immigrants are hard-working, highly-motivated job creators who contribute to the American economy and we need more of such people, not fewer.

"I also happen to think that being in favor of reform is good politics and opposing reform is bad politics," he said.

During the 2008 Republican presidential primary campaign, "a lot of appalling rhetoric was thrown around."

And in the 2012 primary and general election, he said, "The rhetoric improved a little, but the substance, which was Republicans coming across as opposed to immigration and to immigrants of all kinds, regardless of status, didn't change.

"My party paid a terrible price for that last November," he said. "I believe there is a silent majority on the right" who do not share what Cullen views as harshly anti-immigration views.

Mitt Romney's position on immigration "was the single issue that kept me from supporting him in the primary," Cullen said. "I liked Romney but he was awful on this issue.

"I felt this organization was a way to make an impact on an important issue, and, secondarily, nudging my party in what I would consider to be the right direction.

"Most of the groups who have been activist on the right on this issue have been nativist, know-nothing and anti-immigrant," Cullen said. "Their language is restrictionist and they are very much opposed to immigrants of all kinds."

Cullen said that with a "major policy push" expected by President Barack Obama this year, "We wanted to make sure that we are a nationally-recognized voice. Part of it is to counteract some of the nativist, know-nothing, anti-immigrant voices that perhaps defined the Republican position on this too much."

Cullen said Americans-By-Choice will support VISA reform for higher-skilled workers, a guest worker program for lower-skilled workers and a "pragmatic and realistic approach to the undocumented population that is already here."

Bruno, a former Ambassador to Belize during the Clinton administration, said he views the group's goal as having immigration policy "not be dominated by Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals, but by people of good will of all types who see immigration as a benefit to the strength of our country.

"It's a new approach to try to bring diverse views into the conversation and hopefully bridge the partisan divide," Bruno said.

Bruno said he looks at the approach from a "centrist," rather than a "center-right" viewpoint.

"I see this as a first step, but I see it having a national reach with Republicans, Democrats, people from the various ethnic communities, labor groups, business groups. This is an opportunity for everybody coming together from a national perspective," said Bruno.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

FRIDAY, JAN. 11: NEW ENDORSEMENT FOR HORN. Jennifer Horn has picked up the backing of a key member of the Republican State Committee in her campaign for state party chairman.

Mark Vincent holds the posts of NHGOP Area 3 Vice Chairman, Hillsborough County Republican Committee Treasurer and Amherst Town Republican Committee Chairman.

In an email to other state committee members, Vincent says Horn is "the conservative leader we need to both manage our state party operations and also effectively deliver the Republican message."

He said she will work to bring voters who have left the party "back home again."

Nashua resident Horn is running against fellow conservative Andrew Hemingway of Bristol to succeed the outgoing Wayne MacDonald as chairman. The 506-member state committee will chose a new chairman on Jan. 26.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

FRIDAY, JAN. 11: KEY COMMITTEE FOR ANNIE. Freshman U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster said today she has been named to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Earlier, she was named to the House Agriculture Committee.

The veterans affairs panel oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs "and has jurisdiction over critical issues including service member pensions, veterans' hospitals and medical care, and vocational training and education for veterans returning to civilian life," Kuster's office said.

Democrat Kuster promised to be a "strong voice" for veterans and to "work with members of both parties to strengthen health care benefits, cut bureaucratic red tape, expand job opportunities, and properly honor the dedicated men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States and deserve nothing less than our full, unwavering support."

As we reported earlier this week, Kuster was elected by her House Democratic colleagues as New Member Class Whip and a Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

THURSDAY, JAN. 10: VITRIOL. A radio talk show host's attempt to name a 2012 Manchester Person of the Year has turned into a bitter war of words in recent days between elements of the Free State movement and supporters of a police officer shot in the line of duty.

The social media battle, which went far beyond the city and state, comes shortly after the Free State group was the subject of strident remarks by Democratic Rep. Cynthia Chase, who called it "the single biggest threat" the state is facing.

And while the Granite Status normally doesn't report on popularity polls, the circumstances surrounding this one are far out of the ordinary.

Richard Girard of "Girard-at-Large" on 90.7 FM WLMW shut down his poll sooner than planned this week. So many automated votes were cast that he believes the contest was skewed.

Girard listed Manchester Police Officer Dan Doherty and Free Stater Amanda Bouldin of the Shire Sharing volunteer group among 11 nominees (including weatherman Al Kaprelian and Mayor Ted Gatsas) for the title.

As votes poured in - more than 95 percent almost evenly split between Doherty and Bouldin - ugly comments were spewed on Facebook and certain web forums about Doherty, referring to him, for example, as a "statist brute" and a "corrupt cop."

There was even a reference to Officer Michael Briggs, killed in the line of duty, as a "pig."

Unflattering messages were also directed against Bouldin and the Free Staters by backers of Doherty.

When Girard shut down the polling, about 26,000 votes had been cast, many by "automated systems designed to skew the poll, and not actual people." He intends to review the votes, weed out the bad ones as much as possible, and announce the results this week.

Girard said it's possible that in the interest of making peace, more than one winner will be named.

Girard did not expect what was supposed to be an upbeat, fun contest to recognize community stalwarts to get so far out of hand.

"But in a way, it's good," he said, "because if there is that kind of bad blood between the Free Staters and law enforcement, then this poll surfaced it, and I hope to use the show to bring in representatives of each side to discuss, and hopefully end, the discord.

"I believe they have more common ground than they realize, but outliers on both sides are contaminating the dialogue," Girard said.

Bouldin could not be reached for comment. She apparently became so discouraged by the nastiness that she withdrew from the contest.

"I imagine the intent of this award is to draw the community together and shine a light on the kind of impact even one person can have," she wrote on Facebook.

"Unfortunately, it's just become divisive, and I believe that detracts from the original intent."

Bouldin, who moved here from Dallas as part of the Free State Project, organized a successful "basket brigade" for Thanksgiving through Shire Sharing, a self-described "collaborative effort among liberty activists to address social ills through voluntary action and private charity."

Girard said that 700 families were helped.

A Facebook page supporting Bouldin was taken down Tuesday, after generating a host of off-the-chart personal comments from individuals and groups identifying as Free Staters.

When the police community got wind of the Free Staters pushing Bouldin, they responded.

A forum appeared on MassCops.com, entitled, "Shot NH Officer in need of help to defeat Free Staters."

Manchester Police Sgt. Ken Chamberlain, sergeant-at-arms of the New Hampshire Police Association, wrote, "We cannot allow a Free Stater to win this against a police officer who was SHOT in the line of duty and was almost killed. I am asking IMPLORING all of you if you have not voted to PLEASE vote, and if you have voted, you can vote again. You can vote as many times as you want."

On the site's forum, one unnamed writer referred to Free Staters in unprintable language referring to reproductive body parts. Others called one Free Stater a "mental midget."

Democrats reacted to Free-Staters' posts with outrage.

"The lack of civility and willingness to besmirch someone who nearly gave his life for our community, and his fellow/sister police officers, is pathetic," posted state Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley. "Also, sadly, I didn't see anyone on the vote for Bouldin Facebook page denouncing these comments."


RISING EMOTIONS? The flap indicates rising emotions as Free Staters continue to relocate to the state.

Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan said their comments were more disturbing than lawmaker Chase's recent well-publicized post that "Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing" and her call to make "the environment here so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave."

Sullivan said, "When you see things like this, are you able to find common ground with people who move to the state and make these vile comments about officers who risked or gave their lives for our safety and security? I don't know if you can."


OUTLIERS? State Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, a Free State leader and real estate agent who is helping others move to the state, said he was aware of the controversy but had not seen the offensive comments.

"Anybody could call themselves a Free Stater but anyone could be a troll trying to give the movement a bad name," he said.

"The Free State Project is just interested in getting liberty-loving people to move to the state.

"The movement is very peaceful," he said. "The Free State Project believes that people who are violent or intolerant are not welcome. Free Staters simply want to live free from government coercion and want to have lower taxes and less regulation for everybody."

Warden said some Free Staters "like the police, but some may feel the police are misdirected in their arrest of people for non-violent crimes, such as marijuana users. We believe the government is there to protect the people's rights.

"In any sort of group you have these outliers who like to make statements and they don't represent the group at large," he said.


NHGOP RACE UPDATE. The top candidates to succeed Wayne MacDonald as NHGOP chair have sent detailed plans to the state committee members who will vote Jan. 26.

Andrew Hemingway plans to raise more than $600,000 through direct mail, an online program, large and small fund-raising events, and other means.

Jennifer Horn has issued a four-page plan focusing on "messaging," "financial and human resources" and "organization."

Each has picked up key endorsements:

. Horn from state Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, and former Sullivan County Republican Chairman Steven Cunningham.

. Hemingway from the conservative Granite Grok web site and from three top Strafford County Republican Committee officers, Bill O'Connor, chairman; Warren Smith, vice chairman, and Fred Leonard, Strafford County Republican Committee treasurer.


WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY. Conservative activist Mike Biundo and his consulting partners are making a push for a strong showing at a meeting of state party leaders being organized by their new RightOn Strategies.

In invitations for the Feb. 7 meeting at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Biundo and partners Kory Wood and Derek Dufresne write that the meeting is intended "to give an analysis of what we believe happened, where New Hampshire Republicans go from here, and give you an open opportunity to voice your thoughts and ideas."

The meeting is "by invitation only" and will be closed to the press to allow "elected officials and activists to have an open discussion."

By the time the meeting is held, the NHGOP will have chosen its next chairman.

Biundo, in a recent opinion piece in the New Hampshire Union Leader, blamed GOP losses in the state and nationally in the last election on a voter identification program and overall ground organization that was inferior to the Democrats' operations.

STRONG PICK-UP. RightOn Strategies has picked up its first major client, a potential candidate for what will likely be a closely watched U.S. House race in South Carolina.

Republican Andy Patrick is exploring a bid for the U.S. House special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. The seat was vacated by U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who was tapped by Gov. Nikki Haley after U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint resigned.

Patrick is a state representative from Beaufort County and a former state trooper and Secret Service special agent.

Biundo became acquainted with Patrick while working in South Carolina as national campaign manager for former Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. He later worked for the Mitt Romney campaign as deputy national coalitions director.

The primary for the special election is March 19. A run-off is slated for April 2 and the general election is May 7.

KUSTER GETS HOUSE POSTS, OPENS OFFICES. U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster was elected by fellow members as both a New Member Class Whip and a Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus, her office said Wednesday.

Kuster has opened district offices at 18 North Main St. in Concord and 70 East Pearl St. in Nashua.

Today at 4 p.m., she will hold an in-district swearing-in reenactment at the Warren B. Rudman U.S. Courthouse in Concord.


. U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter said last week she has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee. It is her second term on the panel. She is also a member of the Armed Services Committee.

. Concord lobbyist Jim Demers was named by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which helps advance U.S. foreign policy by encouraging private investment in overseas markets.


John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at jdistaso@unionleader.com. Twitter handle: @jdistaso.