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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Burns, Pappas to run for Executive Council; Conservative Jennifer Horn endorses Kevin Smith for governor

Senior Political Reporter

March 21. 2012 10:51AM

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, UPDATE: BURNS EYES EXEC COUNCIL. Hillsborough County Treasurer Robert 'Bob' Burns of Bedford announced this afternoon that he filed paperwork today to form a political action committee and plans to run for the District 4 Executive Council seat being vacated by Ray Wieczorek.

He said he will not seek reelection as county treasurer.

Earlier today, Democrat Chris Pappas, a former county treasurer who was defeated by Burns in 2010, told the Granite Status he will seek the seat (see item below). Also eyeing the seat is Republican state Sen. Tom DeBlois.

Burns previously was a selectman in Manchester's Ward 12. He is a Bedford business owner and lifelong New Hampshire resident.

Burns, in a statement, said, 'It is imperative that we have strong fiscal conservatives on the Executive Council. I bring many different types of business experience to the table, having spent over 10 years in manufacturing industry. I look forward to running against Chris Pappas again this November.'

Burns also announced that state Rep. Shaun Doherty, R-Pelham, has signed on to be his campaign manager and treasurer.

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, UPDATE: PAPPAS IS IN. Former Hillsborough County Treasurer and restaurant owner Chris Pappas has made a major decision about his political future.

The Manchester Democrat told the Granite Status exclusively that he will be a candidate for the District 4 Executive Council seat being vacated by retiring Republican Raymond Wieczorek.

Pappas, 31, who owns the Puritan Back Room restaurant, said, 'It's important to get Concord back into balance. We've heard a lot of extreme noise coming out of the (heavily Republican) Legislature and the (all-Republican) Executive Council hasn't been immune to it, either.

'We need pragmatic people there to step forward and to make sure the people's interests are being represented in Concord, and that's my motivating factor in deciding to start a campaign.'

When Wieczorek announced in January he will not run again, Pappas was among the first to say he was interested in running for the seat.

He told us this week the encouragement he received was 'humbling.'

Also announced for the seat is Republican Manchester state Sen. Tom DeBlois.

Pappas said the all Republican Executive Council has taken 'some very political votes' during the past 15 months.

He cited the rejection of the Planned Parenthood contract, the firing of the state consumer advocate and the council's rejection of federal funds to study the viability of passenger rail in southern New Hampshire.

He said he has 230 employees and deals with hundreds of customers and a variety of vendors.

'I understand the pressures of the business community and the stresses working families face daily,' Pappas said.

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 UPDATE: HORN BACKS SMITH. Conservative leader Jennifer Horn of Nashua endorsed Kevin Smith for governor today, calling him 'a new voice' that will bring 'new energy' to the Republican Party and the state.

The endorsement was first reported by the Granite Status earlier today.

Horn, the GOP's 2008 nominee for the 2nd District U.S. House seat and the founder of the nonprofit issues group 'We the People,' told us, 'It's time for new leadership, not just for the Republican Party, but for the state, and Kevin has a strong record of accomplishment' on a variety of issues, most importantly, she said, economic and fiscal issues.

Horn and Smith have known each other for several years and have a close working relationship dating back to when he was the executive director of Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group whose focus Smith expanded beyond social issues to fiscal issue as well.

When Horn ran unsuccessfully for the GOP U.S. House nomination against Charlie Bass in 2010, Smith endorsed her when most Republicans were backing Bass.

'I believe that is the best person for the job,' she said. 'Kevin brings a new voice, new energy, new ideas and new leadership.'

She said he has a 'record of accomplishment in many areas that will make him a fine governor. He proved during his days at Cornerstone his ability to bring people together and get policy passed. Last year, he was instrumental in a lot of the policcies that was passed by the Legislature that led to the balanced budget.'

She also said he has been a leader on the right-to-work issue.

'There is no question that Kevin is the underdog' in his race for the GOP nomination against Ovide Lamontagne, Horn said.

'Ovide has been in politics for decades. But as voters get to know Kevin, they will realize that his record is much broader than one issue,' Horn said. 'I think the voters are looking for new energy and new ideas.'

She cited his economic plan, released on Tuesday (see item below), to lower business taxes and improve government efficiency, as 'a detailed plan, which is something we don't always get from candidates.'

In a statement, Smith said, 'Jennifer Horn and I both share an optimistic vision for New Hampshire. She has always brought great energy and strong ideas to the Republican Party and to state politics. I'm looking forward to working with her as my campaign continues to meet and talk to voters, and to promote a plan to strengthen our economic and fiscal condition, create real and sustainable job growth, and to make New Hampshire a leader in the 21st Century.'

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 20 UPDATE: REFORM BUSINESS TAXES. Republican Kevin Smith today became the first candidate for governor to unveil a detailed economic plan, and the Granite Status has learned that the centerpiece of its initial segment is the reform of the state's business taxes.

The initial part of the four-part plan also aims at improving state government efficiency and reducing its costs.

'By creating a climate that fosters more innovation, investment, productivity, and job growth, and unlocking the free market, our state's future will be bright, and I believe that New Hampshire's future is now,' Smith says in a statement obtained by the Granite Status.

Smith, saying that the state has one of the highest corporate tax burdens in the country, wants to:

- Reduce the 8.5 percent Business Profits Tax beginning in 2013 and phase it down to 5 percent by 2020.

- Reduce the Business Enterprise Tax (BET) by two-thirds beginning in 2013 and phase it down from the current 0.75 percent to 0.25 percent by 2020

- Increase the revenue threshold for businesses that have to pay the BET to $250,000 from $150,000 by 2014.

- Eliminate the BET on small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross revenue and that do not make a profit for the fiscal year.

Smith says this reform will create more employment and 'improve the quality of employment,' which will help keep young New Hampshire workers and college graduates in the state.

Smith also calls for:

- A review of all federal mandates with a corresponding cost-benefit analysis of the resources used for state and local compliance for each mandate.

- Updating and implementing recommendations of the state's 2003 Commission to Assess the Operating Efficiency of State Government by the year 2014, such as out-sourcing of corrections and improving the state's procurement practices.

- Modernizing the state's technology system.

- Allowing state employees to improve efficiency and responsiveness of state agencies and offices, and to cut down on waste, fraud, and redundancies

- Putting into place a system of metrics in all state departments to measure how efficiently taxpayer dollars are spent and to determine the state's return on investment for all state-funded programs.

- Reorganizing state government, combining offices and agencies and eliminating redundant functions.

- Monitoring and controlling spending growth and measuring agencies' performance to increase efficiency and reduce cost

Smith has also pledged to oppose and veto any sales, income or other broad-based tax.

Smith, the former executive director of Cornerstone Action, is opposed by Ovide Lamontagne in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and businessman Steve Kenda is also considering running.

Democrats in the race to replace the retiring Gov. John Lynch are former state Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jackie Cilley.

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, MARCH 20 UPDATE: 'HEAVY HITTERS' FOR OVIDE. A coalition of high-powered businessmen and businesswomen have joined a group of political leaders in backing Republican Ovide Lamontange for governor by hosting a major fund-raiser for him next month.

The Granite Status has learned that the host committee for the $250-a-person event on April 18 at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford comprises 19 'heavy-hitters' from the business community who have come together to back Lamontagne. Almost all are new supporters, being disclosed here for the first time.

We've also learned that young activist Luke Kraus has been named the field director of Lamontagne's campaign.

The fund-raiser committee includes Doug Dean, CEO of Elliot Hospital; Jeff Eisenberg, president of the Eisenberg, Vital and Ryze public relations firm and past president of the Manchester Monarchs; Ben Gamache of Gamache Enterprises; David Larrivee, owner of Workplace Benefit Solutions; Dan McKenney, owner of the Merrimack Mortgage Co.; Ted Purington, principal at Manchester Sand and Gravel; Dick Rawlings , former Managing Partner of Northwest Mutual and current chairman of Easter Seals New Hampshire Board of Directors; and Mike Reed, owner of Stebbins Commercial Properties.

Also on the committee are Beth Roberts, senior vice president at Harvard Pilgrim; Dave Roedel, principal of Roedel Development; Cathy Schmidt, past president of Citizens Bank; Arthur Sullivan of Brady Sullivan; Jim Tenn, past president of the New Hampshire Bar Association; Patrick Tufts, president and CEO of the Granite United Way; Nick Vailas, president of the Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center; Jeremy Veilleux, principal at the Baker Newman Noyes accounting firm; and Steve Webb, president of TD Banknorth New Hampshire.

All are backing Lamontagne personally and not on behalf of their businesses or groups.

Also on the host committee are a group of political leaders who are previously announced Lamontagne supporters.

New campaign field director Kraus worked on former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty's political action committee and New Hampshire presidential campaign and, after Pawlenty dropped out, worked on the Rick Perry presidential campaign.

He has recently been helping Cliff Hurst with his campaign for vice chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, MARCH 19, UPDATE: TARGETING CHARLIE. New Hampshire U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass is among 41 so-called 'vulnerable' GOP congressmen being targeted by the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on the eve of the expected rollout of the latest House Republican budget plan.

With House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., expected to unveil a budget tomorrow that, like his plan last year, calls for an overhaul of Medicare, the DCCC is focusing on Bass and 40 others with 'patch-through' robo calls that says they want seniors "who earned their Medicare benefits (to) spend thousands more, but refuse to end tax loopholes and giveaways for millionaires."

Bass spokeswoman Stephanie DuBois said Bass has not yet decided if he will support the new Ryan plan, called the Democratic charges 'political scare tactics' and said Democrats are trying to divert attention from President Barack Obama's health care law, which, she said, 'cut $575 billion from Medicare, is leading to the elimination of the popular Medicare Advantage program, which thousands of Granite Staters rely on, and gives a board of unelected bureaucrats the ability to deny care to seniors and increase their costs.'

Key to the anticipated Ryan budget is a proposal similar to the controversial one he included last year that would have reformed (Democrats say ended) Medicare for people under 55. Those future retirees would have received a federal allowance, or subsidy, to purchase medical coverage from private insurers on a special exchange.

This year, numerous reports suggest that Ryan could tweak the proposal to allow those under 55 to choose between keeping traditional program or the private plan.

While Republicans who support Ryan say reform is necessary in order to begin to move the federal budget toward balance, Democrats cite a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that said the Ryan plan would not control the growth in health care costs but would simply shift more costs to seniors.

Bass and fellow New Hampshire U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta supported Ryan's plan last year. Neither has said in advance of the Ryan rollout how he feels about this year's plan.

Bass constituents today began getting calls from 'Ann from the Democratic National Campaign Committee calling about Congressman Charlie Bass and House Republicans' newest scheme to end Medicare.'

The recorded call says Bass 'has the wrong priorities. House Republicans like Bass demand seniors who earned their Medicare benefits spend thousands more, but refuse to end tax loopholes and giveaways for millionaires. It's just not fair and it's not right.

'We all agree Washington needs to cut spending,' the call continues, 'but it should be done the right way, not on the backs of seniors.'

Call recipients are then advised, 'Press 1 to be connected to Congressman Bass's office and tell him to protect Medicare for seniors, not tax breaks for millionaires.'

Bass spokeswoman DuBois noted that, a Web site affiliated with the Tampa Bay Times, last year chose Democratic claims that Republicans "voted to end Medicare" its 2011 'Lie of the Year.'

'It is truly unfortunate that some are choosing to resort to political scare tactics by continuing the PolitiFact 'Lie of the Year' to frighten seniors about Medicare, a program Congressman Bass has continuously supported to preserve and protect for current and future retirees,' she said.

DuBois said, 'The budget proposal hasn't even been introduced yet and already the other side is dismissing a debate before it even begins. Congressman Bass will look at any budget proposal carefully once it is introduced and will always vote to preserve and protect the Medicare program for future generations and ensure that current seniors continue to receive the benefits that they rely on.'

Bass' Democratic opponent both in 2010 and this year, Ann McLane Kuster, today set up an online letter to Bass contending, 'Dismantling Medicare while protecting tax cuts for the wealthy is shameful,' and adding, 'I pledge to stand up for Medicare, not millionaires, and I urge you to do the same.'

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, MARCH 19, UPDATE: NEW BASS CAMPAIGN ADVISER. U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass' reelection campaign announced today it hired the campaign manager of Bass' former primary foe to advise his bid for an eighth term.

The campaign said David Chesley will be a senior adviser 'focusing on coalitions, voter outreach, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV).'

Chesley has worked on New Hampshire campaigns since 2006 and has advised past Bass campaigns.

Chesley's first Republican campaign was in 2002, when he worked for former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. He also served on her Senate staff.

In 2004, headed grassroots organizing in northeast Ohio for President George W. Bush's re-election.

He worked on the 2006 Bass re-election as grassroots adviser before joining Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in New Hampshire in 2007 as state field director.

In 2008, Chesley managed Jennifer Horn's Congressional Campaign, helping Horn win a four-way primary to become the Republican nominee. He also managed Horn's 2010 congressional campaign, and when she lost to Bass in the party primary, he joined the Bass campaign as an adviser during the general election.

Bass called Chesley 'one of the best at organizing voter outreach efforts for campaigns in the state.'

Bass recently announced the hiring of Brad Blais as campaign manager and B.J. Perry as a campaign consultant.

(Earlier updates and the full March 15 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 15: A DILEMMA. Rep. David Bates, the sponsor of the controversial new same-sex marriage repeal amendment, has put the two major candidates for governor from his Republican party in a political pickle.

The Bates amendment would repeal gay marriage, but not until March 31, 2013, and replace it with civil unions. But in the meantime, voters would be asked in a non-binding referendum in November of 2012, 'Shall New Hampshire law allow civil unions for same-sex couples and define marriage as the union of one man and one woman?'

Bates says that if the majority says 'yes,' then same-sex marriage would be repealed on March 31, 2013, with no further action by lawmakers necessary.

But if voters say 'no' to the question, in effect supporting keeping same-sex marriage, Bates points out that the effective date of his amendment allows lawmakers to have enough time to act to stop the repeal from taking effect.

They would be under no statutory obligation to do so, but he says he is sure lawmakers and the next governor would respect the will of the people.

So, if this amendment happens to pass and become law (over an expected veto by Gov. John Lynch), and if the voters in November say 'no' to the question and opt to keep same-sex marriage on the books, would a Gov. Ovide Lamontagne or a Gov. Kevin Smith support and sign into law a repeal of the repeal next year? Would they support the voters' wishes over their own personal strong opposition to same sex marriage?

We posed the question to them.

Smith told us, 'My position on this issue is clear. I strongly support the traditional definition of marriage. And, to spend time dealing with a hypothetical of repealing a repeal that hasn't even happened yet, takes the focus away from the very real issues that matter most to voters.

'The public has grown weary of this debate, and the people want finality on the issue,' said Smith. 'Voters want to see their elected officials offer leadership and specific ideas for improving the state's economic condition and creating more good-paying jobs. That has been, and will continue to be, the centerpiece of my campaign.'

Lamontagne late Wednesday issued the following statement:

'My position in support of traditional marriage being legally defined as between a man and a woman is well known, and if elected Governor I would maintain that position. However, the most important issue in this campaign for Governor is electing a leader who can help to create good jobs and get Granite Staters back to work. I am prepared to be that leader from day one.'

On the other hand, what about Democrats Jackie Cilley and Maggie Hassan, both strong supporters of same-sex marriage?

If the voters happened to support allowing the repeal of same-sex marriage to take effect, what would they do as governor?

Would they let that happen under their watch, or would they mount, fight for or support an effort to repeal the repeal and keep same-sex marriage on the books.

We posed that question to them.

Hassan said, 'Given that over 60 percent of New Hampshire oppose a repeal (in a UNH poll earlier this year), it is highly unlikely that such a referendum would pass. I would not turn my back on the civil rights issue of our generation and I oppose any repeal of marriage equality.'

Cilley told us, 'I feel very strongly about this subject. If elected Governor there will be no compromise in my administration over protecting the civil rights of our gay and lesbian citizens to marry the person they love.

'Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time and in no way should civil rights be put up to a popular vote, 'Cilley said. 'In 2007 we had the courage to stand up and do the right thing and provide equal rights for all Granite Staters and the O'Brien Legislature is once again trying to turn back the clock. Rather than wasting taxpayer dollars to turn back legislation already approved, they should be focusing on issues vital to our state like job creation and improving our education system.'

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THURSDAY, MARCH 15, UPDATE: NATIONAL JOURNAL RANKINGS. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was ranked as one of the most centrist senators in newly-released National Journal 2011 rankings on economic, social and foreign policy issues, while U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte was ranked as one of the more conservative senators.

Democrat Shaheen was ranked the 43rd most liberal, and the 58th most conservative senator in the ranking, while Republican Ayotte was the 84th most liberal and 17th most conservative.

In the House, Republican Frank Guinta was ranked the 31st most conservative and 398th most liberal, while Republican Charlie Bass also had moderate rankings. He was the 233rd most conservative and 197th most liberal.

To view the Senate rankings CLICK HERE.

To view the House rankings CLICK HERE.

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WHAT PRIMARY? If Joanne Dowdell has any hope of seriously challenging Carol Shea-Porter in the Democratic 1st District U.S. House primary, she had better get busy.

The Granite Status has learned that a poll of likely voters in that primary, commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week, showed former two-term Rep. Shea-Porter with a commanding (to put it mildly) lead of 87-5 percent over Portsmouth activist and at-large Democratic National Committee member Dowdell. Andrew Hosmer was not included in the polls.

Shea-Porter was swept out of office by Republican Frank Guinta in 2010, but if she wins this September primary, she is expected to give him a tough re-match battle in November.

While Dowdell's campaign has received little district-wide attention so far, there is still time for her to make a race of it.

Still, Shea-Porter has a deep and wide base among constituencies such as Portsmouth liberals, blue-collar workers and veterans from Manchester and the northern part of the district. It's a steep hill to climb.

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THANKS BUT NO THANKS. John Clayton for governor?

It's not going to happen, but not for a lack of trying by a group of Democrats who, the Granite Status has learned, recently approached the former long-time New Hampshire Union Leader columnist to lobby him into a candidacy, or at least to give it serious thought.

These Democrats, from Manchester and beyond, are concerned that Hassan and Cilley have little name recognition beyond their home bases on the Seacoast and among the progressive activist community.

Hassan and Cilley's name ID will surely ramp up as the campaign continues, but these Democrats are still wary and, to put it bluntly, consider the field weak.

And so they turned to someone they feel has broader name ID, and positive name ID, even if he has no political experience.

Clayton, who is also an author, former host of 'New Hampshire Crossroads' on New Hampshire Public Televsion, and current vice president for communications of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, confirmed that 'some people have asked me' to run.

'It's flattering beyond belief,' he said, 'but it's nothing I've seriously considered.

'You don't start a major league career standing on the mound in the seventh game of the World Series,' he said. 'You don't start your political career by running for governor, although it's been done.

'But no, it's nothing I can seriously consider at this stage of my life,' he said. 'I have a still new and important job with the hospital association and my learning curve is steep and I think they deserve my full attention.'

Clayton's supporters say that while he's never held elected office, he has spent most of his career speaking to and listening to Granite Staters and is fully capable of making the jump.

But Clayton, who worked with us here in the Union Leader newsroom for all of his 27 years at the state's largest newspaper, sounded absolutely resolute.

That may not stop some of his supporters, however, from continuing their efforts to draft him.

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A MANCHESTER PRESENCE. Hassan's campaign, clearly recognizing that a Manchester presence is necessary to any campaign, has opened a new campaign headquarters on the city's West side.

It the hub for statewide operations. The campaign previously opened a field office in Exeter in January.

Campaign manager Matt Burgess called it a 'perfect location to stage our statewide campaign operations. It's also great to be so close to a Dunkin' Donuts and a pizza place - fuel for every campaign.'

The office is located at 225 Eddy Road off Exit 6 on I-293. The campaign will hold an official open house in the coming weeks.

Hassan this week also announced that she was endorsed by Mike Hoefer, the managing editor of the progressive website

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CHALLENGING LOU. Second-term Republican state Rep. John Hikel of Goffstown let state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro put a sign on his lawn when the Democrat was running for reelection. He said that although he did not vote for D'Allesandro, he 'took heat from the Goffstown Republicans' for it.

Hikel, who was running for the House as a Republican at the time, said he respected D'Allesandro then, and continues to respect him now.

But, he said, 'It's just time for the torch to be passed.' To him.

Hikel confirmed to the Granite Status this week that he is a candidate for the District 20 state Senate seat as D'Allesandro, a former executive councilor and state representative, tries to win an eighth term in the Senate.

Hikel says he's a fiscal and social conservative, but he stressed that the 'fiscal' part is his focus.

Mainly, he said, he's a 'citizen legislator' in the purest sense. The 30-year resident of the Granite State, owns Uptown Auto Repair in the Pinardville section of Goffstown where he says he still get his hands dirty every day. He said he previously worked in auto repair in Nashua for 25 years.

'My main concern is that we continue to get our fiscal house in order. We still have some work to do on the budget next year.

'I'm a true conservative, on social issues as well,' he said. 'I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, but that is not a top priority to me.

'My main concern is on the fiscal side, that we all can continue to live and work here. I love New Hampshire, its business climate, less regulation, smaller government and less burden on businesses while still taking care of those in need.'

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AYOTTE IN OHIO. Even as the nomination battle wears on, Mitt Romney's campaign is thinking ahead to a general election campaign.

And to that end, it is deploying Sen. Kelly Ayotte as its first surrogate in the all-important state of Ohio next week.

Ayotte will appear at a Butler County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in West Chester, Ohio, March 24, speaking on behalf of Romney. The invitation describes Ayotte as 'rising star in the party.'

The event is in the district of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who is also expected to attend.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. After winning the state's GOP primary last week, the Romney campaign has kept a campaign structure in place there.

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ABOUT THAT REDISTRICTING PLAN. So why did the House Special Committee on Redistricting appear to reverse course on its congressional plan?

Just last week a subcommittee approved a plan that would have involved a shift of 50,000 people from one district to the other.

But on Monday, the full committee threw that one out and decided to go with a plan that moved only 250 people from the 1st to the 2nd District, which had the effect of favoring Guinta over Charlie Bass, who had been pressing to have more Republicans, including Merrimack, moved into his district at Guinta's expense.

It turns out the leadership knew all along that the amendment put out last week would not to anywhere. It purposely put out a plan it knew would make neither Guinta nor Bass happy and, leadership hoped, would finally bring the two together to work out a deal they both could live with.

The plan moved Merrimack and New Hampton to Bass' district and Atkinson, Allenstown, Epsom, Chichester, Pittsfield, Loudon and Shelburne into Guinta's district.

But the deal didn't happen by the end of last weekend, so the committee decided to recommend passage of the simplest possible plan and, in effect, pass the problem to the Senate.

Senate President Peter Bragdon says he expects the Senate 'won't sit back in a recliner' and let the House plan pass without a close look.

'I've had a number of people give me proposals,' he said. 'There are a number of plans out there.'

So the feud continues.

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THE MUTUAL ENDORSEMENT. It's unusual for an incumbent congressman to endorse a candidate for governor who is in a primary for an open seat, but Bass needs the conservative base to rally to him if he hopes to beat Democrat Ann McLane Kuster in November.

That base is personified in Lamontagne, who, with Bass' backing, could attract more moderate 'Main Street' to his cause as he gears up for a primary with fellow conservative Kevin Smith.

Meanwhile, Guinta made it clear this week he won't endorse in the gubernatorial primary, saying he intends to focus on his work in Congress.

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BIG EVENT. Tomorrow night's McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club state Democratic Party dinner/fund-raiser is nearly sold out with party officials expecting the largest turnout since 2008 with a goal of raising $200,000.

Although the event is sometimes a launching pad for potential Democratic presidential candidates, this year, with U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut as the guest speaker, the focus is - this year.

Also speaking will be Kuster, Hassan, Cilley, Shea-Porter, Dowdell and Hosmer.

The first-ever 'McIntyre-Shaheen Legacy Award' will be presented at the dinner. The members of the state committee nominated 11 individuals for the NHDP officers to pick from.

The party will continue to present the Dunfey-Kanteres Award as well.

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THE 'ROMNEY-O'BRIEN AGENDA.' The Obama campaign in New Hampshire today will issue a memo to 'interested parties' linking Romney with speaker Bill O'Brien, which is expected to be a common theme in this swing state if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.

Under the heading, 'The O'Brien/Romney Agenda is Bad for Granite State Women,' the memo notes that Romney on Tuesday, 'announced that he would 'get rid of' Planned Parenthood, showing just how far he is willing to go to pander to the most extreme elements of the Republican base.

'But unfortunately for Granite State women this pandering to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party doesn't end with Mitt Romney. Republicans in the New Hampshire House of Representatives seem set on limiting women's access to health care, attempting to put state legislators between Granite State women and their doctors. Last week Republicans in the State House voted to allow employers to refuse to cover women's preventative health services like contraception, and they have repeatedly attempted to defund Planned Parenthood.

'The Romney-O'Brien agenda is bad for Granite State women,' the memo charges.

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JENNIFER FOR JULIANA. Juliana Bergeron has picked up the endorsement of a key conservative activist in her bid to become the next Republican National Committeewoman from New Hampshire.

Jennifer Horn, the 2008 Republican nominee for the 2nd District U.S. House seat and founder of the 'We the People' conservative issues advocacy group, will be announced later today as backing Bergeron.

Members of the Republican State Committee will vote on a successor to RNC member Phyllis Woods on April 14. Also running to succeed Woods in Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker.

Horn, in a letter to state committee members, writes that Bergeron has been a GOP activist for 40 years, volunteering for candidates and causes and raising 'tens of thousands of dollars' when she served as chair of the Cheshire County Republican Committee.

A financial adviser who has also raised money for community organizations, 'Her combined experience in the private, political and non-profit sectors has offered her the unique opportunity to develop strong, productive relationships throughout the state and the country,' Horn writes.

She wrote that Bergeron 'will be an unwavering advocate for our treasured First In The Nation primary,' one of the key roles of New Hampshire RNC members.

Bergeron, wrote Horn, is also 'an eloquent spokeswoman for our party's conservative principles and a strong community leader.'


-- Candidate for governor Smith next week will make his 16th visit to the North Country since announcing for governor in November. Smith on March 21 will visit Gil's Flower Shop in Berlin, owned by long-time activist Steve Griffin; tour the Gorham Paper and Tissue factory; participate in a tri-county economic briefing in Berlin; and then attend a fund-raiser for Executive Councilor Ray Burton at the Woodstock Inn.

-- Democrats looking to make the conservative House and speaker O'Brien a key part of their attack on Republicans in the fall note that O'Brien's House Majority Whip, Shawn Jasper, lost a bid for reelection as a selectman in Hudson on Tuesday. They wonder: Was it a sign of things to come?

-- A reminder that the NHGOP is hosting a fund-raising tribute to retiring Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek next Friday, March 23, at the Executive Court in Manchester.

-- New Hampshire native Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. House in New York's newly created 18th District. Members of his family still reside in the Granite State.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.

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