August 22. 2018 9:32PM

Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: NH loses top spot as most free state, local policies blamed

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN


When it comes to economic and personal freedom, New Hampshire has been knocked off its pedestal by Florida of all places.

The latest Freedom in the 50 States survey by the Libertarian Cato Institute put New Hampshire in second position and the two authors said during an interview Wednesday that the shift is more about local rather than state policy.

“Unfortunately since 2000 New Hampshire has seen one of the worst changes for freedom,” said co-author Will Ruger. “Part of that is because the state’s tax burden went up almost entirely from the property tax issue. Locally there are a lot of restrictions on planning and zoning, which hurts housing. Down the road this is going to hurt business desirability because company CEOs need a work force with access to affordable housing.”

Co-author Jason Sorens pointed out that local property taxes have in the past decade soared from 3.9 percent to 5.3 percent of average household income in the state.

“That’s a big number,” Sorens said.

New Hampshire has the second-lowest state and local tax burden. But when it comes to only local taxes, it is seventh-highest in the country.

Florida has a sales tax but on state taxes it’s still below the national average, while its property taxes are much lower than New Hampshire’s, Ruger noted.

Despite this long, slow slide, the pair said New Hampshire remains in an enviable spot.

New Hampshire has had one of the biggest gains of any state since 2015 by abolishing a certificate of need regulation law for hospital construction, making it harder to seize civil assets and decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, they said.

“New Hampshire still is in really good position. There just are some things to watch going forward,” Ruger said.

Both co-authors have New Hampshire ties.

Ruger was born in Portsmouth, grew up in Fremont and Plaistow and says his family goes back to the 1600s here.

Sorens has only lived here five years, but came in with a bang as one of the founders of the Free State Project — which set a goal to attract 20,000 libertarian-minded enthusiasts to move here.

“I moved from the number-50 freest state in New York to New Hampshire and a big part of that was my wife and I wanted the option of home schooling our daughter,” Sorens recalled.

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Former White House Chief of Staff and New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu’s son, his former top prosecutor and longtime friend and ex-staffer have been added to the star-studded list of roasters for the New Hampshire Republican State Committee’s fundraiser at the end of this month.

GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald revealed that former Sen. John E. Sununu has agreed to join the lineup along with former Gov. Steve Merrill, who was Sununu’s attorney general.

Sheri Keniston is a former staffer to the Sununu family who will be there as well for the Aug. 30 event at the Castleton Banquet and Conference Center in Windham.Tickets are $75 with tables of eight going for $600.

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Democratic congressional candidate Terence O’Rourke of Alton is calling on fellow veteran and primary rival Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth to prove she’s a combat veteran.

“During the course of this campaign, former Marine Corps Capt. Maura Sullivan has repeatedly and insistently stated that she ‘fought’ in the War in Iraq and that she is a ‘combat’ veteran. There is no record currently available to the public to justify those statements,” O’Rourke charged.

“In fact, statements made by her prior to running for office would indicate otherwise. As an officer with integrity I have pointed out that while Ms. Sullivan performed honorable duty in Iraq, she did not ‘fight’ in combat.”

A Sullivan campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

O’Rourke said Sullivan has attacked his service when he raised the controversy.

“In response, Ms. Sullivan publicly launched a personal attack on my character in the hopes of minimizing my service and obfuscating the truth about her own. She even went so far as to claim gender discrimination,” O’Rourke said.

“Ms. Sullivan, who claims to be a champion of veterans, should know better. Over 400 female Marines have been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan and over 9,000 female soldiers have received the Combat Action Badge in the same conflicts. This is about you Ms. Sullivan not about those brave women.”

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Former GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester of Meredith is doubling down on her belief that Republicans should not nominate state Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, for 1st District congressman.

Late last week, Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office released transcripts of interviews, including one from Forrester who counseled an aide to move her desk away from Sanborn’s office because she thought he made sexually inappropriate comments to her.

Now with three weeks before the Sept. 11 primary, Forrester is speaking out in more detail about why she views Sanborn’s behavior as disqualifying.

“Andy would have you believe this is a political disagreement but this isn’t about not agreeing with his conservative policies,” Forrester told the Laconia Daily Sun. “It has nothing to do with that. There are a lot of things we’re very like-minded on. My biggest concern with Andy is he doesn’t seem to acknowledge or understand that his comments are inappropriate.”

Right after stepping aside as party boss, Forrester endorsed primary rival Eddie Edwards but insisted that’s not what this is about.

“I don’t think that’s the type of person — with his behavior — it’s not somebody I’d want representing me,” Forrester said.

Sanborn has said all these comments come from detractors who don’t like the fact he’s not an establishment figure and will vote for the interest of middle-class voters first and not for party bosses.

As for Forrester’s latest broadside, a Sanborn spokesman declined comment.

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This 1st CD race is very close, according to macro and micro polling.

The micro polling comes from the 603 Alliance, which over five days conducted a straw poll of its members.

Edwards got 50 percent support, Sanborn had 49 percent.

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center’s latest statewide poll did not include a horse race between the two but found Sanborn and Edwards had similar name recognition and favorable ratings among likely primary voters.

Meanwhile in the more crowded 2nd CD race with five major contenders, state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua continues to pile up the straw poll wins.

Negron won the 603 Alliance version with 56 percent. Ex-state representative and retired combat nurse Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord came in second with 31 percent.

“I am incredibly proud of the hard work our team has put in to connecting with the grass roots and ensuring the conservative base of the party in NH-02 is firmly behind our campaign,” Negron said.

In other key primaries, these conservatives did not choose the big names. They rejected former Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas for Executive Council’s 4th District, giving 69 percent to ex-Hooksett state representative Jane Cormier.

They went with newcomer Steve Steiner (58 percent) of Conway over Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro in District 3

And they picked Rep Bill Kuch of Bow (63 percent) over former state senator Dave Boutin of Hooksett in District 16.

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The two Democratic candidates for governor share views on some major issues but not television advertising strategies.

Former state senator Molly Kelly of Harrisville served up the traditional bio spot, which began airing on WMUR on Wednesday.

“I know how hard it can be to put food on the table. I worked my way through college. I was a young single mom with three small children,” Kelly begins.

“Still, I became a financial advisor then a state senator. I wanted my kids to see what was possible. I’m running for governor to kick-start opportunity for all.”

Kelly’s campaign claims it has $350,000 in cash right now and will keep a “significant” TV buy through the primary.

Former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand has fewer dollars.

He had only $25,000 in the bank at the end of June and has got to be creative.

How’s this? The Manchester West Side native kicked off his digital ad Wednesday (says it will run on cable by the weekend) much of which he has spoken in French.

“My parents are immigrants from Quebec. They worked hard, raised kids, they are good people and they are America,” Marchand says speaking French in the stark black-and-white film. “In the age of Trump, silence is complicity. And at a time when we need leaders to stand up to Donald Trump’s hate, Chris Sununu says nothing.”

Marchand then riffs in English, “This is not normal; we can’t act like this is normal. We can’t act like our job is to do the same thing and hope we just do it better.”

The two-time gubernatorial candidate finishes up in French with, “We need a governor who understands we are great not in spite of immigration, we are great because of immigration.”

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Democratic congressional candidate Mindi Messmer of Rye is trying to get attention among the nine major rivals in the 1st District, but she sure doesn’t relish this kind of attention.

Messmer was added as a target on a neo-Nazi website because she sponsored a resolution last fall condemning hate crimes and racism.

The anonymous post details Messmer’s home information.

“Mindi, I think Rye might be too White. We think you would feel better about everything if a few thousand Somalis got imported into Rye. I’m sure your neighborhood has plenty of room,” the post said.

As a mother, Messmer didn’t appreciate that.

Messmer has asked AG MacDonald to investigate the matter.

“I hope they step up and actually do something about it,” Messmer said

She isn’t alone in being targeted by this group.

There are more than 100 in politics, non-profit, law enforcement and spiritual communities who have been listed on New Hampshire Nationalists website, including Gov. Chris Sununu. Also singled out as “anti-white” were 21 other House Democrats and Republicans who had gone on record embracing Messmer’s resolution. HCR 13 passed the House but died in the Senate, which has more strict rules about allowing in joint resolutions.

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Executive Council candidate Garth Corriveau of Manchester was accurate when he predicted his primary rival would out-raise him.

Now we know it was by a lot.

Corriveau has raised $28,000 so far, according to his first campaign finance report and has $11,000 in cash on hand.

High-tech executive Gray Chynoweth of Manchester has raised $151,000, including $25,000 of his own money.

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New Hampshire lost one of its iconic figures in grass-roots politics last week.

Vahrij Manoukian, longtime owner of the Hollis Pharmacy and General Store, lost a two-year battle with brain cancer last week.

Soon after Manoukian moved to Hollis in 1985, the store became a must-stop for Republican candidates including John McCain, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and George W. Bush.

Like former President Bush often did, Manoukian gave his customers nicknames to remember them by.

Sometimes Manoukian, 66, reserved some special nicknames for candidates.

His loyal patrons always turned out in force whenever Manoukian hosted a candidate.

He’ll be missed.

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After a hiatus following his arrest on domestic violence-related charges, state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, returned to social media last week and ignited a Facebook debate.

“Why aren’t you resigning?” posted Matt Durso of Epsom moments after Woodburn showed up.

Daniel P. Chick, a past student of Groveton High School, shot back, “Because he’s good at his job.”

John Corrigan was a former spokesman for the State Employees Association from Penacook and he appeared to come down somewhere in the middle.

“Justice rarely comes from a rush to judgment. I do think Jeff Woodburn needs to explain his case in the court of public opinion,” Corrigan said.

Katie Talbert wrote that the controversy was complicated and needed to play out.

“I’m very disappointed in Woodburn. He was a very good senator and the North Country has relied on his service to progressive values for a long time. The Republicans have much to gain by his immediate resignation,” Talbert noted.

“Also, its the severity of the claims put forth at this time. Like I said, I’m not convinced that he’s a brutal abuser nor should he be classified on that level and to do so reduces the degree and severity of domestic violence on many levels. I’m not minimizing, I’m asking you to step down and let the process and the evidence come forward and go from there. I think men especially need to step back on issues like this.”

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My colleague, Mike Cousineau, broke the news Wednesday about the replacement for Eversource spokesman Martin Murray, who retires this fall.

It’s William Hinkle, who was communications and policy adviser on the staff of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, and also served as communications director when Hassan was governor.


klandrigan@unionleader.com