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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Ex-intern's state of mind closed Andy Sanborn case

June 06. 2018 9:22PM

The decision of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald’s office to find no criminal wrongdoing regarding a crass comment from state Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford —and cash paid to the former intern who had been the target of the remark — became a foregone conclusion given the victim’s state of mind, according to several close to the investigation.

Investigators and prosecutors interviewed 18 different people in response to the probe requested by Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem.

The inquiry went as far as discussions before a grand jury, but state prosecutors found there was “no credible evidence” to link the comment to cash paid to the ex-intern.

The former intern has remained involved in state government matters and from the beginning of this controversy, has declined to lodge a complaint against Sanborn for the remark and since told investigators that he did not consider the cash being paid to him to be a bribe.

The good news for Sanborn is this matter has been resolved before his 1st Congressional District campaign was at a pivotal juncture.

His Republican opponents in this race have not publicly made any comment. Leading Democrats have been critical and can be counted upon to return to this topic in the fall should Sanborn be the nominee.

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Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield called upon legislative leaders to make a policy change to encourage attendance, which lagged during the second half of the 2018 session in the House of Representatives.

Woodburn said according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Hampshire is the only state in the country that pays its lawmakers at the beginning of their two-year term in one $200 check.

“You don’t get paid in the real world until you’ve done the work. I think it’s time this Legislature joined the rest of its legislative counterparts and the American economy by getting paid at the end of your service,” Woodburn said.

New Hampshire’s lawmakers are the lowest-paid in the country and the salary is set in the state Constitution.

But Woodburn said when those checks get cut is up to legislative leaders and it’s been the practice for decades to give lawmakers the money at the outset.

Lawmakers make much more than $100 a year in legislative mileage, which they are paid on a monthly basis based on their travel after it occurs.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the pay policy is up to the Legislature to set, but he sees nothing wrong with the idea.

“If the Legislature wanted to change the timing of their pay, on the face of it I don’t see any problem with it,” Sununu told reporters Wednesday. “Attendance seemed to be an issue especially in the second half of the session here, so anything to help guarantee good attendance and ensure that would be a step in the right direction.”

Woodburn said this was the first of several changes he will propose to improve legislative operations.

“I think there are lot of commonsense reforms,” Woodburn said.

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Republican congressional candidate Bruce Crochetiere of Hampton Falls was late getting into the 1st District race, but he’s making up for lost time with some key hires this week.

Chris Kivior was brought on as political director, having spent the last five years in Massachusetts — including seeking a seat in that state’s Legislature, chairing the Franklin (MA) GOP Town Committee and working on a U.S. Senate campaign.

Field representative Jack Landry worked on Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s re-election campaign in 2016.

He still attends St. Anselm College and works on the New Hampshire Institute of Politics ambassador program and Student Government Association.

Field representative Hayden Harrington spent three years in the U.S. Army before attending the University of New Hampshire and volunteering for several local Republican campaigns.

Managing the campaign is Molly Kepner who worked with Crochetiere consultant Jim Merrill on Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign here and was advising potential candidate Matt Mayberry until he decided not to run.

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Maura Sullivan, the Portsmouth Democrat and Illinois native who flirted with running for Congress in her former home state, is returning to Illinois next week for two prominent fund-raisers in Chicago.

The June 19 is at the Chicago home of Christie Hefner, daughter of the late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Longtime Democratic operative and CNN talk show host David Axelrod isguest speaker.

The June 15 event has as its honorary chair U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, who like Sullivan is retired military. Sullivan served in the Marines, Duckworth in the Army. Both also worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs during the Obama administration.

Critics have questioned Sullivan’s substantial out-of-state campaign donations. She has raised more than $910,000 with 80 percent of that money outside New Hampshire.

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With the regular 2018 legislative session now in the books, the race for Speaker of the New Hampshire House is on, and it could not be more wide open.

Speaker Gene Chander, R-Bartlett, ensured this would be the case when he insisted that he would only serve out the remaining term of Speaker Shawn Jasper’s term once he was made agriculture commissioner.

There had been talk of a unity ticket that would have combined forces of the two obvious favorites in this race — two-time Speaker runner-up Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, and House Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack.

Instead, they are facing off against one another with many more in the mix, including Reps. Barbara Griffin, R-Goffstown, and Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry.

Reps. John Burt, also R-Goffstown, David Bates, R-Windham, and Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, are also considering whether to get into this contest.

Given how late the race is emerging, those running have had little time to line up commitments from veteran members. Now they must go out to them during their re-election campaigns, while also trying to get newcomers to pick sides — which many are reluctant to do.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, waits in the wings to take the gavel should there be a blue tidal wave that again flips the House chamber from one party to the other.

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Shurtleff had something else to celebrate Wednesday as state Rep. Herbert Richardson of Lancaster switched parties and became a Democrat.

Richardson is a member of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee and at times parted ways with GOP conservatives on issues ranging from Right to Work (he’s against it) to casino gambling (he’s been for it.)

“Representative Richardson is a longtime friend and has been a strong advocate for the North Country over his nine terms in the New Hampshire House,” Shurtleff said.

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While Gray Chynoweth of Manchester faces a Democratic primary for the vacant, 4th District seat on the Executive Council, he remains focused upon the Republican frontrunner for the post, former Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas.

On Tuesday, Gatsas kicked off his campaign with a fund-raiser at the Derryfield Country Club.

Chynoweth chose to mark the occasion to define what he views as the essential difference between them.

“Voters are looking for innovative new leaders, not failed career politicians, to bring modern ideas to state government that will drive smart growth, foster healthier communities, and get a better return for our tax dollars without letting politics get in the way,” Chynoweth said in a statement. “That’s why I am running for Executive Council and to continue Councilor (Chris) Pappas’ tradition of balanced and forward-thinking leadership.”

Gatsas said Chynoweth needs to remain focused on first winning the Democratic primary for this seat against former alderman Garth Corriveau of Manchester.

“He also should know what goes on because the Executive Council does not do any of that,” Gatsas said.

Former state representative Jane Cormier of Hooksett is the only Republican who has already announced she too is seeking this nomination.

“It’s such a huge district; much of it was my old Senate district, but several towns were added to it in the last redistricting,” Gatsas said.

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Seacoast political veterans fondly remember Evelyn Marconi of Portsmouth, a towering figure in Republican Party politics who passed away at 92 on Tuesday.

She and her late husband, Geno Marconi, started Geno’s Chowder & Sandwich Shop more than 50 years ago. It is now run by her daughter.

The business remains a must-visit for GOP candidates, from the bottom of the ballot to the top, and attracted the likes of Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and more recently Mitt Romney.

Former GOP Vice Chairman Matt Mayberry related the treatment a wayward Republican would get from Marconi.

“Evelyn Marconi was a powerhouse. If you were an elected leader in New Hampshire and made her cranky, she would turn your picture to face the wall,” Mayberry recalled. “You had to come in and explain your vote to get it to face out again.”

Gov. Sununu added she was, “a wonderful friend of the entire Sununu family, Evelyn Marconi was a Seacoast institution and a community treasure, and you always knew where you stood with Evelyn, depending on which way your picture faced on her wall,” said Gov. Chris Sununu.

“We will miss seeing her energetic spirit around Geno’s, a Portsmouth destination for political candidates and visitors alike.”

She served on the Portsmouth City Council for eight terms, including a stint as assistant mayor.

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The state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation had plenty to smile about with President Trump Wednesday as he signed the VA Mission (Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks) Act that strengthens the system. U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster attended the bill-signing ceremony at the White House.

Kuster, a ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was one of just two House Democrats to co-sponsor the law that continues to provide special eligibility for community care to veterans in a state without a full-service VA hospital — the case in New Hampshire.

But Sen. Maggie Hassan said she was concerned the Trump administration was working against a bipartisan bill to pay for the law.

“There is bipartisan consensus that we must support our veterans, and I urge the President to join us as we continue working to build an even stronger United States of America that is ever worthy of the sacrifice of our brave veterans, service members, and their families,” Hassan said.

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In advance of Trump’s Singapore summit with North Korea next week, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation to India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Singapore. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, led the four-person group that met with international leaders, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis

“This is a critical time for U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific region,” Shea-Porter said. “China continues to use economic assistance and investments abroad as leverage to influence strategic countries in the region, and diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula is moving rapidly as we attempt to reach an agreement that will lead to the de-nuclearization of the North Korean regime.”

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Gov. Sununu continued to assert this week that the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of an election law change regarding residency will go a long way to determining whether the first-time chief executive goes along with it.

State GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester came out strongly in favor of the bill (HB 1264), which would require all voters to get their driver’s licenses and cars registered in the state within 60 days of voting.

“Politics doesn’t seem to come into play,” Sununu insisted. “The biggest factor for me has always been constitutionality.

“We will await to see what they come back with. That has always been my main concern, that’s been the major concern for a lot of folks in New Hampshire, so we aren’t doing something that is unfair to citizens.”

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The 2018 candidate filing period opened Wednesday. Democratic congressional candidate and Manchester Rep. Mark MacKenzie secured two more labor unions backing his candidacy, the New Hampshire Association of Letter Carriers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“He has been a strong progressive voice in New Hampshire for over 25 years. Mark has a proven record with 25 years as a Manchester firefighter and 25 years as president of the NH AFL CIO. He has always been there on the streets and in the State House to help people in need. We need his experience and powerful voice in Congress,” said Terri Gesel, president of the letter carriers’ local.

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