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Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Manchester reps fight redistricting plan

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 18. 2012 11:42PM

THE PUSHBACK: The full-court press is on over the House redistricting plan, and the Manchester delegation is being squeezed.

The Manchester House members met last week and vowed to stand together in opposition to the House plan, which they believe could cost the city two representatives.

The delegation agreed to vote to sustain what most expect to be Gov. John Lynch's veto of the plan, which would set up a situation similar to that in 2002 when the state Supreme Court had to redraw the political boundaries of both the House and the Senate. Their votes could help ensure the veto sticks.

The delegation's vow and other grumblings obviously got the attention of House leadership. The draft of a five-page letter was passed out at the chairman and vice chairmen's meeting Tuesday, and the final product - with the signature of more than 40 members of House Republican leadership - was sent Friday to all Republican House members.

The letter blasts the redistricting plan's critics, saying the Redistricting Committee did its job without 'emotionalism or the necessity to view all differences as reflecting a choice between good and evil.'

The letter says there have been 'flatly erroneous statements attacking the House redistricting plan.'

'These statements appear to be driven by parochial or personal interests and hopes to put in jeopardy the ability of the Legislature to redistrict, leaving it to the court to draw districts, as we saw in 2002, should the governor choose to veto HB 592.'

The letter then lists - and rebuts - five assertions raised by opponents: an upheld veto would force a different plan; the plan is going to court anyway; population deviation over 10 percent is acceptable in some cases; the plan is unconstitutional; and a city or town is guaranteed a set number of representatives.

The summary appears to be aimed at the Manchester delegation and several other communities, including Pelham, which also believes it deserves its own representatives, something the town does not have under the plan.

'We understand that it would not be fair to the remainder of our caucus or to our constituents to throw the entire plan to legal or legislative risk because our parochial interests are not met,'' the letter says. 'We realized that neither our state constitution nor our federal Constitution provide any protection for these parochial interests. We likewise understand that both constitutions likewise do not provide any consideration for city boundaries whatsoever as they seek equal representation for every citizen within towns and wards.'

The House leaders ask the members to consider the greater good, because 'parochial interests will lead to a small minority dictating to the rest that they will live with judicially mandated districts.'

The letter concludes: 'Failing to understand where we are now and failing to override a potential veto of HB 592 will have enormous consequences for every member of the House.'

Republican Will Infantine, Manchester delegation chairman, said he and several other members have been discussing the issue with the Speaker's Office.

'Like any other negotiation in business or politics, both sides have to do their posturing,' said Infantine, who is vice chairman of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee. 'The speaker and I had a face-to-face sitdown, and we'll see if we can come to any kind of solution.'

Rep. Michael Ball, Manchester Republican Committee chairman, said, 'Manchester, as the largest city in the state, does not need to be losing representatives. We're roughly 10 percent of the people in New Hampshire.'

He acknowledged it appears the battle lines have been drawn. 'We live in Manchester and we have to protect the interests of our constituents. Anyone worth their salt would do that,' Ball said.

The Senate held a hearing on the House redistricting plan, but has yet to vote on the bill and won't until next month.

The House is expected to approve the Senate's redistricting plan Wednesday.

The House last week approved the redistricting plan for the five Executive Council districts.

The one plan that has yet to come to a vote is for the two congressional districts. U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass have been unable to reach agreement on changes to the political boundaries.

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FAMILIAR FACES: Democratic National Committee members and two party stalwarts, Kathy Sullivan of Manchester and Peter Burling of Cornish, will co-chair the 2012 Democratic State Convention on Saturday, June 2, at Manchester's Memorial High School.

Both are up for reelection at the April 28 meeting of the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee in Concord. No one has announced a challenge to the incumbents.

Manchester Alderman and state Rep. Patrick Arnold and Concord attorneys Cinde Warmington and Jay Surdukowski will co-chair the 2012 Democratic Party Platform Committee.

Surdukowski, a 2008 Union Leader 40 Under Forty honoree, has served as Platform Committee co-chairman three times, and Warmington has served several times. Arnold was the 2011 state convention's co-chairman.

The Senate Democratic Political Action Committee held a fundraiser last week at the Barley House in Concord, raising $30,000.

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IRISH EYES ARE SMILING: The 10th annual New Hampshire Capital St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef and Cabbage lunch to benefit Children's Hospital at Dartmouth will have a little different flair this year.

The event usually has the governor and House and Senate leaders taking good-natured pot shots at each other, but this year, the event's host, Jim Demers, decided to bring in a professional.

Comedy Central star Juston McKinney will be performing. He has appeared on 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno and on Conan O'Brien's show.

The event will begin at noon March 15 at the Courtyard Marriott-Grappone Center in Concord.

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A LITTLE FANFARE: A public hearing Thursday before the Senate Transportation Committee is bound to draw a crowd.

Senate Bill 390 would establish a special numbered license plate (not the highly coveted double digit ones) to benefit the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Appearing in support will be New England Patriots Charitable Foundation President Joshua Kraft, son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the Patriots Cheerleaders and Pat Patriot.

The plates would cost $40, with half going into the state's general fund and half to the Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Similar license plate programs are in place in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The bill's prime sponsor is Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua.

In the past, New Hampshire lawmakers have not been kind to special license plates. Several years ago, they killed former state Sen. Andy Peterson's proposal to help fund state parks that way.

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SPECIAL ELECTION: Manchester has a special election Tuesday to fill the seat of Michael Brunelle, who represented Ward 3.

Former state Rep. and Alderman Peter Sullivan won a special Democratic primary election in January, defeating community activist Mary Georges, 44-39.

Sullivan will face Republican Muni Savyon for the seat vacated when Brunelle moved out of state.

Savyon received 17 votes in the Republican primary and ran unopposed.

Let's hope there is a larger turnout than there was in the primary for the seat that represents the downtown area and Millyard.

Garry Rayno writes State House Dome weekly for New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail him at

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