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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Kuster tops $1 million in cash on hand after a big 1st quarter in fund-raising

Senior Political Reporter

April 10. 2012 11:53AM

TUESDAY, APRIL 10, UPDATE: BIG NUMBERS FOR ANNIE. Democratic 2nd District U.S. House candidate Ann McLane Kuster had another big fund-raising quarter from Jan. 1 to March 31.

Kuster's campaign told the Granite Status today she ended the first quarter with more than $1 million cash on hand after raising more than $350,000 in the first quarter.

Kuster had raised $331,301 in the fourth quarter of 2011 and ended last year with $828,135 on hand. She has been able to build her campaign account to nearly twice what it was at the same time in her 2010 campaign against U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass.

At the end of the first quarter of 2010, Kuster had $563,033 on hand.

The Kuster campaign said that since March of 2011, it has raised more than $1.41 million from 12,000 donors. More than 84 percent has been raised from individual supporters, and less than 16 percent from political action committees, the campaign said.

The campaign said the average contribution for this reporting period was $53.58.

Congressional candidates must file their quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission by April 15.

'Our fund-raising shows the depth of the grassroots support for our campaign,' said Kuster campaign manager Garrick Delzell. 'Voters are continuing to express their disappointment with Congress and business as usual in Washington, D.C. Now more than ever it is clear that we need to bring a new approach to Congress to get our country back on track.'

After losing to Bass by only 3,550 votes out of nearly 225,000 cast in 2010, Kuster is challenging the seven-term Republican again this year is what is expected to be another close election.

Bass has not disclosed his first quarter fund-raising figures yet, but at the end of 2011 had $600,264 on hand.

Kuster far out-spent Bass - $2.31 million to $1.12 million, according to FEC reports - in narrowly losing to him in 2010.

(Earlier updates and the full April 5 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, APRIL 9, UPDATE: TALKING 'TAX FAIRNESS.' Vice President Joe Biden will talk about President Barack Obama's 'efforts to promote tax fairness' during a stop at the Exeter Town Hall on Thursday, the Obama campaign says.

It will be Biden's fourth visit to the state in five months. He previously visited the state in November, January and February.

Democrat Biden will visit a town considered by many in New Hampshire as the birthplace of the Republican Party, and GOP hopefuls, including Mitt Romney, have made frequent stops at the historic town hall.

As the Granite Status first reported last week the Obama campaign is putting a full-court press on New Hampshire, with 30 staffers in seven offices throughout the state.

The Republicans say they will catch up quickly once a presidential nominee is chose, but at the moment, the Mitt Romney campaign has no full-time staff in the state. Political consultant Jim Merrill is working to continue and build on the organization Romney developed during the presidential primary campaign.

The Obama campaign says Biden will talk about Obama's efforts 'ensuring millionaires and billionaires do not pay less in taxes than middle class families. In his speech, the Vice President will discuss the President's commitment to creating an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

Biden is expected to draw a contrast with the Republican candidates who, the campaign says, support continuing 'tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans' instead of 'taking steps to reduce our deficit and investing in things that will grow our economy and keep us secure: education, research and technology, a strong military and retirement programs like Medicare and Social Security.'

The campaign says Obama has called on Congress to pass the 'Buffett Rule,' which says, according to the campaign, 'if you make more than $1 million a year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle class families do. If you make under $250,000 a year, your taxes should not go up.'

According to the campaign, Biden's visit will be the fourth in a series of speeches that kicked off last month in Toledo, Ohio, and has included stops in Coconut Creek, Florida and Davenport, Iowa.

The Obama campaign today also promoted a new Twitter handle for the vice president, @JoeBiden.

(Earlier updates and the full April 5 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, APRIL 5, UPDATE: NO "PLEDGE" FOR KENNEDY. The latest entrant into the New Hampshire gubernatorial sweepstakes is a 52-year-old former firefighter and 29-year U.S. Air Force veteran who believes that taking the 'pledge' to veto a broad based income or sales tax is 'an antiquated thought process.'

For that reason, Democrat Bill Kennedy of Danbury said Thursday, 'Anybody who makes a tax pledge I don't see as a good candidate for this state.'

In his first interview since announcing his candidacy for governor on Wednesday night, Kennedy, who works in retail and owns the now-closed Inn at Danbury, said the two Democrats in the race, former state Sens. Maggie Hassan, who has pledged to veto a broad based tax, and Jackie Cilley, who has refused to take the 'pledge,' are too far left. The Republicans in the race, attorney Ovide Lamontagne and activist Kevin Smith, are too far right, he said.

Kennedy says he is 'the guy who's going to appeal to the undeclareds and independents.'

Although he is relatively unknown, he is 100 percent dead serious about mounting a serious candidacy.

Kennedy is married, has a large family, was born in Germany to a military family and has lived in New Hampshire for 44 years, having grown up in Portsmouth and formerly owned a collectibles business in North Hampton. He said he has a sociology degree from the University of New Hampshire.

Kennedy made it clear he is not now promoting or even supporting an income or sales tax for the state. But said he is 'open to discussion' about it, intends to research the issue and sometime before the party primary in late summer, will 'give voters a clear direction' of how he feels about it.

Kennedy calls the property tax burden the top issue in the state and said he intends to find ways to relieve it.

'They've put the burden of fiscal responsibility on the property taxpayers of this state,' Kennedy said. 'We're bleeding the property owners to a point of irrational, almost criminal levels.'

He said a broad based tax, handled properly, can offer that relief. California, he said, has a 'good property tax program. They limit the property tax to 1.1 percent of assessed value or the sales value, which is much fairer than the system we have.'

But, he said, 'I'm not going to tax the New Hampshire constituency at a higher level than they are being taxed.'

Kennedy said he is open to expanded gambling, but has no specific position at this point. He said he wants to 'research where our tolls are going' before deciding his position on any possible change in the gasoline tax.

'Times are changing,' Kennedy said. 'Someone who doesn't look at all possibilities is not the right fix for New Hampshire. And if they are completely left on the social spectrum, I don't agree with that, either.

'On the Republican side,' Kennedy said, 'they are a little more far right and I think they are a little more religiously influenced than my Democratic counterparts.

'People are partially responsible for themselves and we need to have those umbrellas, those caveats to protect people who can't protect themselves,' Kennedy said, explaining his view on entitlements.

'We need to take care of people in the communities. Brother needs to take care of brother. Sister needs to take care of sisters. But we don't need to bleed the property owners and the bread-winners to do that,' he said. 'We just need to be more efficient.'

He also said abortion and other social issues should not be the focus in Concord. He said he 'will not force my opinion on the constituency. I'm a collaborative-type guy.

'I hate the petty bickering in the Legislature,' Kennedy said. 'I want to try to unite it. I believe I'm the bridge between the moderates and the two parties.'

Kennedy said that 'philosophically,' he is 'very close' to Gov. John Lynch, except for the fact that Lynch took the no-broad based-tax pledge in all four of his elections. He said he has been only 'loosely' involved in party politics as a member of the Danbury Democratic Committee, 'but I don't see that as a detriment.'

State Democratic Party Raymond Buckley said today he knew little about Kennedy, adding, 'I look forward to meeting him.'

Kennedy, said, 'John Lynch was a political neophyte as well' and yet was elected governor in his first attempt. Kennedy said he began seriously considering a candidacy in January.

Kennedy said he considers himself a 'progressive' in the sense that he 'look at alternatives,' not in the sense that he is liberal in his views.

He said that the Republicans in the Legislature have cut the budget to the 'bare bones,' but said he believes even more efficiencies can be found.

'I've heard nothing but complaints from state workers about the sacrifices they've had to make,' said Kennedy. 'Granted, some are paid relatively well and have good benefits, but many are at the lower end of the spectrum and are just making ends meet.'

Kennedy said the military rewards those who suggest more efficient ways of doing business, and, 'I'd like to implement something like that' on the state level.

Kennedy said that as a member of the Air Force, he was on loan to the U.S. Border Patrol in Miami.

'I saw the most negative aspects of our effort to combat the drug menace,' said Kennedy, who said he is 'more liberal on marijuana. Our demon is meth, cocaine, heroin.'

He said he also spent more than six months in Afghanistan in 2008 heading the training of Afghanis to become police officers.

Kennedy said he will run a grassroots campaign and has hired Tracy Lee Broderick of Nashua as his campaign manager.

State Republican Chairman Wayne MacDonald said this afternoon he is confident "that the Republican Party will re-take the governor's office in November because there is a sharp contrast between our two sides. The party of Jackie Cilley, Maggie Hassan and Barack Obama wants the government to control more of the people's money, while our party wants to continue its fight to reign in government growth and establish an environment that creates jobs.'

(The full April 5 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, APRIL 5: FALLING BEHIND? Although Mitt Romney's Tuesday night primary sweep appears to have cemented the GOP presidential nomination, Republicans have much catching up to do to draw even with Barack Obama forces in swing states, very much including New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is not only important for its first primary, but in the general election. If you think it doesn't matter because it has only four electoral votes, think back to 2000.

Al Gore lost here to George W. Bush by 7,251 votes, and Ralph Nader probably cost Gore New Hampshire by drawing 22,198 votes of his own. If Gore he had won here, there would have been no Florida 'hanging chad' saga. He would have won the presidency.

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, a national party vice chair, says state and national Democrats have focused on New Hampshire even more intensely since.

'Everyone learned a lesson from 2000, when the Gore campaign chose not to put the resources in here...And President Obama is determined that's not going to happen to him. The resources will be here.'

The Obama campaign set up shop here a year ago and organized through 2011 as the GOP candidates battled. Obama for America-NH and the NHDP share seven offices. The campaign has more than 30 full-time staffers and the NHDP, 10.

This week alone, the campaign had more than 30 events scheduled, from roundtable discussions to phone banks.

Obama surrogates continue to visit. A week from today, Vice President Joe Biden will make his fourth call in five months. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz recently went to Portsmouth to discuss women's issues.

The President has been to the state this year, on an 'official' visit. So has First Lady Michelle Obama.

The state Democrats' campaign finance reports show the DNC has given it $286,000 over the past year, including $87,000 in January and $99,000 in February.

Meanwhile, there have been no Romney surrogates or Republican National Committee officials in the state since the Jan. 10 primary. When the primary campaigns packed up and left, little if any organization was left behind.

Romney's campaign has no staff here. A single advisor, Manchester attorney Jim Merrill, is dividing his time between Romney and gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.

But Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams says, 'We do have an organization in New Hampshire. We identified thousands of volunteers during the primary and have a grassroots organization that will be ready to go once Gov. Romney becomes the nominee.' He said the focus is now attracting supporters of Newt Gingrich and former candidates Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman.

'The President right now has the Democrat National Committee and every state party across the country at his disposal,' Williams said. 'At this point, Gov. Romney is running in a primary, but once he becomes the nominee, state parties and the RNC will start coordinating with our campaign.'

The state GOP office has but two staffers.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Republican National committee plans to have election operations under way in 10 of the top 14 swing states by early May, with the other four by the end of May.

New Hampshire Republican Party executive director Tory Mazzola said the Granite State is on that list. He said it will set up shop 'within the next month or six weeks.'

Mazzola said the primary 'has kept the Republican voters very engaged. We still have the enthusiasm that we saw at the peak of the primary.'

RNC resources will eventually allow the party to open field offices across the state and 'that presence will give people a place to go to make phone calls, pick up signs and help us organize literature drops and different political activities that we need to ramp up once we have a nominee,' Mazzola said.

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MAGGIE BUILDS STAFF. Democratic candidate for governor Maggie Hassan has added five young activists to her campaign staff, the Status has learned.

Hassan earlier this year announced the hiring of campaign manager Matt Burgess, finance director Pamela Danielson and political director Wyatt Fore.

Thursday, she will announce the addition of Kyle Sutton as field director, Craig Brown as grassroots coordinator, Emily Brown as fund-raising coordinator, Ben Hanna as research and new media assistant and Andrew Laskar as a fund-raising assistant.

Sutton is a former field director for the West Virginia Democratic Party and has worked in Colorado, Virginia, Indiana and Michigan.

Craig Brown was a field assistant for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's 2008 campaign, while Wilton native Emily Brown comes to the state from EMILY's List in Washington and worked on Sen. Patty Murray's reelection campaign in Washington state.

Hanna, a Westmoreland native, was a Middlebury College campus coordinator for the 2008 Obama campaign while Laskar is a recent intern for The Angerholzer Team and New Partners in Washington, D.C. He also has worked in fund-raising for Florida Sen. Ben Nelson and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.

Hassan this week announced she will hold 23 house parties throughout the state in late April, May, June and beyond, in addition to the 23 she began her tour with in early March.

Hassan's Democratic opponent, Jackie Cilley, meanwhile, is minus a campaign manager as businesswoman and former Senate Democratic caucus executive director Rachel Napear left the campaign this week. Volunteer coordinator Liz Merry is currently filling in.

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THE WOODS AMENDMENT. For the second straight presidential cycle, the RNC is punishing the New Hampshire GOP by stripping it of half its national convention delegates for a party rule violation that was out of the local Republicans' control.

Now, we've learned, long-time and outgoing state Republican National Committeewoman Phyllis Woods is proposing a national party rule change that would virtually guarantee it won't happen again.

When Florida Republicans decided to ignore the RNC and hold their primary on Jan. 31, it prompted South Carolina Republicans to bump up their first-in-the-South primary to Jan. 21. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, following New Hampshire law that requires the state to hold its primary seven days ahead of any 'similar election,' moved us to Jan. 10.

That violated an RNC rule requiring Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to hold their events no earlier than Feb. 1. The RNC is punishing New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida by allowing them to bring only 50 percent of their delegations to the Republican National Convention. Iowa, which held a caucus on Jan. 3, gets a full delegation because its delegates were officially selected after Feb. 1.

For New Hampshire it means only 12, instead of 23, delegates going to Tampa.

Woods' proposal would remove the Feb. 1 restriction for the early states but still require them to hold their primaries or caucuses 'no earlier than one month before any other state.'

She would keep in place the existing requirement that the early primaries or caucuses must be held 'in the year in which a national convention is held.'

Woods said she intends to present the plan to the RNC rules committee, on which she sits, at an April 19 meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.

After serving two terms as an RNC member, she has decided not to seek another term. But her term does not expire until the conclusion of the national convention.

Her plan is intended 'to keep New Hampshire and the other early states from having to suffer the penalty of losing their delegates if they are forced to move ahead of the schedule because another state has violated the rules and jumped ahead,' Woods told the Status.

She puts her plans odds of passing at '50-50' at the moment.

Woods said GOP officials in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada have given her plan their 'complete support.' This week she asked for the support of the Conservative Steering Committee, a coalition of about 90 RNC members.

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THE JACK AMENDMENT. On the Republican State Committee level, Woods chairs the panel that has been considering proposed party by-law changes to be taken up at the April 14 state committee meeting at Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith.

As a result of the controversy that led to the resignation of former state party chairman Jack Kimball last September, she expects an amendment to be presented requiring that a two-thirds vote of the party executive committee or the full state committee be required to remove a party officer.

Current by-laws allow removal on a simple majority vote of the state committee or its executive committee.

Woods said many committee members disagree with that threshold and want a more formal removal process, including a right of appeal, 'so that people can know exactly what the charges are against them and can present their side.'

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THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES. March 16 was the Republican State Committee deadline to file candidacies to succeed Woods as Republican National Committeewoman.

Only Deputy House speaker Pam Tucker and former Cheshire County GOP chair Julia Bergeron have submitted their names, and no one has emerged to challenge Steve Duprey in his bid for a full term as Republican National Committeeman.

Those are the only names that will appear on the ballot on April 14, but that's not to say someone couldn't try to be a write-in at the last minute.

Both candidates for committeewoman are working hard behind the scenes. Bergeron yesterday announced the endorsements of four of the five Executive Councilors, Ray Wieczorek, Ray Burton, Dan St. Hilaire and Chris Sununu.

- - - - - - -

HEADED TO THE WHITE HOUSE. First Lady Michelle Obama apparently had such a good time at the Penacook Community Center last month that she would like to see the kids she met there. She has invited 50 children and adults from the center to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday.

Center executive director Deb Cuddahy said 24 children and 26 adults, primarily center staff and board members, will make the trip.

'We are absolutely delighted and thrilled,' Cuddahy said.

Also at the White House on Monday will be Andrew and Donna Hosmer of Laconia and their four children and Eric and Alyssa Pappas Zink of Bedford and their three children.

Andrew Hosmer is a Democratic state Senate candidate in District 7. Alyssa Pappas Zink is the sister of long-time Democratic activist and current District 4 Executive Council candidate Chris Pappas.

- - - - - - -

NEW CONSULTANTS FOR SMITH. Republican candidate for governor Kevin Smith this week announced his campaign has signed on two Republican consultants for polling and paid media.

Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies will direct the campaign's political surveys and provide analysis, while Mark Dion of Revolution Agency will advise the campaign on paid messaging and advertising.

- - - - - - -


- State Sen. Matthew Houde of Plainfield, one of just five Democrats in the state Senate, announced this week he won't seek a third term.

Democrat Brian Rapp, a Claremont firefighter and school board member has said he will run for the District 5 seat, while state Rep. David Pierce, D-Etna, is seriously considering it.

- Conservative activist Jennifer Horn is hosting Charlie Bass, who defeated her in 2010 2nd District U.S. House primary, for a private 'tax day talk' at her Nashua home on April 15.

- Bill Binnie's Wentworth-by-the-Sea Country Club will host the second annual Republican Party Golf Tournament on May 14. Cost is $150 a person and sponsorships range from $150 to $750.

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

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