All Sections

Home | Granite Status

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Hurst won't run for NHGOP chair; early poll good news for Shaheen

Senior Political Reporter

November 28. 2012 11:53AM

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28, UPDATE: HURST WON'T RUN. At least for now, the field for NHGOP chair is clear for Jennifer Horn.

State party vice chair Cliff Hurt had been planning to run, but told the Status Wednesday afternoon he will not be a candidate.

His decision came after Horn lined up major figures in Republican state politics, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, in her corner (See items below).

'I just felt like it's the best thing to do,' Hurst said. 'There is a time to serve and a time to wait it out. I have no resentment and no hard feelings.

'We need a time to heal as a party,' Hurst said. 'My mission is to be a healer and a uniter and as we know politics can be very divisive.'

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 28, UPDATE: GOOD EARLY NEWS FOR JEANNE. We reported two weeks ago that Public Policy Polling was in the field already surveying Granite Staters on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's approval and a possible 2014 'rubber match' battle between her and Republican former Sen. John E. Sununu.

The results are in and they're showing good news for Democrat Shaheen.

PPP, on behalf of the left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee, surveyed 1,018 registered New Hampshire voters Nov. 14 and 15.

The poll, with a margin of error of 3.1 percent, found Shaheen leading Sununu, 53 to 42 percent, with 5 percent undecided.

Also, 51 percent of those surveyed approved of the way Shaheen is handling her job as a senator, while 36 percent disapproved and 13 percent had no opinion.

The poll gave strong indication that Granite Staters oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid benefits and support higher taxes for the rich.

If Shaheen supported cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, 46 percent said they would be less likely to vote for her, while 35 percent said it would not make a difference, 13 percent said they would be more likely to vote for her and 7 percent were not sure, according to the poll.

If Shaheen 'led the national fight to raise taxes on the rich,' 48 percent said they would be more likely to vote for her, while 31 percent said they would be less likely to vote for her, 19 percent said it would not make a difference and 1 percent said they were not sure.

'New Hampshire voters spoke clearly in 2012,' said PCCC spokesman Neil Sroka, a former spokesman for U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kuster. 'Tax the rich, invest in jobs and don't even think about cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. If Senator Shaheen fights hard for this agenda, New Hampshire voters stand ready to support her in 2014.'

The poll also showed 48 percent of Granite Staters viewed President Barack Obama's key 'mandate' in the election as 'standing up for regular families -- even if it means fighting,' rather than compromising with Republicans, which was the view of 36 percent.

On another question, 49 percent viewed Obama's mandate as creating jobs rather than reducing the federal debt, which was the view of 22 percent.

Other results showed that to reduce the national debt:

- 66 percent favored raising taxes on those with incomes of more than $250,000 a year, while 29 percent were opposed.

- 75 percent opposed, and 13 percent favored, cutting Social Security benefits.

- 74 percent opposed, and 17 percent favored, cutting Medicare benefits.

- 66 percent opposed and 25 percent favored cutting Medicaid benefits

- 53 percent supported and 40 percent opposed cutting military spending.

- 79 percent supported and 12 percent opposed ending agriculture subsidies to 'agricorporations.'

Also, 49 percent supported and 34 percent opposed public financing of congressional elections.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

TUESDAY, NOV. 27, UPDATE: AYOTTE BACKS HORN. TUESDAY, NOV. 27, UPDATE: AYOTTE BACKS HORN. Conservative Nashua activist and former two-time congressional hopeful Jennifer Horn will run for chairman of the state Republican Party with the backing of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, outgoing U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass as well as Senate President Peter Bragdon and outgoing House speaker Bill O'Brien.

Horn said she will seek the seat 'to unify Republicans and to lay the groundwork for a vibrant, robust party. We will unite behind our core principles of lower taxes, less spending, and personal freedom. And when the Democrats inevitably over-reach, we'll hold them accountable.'

She disclosed her plans to the Granite Status just a few hours after current chairman Wayne MacDonald said he will not seek a full term.

Horn thanked MacDonald 'for his many years of service to the party. He stepped up to lead at a challenging time and he served with distinction.'

A major boost for a Horn candidacy comes in the endorsement of the highest ranking members of the state GOP.

Ayotte, also of Nashua, said Horn is 'an articulate voice for our party and will service as a strong unifying leader.'

Horn also was endorsed by incoming House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, Republican National Committee members Steve Duprey and Juliana Bergeron, former party chairs Jayne Millerick and Wayne Semprini and former candidate for governor Kevin Smith.

Her list also includes 27 other state representatives and activists.

Horn recently served as chairman of the NHGOP platform committee and was credited with successfully negotiating a compromise that kept in place conservative Republican principles but in more 'user-friendly' language.

She currently chairs the conservative non-profit advocacy group 'We the People: A First in the Nation Freedom Forum,' which held a series of events featuring presidential candidates last year during the presidential primary campaign.

Horn is a former radio talk show host and newspaper columnist in Nashua and has been active in community organizations as well as efforts to support U.S. troops.

Horn was recently named the 2011 Nashua Area Federated Republican Women 'Woman of the Year.'

Horn has made two unsuccessful attempts to represent the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House. As the party's nominee in 2008, she lost to then incumbent Paul Hodes during a Democratic sweep.

In 2010, Horn lost to Charlie Bass in the Republican congressional primary. Bass went on to win the seat, and then lost it three weeks ago.

MacDonald said today in a statement, 'After much thought and discussion, I have decided I will not seek a full term as New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman.

'Serving as Chairman has been a challenge and a privilege,' MacDonald said. 'I appreciate the hard work of the dedicated activists, party officers, and staff over the past year. It's been an honor to serve in this capacity.'

Also considering running for chairman is current party vice chair Cliff Hurst.

There has been an effort to recruit Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for the NHGOP and then for Mitt Romney's national campaign, as chairman.

But a Williams told the Granite Status Tuesday afternoon he is 'flattered by the calls I've received, but I have no interest in returning to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.'

He said Horn 'will make an outstanding chairman. She's accomplished and committed to conservative principles and I'm confident she will hire a qualified staff to go toe to toe with the New Hampshire Democratic Party.'

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

TUESDAY, NOV. 27, UPDATE: WAYNE WON'T RUN. Wayne MacDonald told the Granite Status Tuesday he will not seek a full term as chairman of the state Republican Party.

Coming off of tough losses on Nov. 6, MacDonald said, 'I've factored in all the considerations I need to and at this point have decided I will not be running for a full term as chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and will be leaving office on Jan. 26.'

MacDonald's decision opens the race to several potential candidates. (See our item below.)

MacDonald is a former party vice chair who became chairman after Jack Kimball resigned in September 2011.

Republican National Committeeman and former party chairman Steve Duprey said MacDonald 'did a good job righting the ship' following the Kimball controversy.

'And I'm one of those who believe that when you win it's a team effort and when you lose, you lose as a team.

'It was a tough election cycle,' said Duprey. 'There were a lot of reasons for what happened but it wasn't because the party didn't work hard. Wayne did a good, solid job fundraising and he had a good relationship with the Republican National Committee.'

But, Duprey noted, MacDonald has a full time job working for the state 'and he appreciates now how much time it takes to be chairman.'

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

MONDAY, NOV. 26, UPDATE: BIUNDO WON'T RUN. The long Thanksgiving weekend gave potential candidates for state Republican Party chairman plenty of time to mull over their plans.

Only one potential candidate reached a conclusion, however, while the others have yet to decide, although more decisions are expected soon.

Long-time conservative activist Mike Biundo told the Granite Status Monday he has decided not to run for chairman.

Biundo said he still intends to work for the party, but will probably set up a consulting business instead of running for the volunteer, unpaid chairmanship.

Biundo was national manager of former GOP candidate for President Rick Santorum's campaign, and when Santorum dropped out of the race last spring, he was named deputy national director of coalitions for Mitt Romney's general election campaign.

Current NHGOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald said he has not yet made a decision whether to seek election to a full term. A former party vice chair, he is filling the unexpired term of Jack Kimball, who resigned as chairman just more than a year ago.

'I want to give the situation time to develop,' MacDonald said. 'I realize I'm taking a little longer than I first intended to let things shake out. I'm letting the decision-making process unfold.'

He said he is 'getting a lot of encouragement' as well as 'a lot of constructive criticism' and expects to have a decision 'relatively soon.'

MacDonald on Monday was backed by Jim Foley, chairman of both the NHGOP finance committee and the Derry Republican Town Committee.

In an open letter to MacDonald, Foley wrote, 'You are what the state party needs at this time, not only because of the requirement of finally having some continuity in leadership, but because of your thoughtful, reasoned approach to the position, your unmatched integrity and honor and your outstanding sense of humor.'

MacDonald attributed the GOP losses in the Nov. 6 election to the 'powerful advantage' of President Barack Obama's incumbency as well as his party's 'need to improve our technological approach' and to become 'more considerate of demographics.'

He said it is 'not an accident' that the state will soon have a woman governor, an all-women congressional delegation and a woman Speaker of the House.

Nashua activist Jennifer Horn is also still considering whether to run for party chairman.

The Status has learned that she had a lengthy meeting with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Sunday.

And current NHGOP vice chair Cliff Hurst is also still considering running for chairman.

Even if Hurst decides not to run for chairman, he will not seek reelection as vice chairman.

One candidate in the running for the open vice chairman's post is veteran activist J.P. Marzullo, who worked on candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne's grassroots and coalitions effort.

Also being mentioned as a potential candidate for chairman is Franklin activist Karen Testerman.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

THURSDAY, NOV. 15, UPDATE: A RECORD PRESIDENTIAL VOTE, BARELY. A grand total of 14 more Granite Staters voted for President this year than in 2008, and, as a result, the total vote at the top of the New Hampshire ballot set a record.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner also confirmed, however, that the total number of ballots cast on Nov. 6 fell 615 short of the record set in 2008.

Gardner told the Granite Status that there were 710,984 votes cast for a presidential candidate this year -- 369,553 for President Barack Obama, 329,910 for Mitt Romney, and a total of 11,521 for Libertarian Party, Constitution Party and other candidates.

Four years ago, the total number of presidential votes cast was 710,970 -- 384,826 for Obama, 316,534 for John McCain and a total of 9,610 for other candidates.

But the total number of ballots cast in New Hampshire in 2008 was 719,403, while 718,788 ballots were cast this year, so the 2008 total remains the New Hampshire record.

Gardner had predicted 722,000 Granite Staters would vote this year. Although the actual number fell just short of his prediction, he said the votes cast was 68.5 percent of the total New Hampshire voting age population, registered and non-registered, of 1,048,583, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate used by the U.S. Election Project.

Gardner said more Granite Staters went to the polling places on Election Day this year than ever before. He said there were 67,051 absentee ballots cast this year, as compared to 72,264 in 2008.

And, he said, this year there were a record 99,304 people who registered to vote on Election Day (with the number of a handful of Election Day registrants from Hart's Location and Windsor still outstanding).

The previous high for Election Day registrants about was 94,000 in 2004, Gardner said. In 2008, 76,788 Granite Staters registered to vote on Election Day.

How did the new Voter ID law work?

Gardner said that city and town clerks are still reporting how many people in their communities did not show an ID and took 'challenged voter affidavits.' But he said that projecting from the numbers that are now in, he expects that only about 1 percent of voters did not show IDs, which means that 99 percent of those who voted showed IDs.

(An earlier update and the full Nov. 15 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, NOV. 15, UPDATE: IN THE FIELD (ALREADY). Need proof that it's never too early to begin the next political campaign? Consider this.

No sooner did we report on the potential for a third matchup between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Sen. John E. Sununu in 2014 (see below), and we've learned there is polling underway.

That's right. Public Policy Polling is in the field now with a survey on Shaheen's re-election and a possible race against Sununu.

PPP is a viewed as a Democratic-leaning pollster, but often proved to be accurate in recent years using automated surveys.

The survey leads with a question on Shaheen vs. Sununu in 2014, asking, 'Who would you be more likely to support' between the two.

It also tests public opinion on Shaheen in on several issues, including deficit spending, reforming entitlements, and tax increases.

It's unclear at the moment when PPP will release it's poll, but apparently it's coming -- soon.

(The full Nov. 15 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, NOV. 15: THE DOMINOES. It's been nine days since the election and attention has already turned to 2014.

Especially the contests for U.S. Senate and governor. And especially on the Republican side.

The Democratic side is in all likelihood already set. Maggie Hassan, Jeanne Shaheen, Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster are all expected to run for reelection, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Some question why Shaheen has gone light on fundraising so far in the cycle.

As of Sept. 30, she had raised only $1.03 million since her election in November 2008, according to her most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

She reported having $338,473 on hand.

No doubt she will soon be gearing up fund-raising and we will also see a higher profile from her on Capitol Hill.

On the Republican side, it's very early to expect definitive answers, but the key potential candidates for the federal offices will be frozen in place until former Sen. John E. Sununu decides and makes it known whether he will run again.

Four years ago, Sununu lost to Shaheen. Then, early in 2009, Judd Gregg announced he wouldn't run for reelection, opening up his seat.

Sununu was first in line for the Gregg seat, and speculation on whether he would or wouldn't run continued through the first half of 2009.

It wasn't until July 1, 2009, that Sununu announced he would not run for the Senate in 2010. A few weeks later, Kelly Ayotte was in the race.

That was a totally different situation because of the timing of the Gregg announcement, but it's still quite possible New Hampshire won't know Sununu's plans at least until the spring of 2013.

The question is, will the other potential Senate candidates wait for Sununu?

No one's talking yet, but we'll know soon.

Expect signals shortly after the New Year, if not before, from the likes of Frank Guinta or Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley - and more.

- - - - - -

BELOW PREDICTIONS. For the record, this year's Election Day turnout appears to have fallen a bit below the prediction by Secretary of State Bill Gardner and below the turnout for 2008.

While the official number of total ballots cast in the Nov. 6 election was still not available Wednesday, we can tell you that a total of 710,984 voted in the presidential election in New Hampshire.

The number of total ballots cast is usually a few thousand, to perhaps 5,000, more than the number of votes cast for President.

Gardner predicted 722,000 ballots would be cast on Nov. 6. While that number is still being determined, you'd have to surmise that the number will end up in the 713,000 to 715,000 range.

Not a bad turnout, but it will not set a record.

In 2008, there were 719,403 ballots cast.

A U.S. Census Bureau estimate for 2008 put the number of voting-age Granite Staters that year at about 1,027,000. The turnout that year was 69.6 percent.

The latest Census Bureau estimate of New Hampshire's voting-age population came in 2010, and it rose by only 2,000, to 1,029,000.

If this year's total number of votes ends up at 715,000, the turnout will be just below 2008, at about 69 percent.

Not bad at all, but, for the record, it would not be a record.

- - - - - -

BIG DAY FOR THE GOP. This afternoon, the minority party at the State House, the Republicans, will choose a leader of their caucus, which as of Dec. 5 will be 120 seats smaller than it was the past two years.

But optimistic Republicans (there are still some around) say it's more than a contest for minority leader. They say it's a contest for future Speaker.

Why? They're counting on a shift in the party away from the social issues with more focus on the fiscal issues, and on compromise with Gov.-elect Hassan.

And they're counting on a typical, poor-to-terrible mid-term election for President Barack Obama and the party in power.

That may or may not prove true, but going into this afternoon's caucus, the contest is pretty much a toss-up between former speaker and current Speaker Pro Tem Gene Chandler and Deputy Speaker Pam Tucker, with State House insiders giving a slight edge to Tucker.

Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, who considered running for minority leader, last weekend decided against it "because I do not want to divide the party when it needs to come together."

On Wednesday, she endorsed Chandler, calling him "a proven leader with the ability to bring people together."

House Republicans, by the way, have 45 new members out of 178, which could be key to the race for leader, while Democrats have 92 new members in a caucus that now numbers 222, subject to recounts.

Democrats will elect their leader on Saturday. The contest is still between former speaker Terie Norelli and Rep. David Campbell, with the winner moving on to become speaker in a vote on Organization Day, Dec. 5.

- - - - - -

WHAT ABOUT CHRIS? When Republicans talk about possible lineups for 2014, another Sununu comes up in private conversation.

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, 37, survived the Democratic wave on Nov. 6 and easily won a second term.

The next election very well could be the one in which Sununu tries to move up. At least many younger Republicans hope it is.

- - - - - -

GETTING (RE)ORIENTED. U.S. Reps.-elect Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster headed to Washington for freshman orientation this week. For Shea-Porter, it was of course a re-orientation after a two-year absence.

Naomi Andrews said she will resume her role as Shea-Porter's chief of staff, and Andrews said Shea-Porter has already asked to return to her previous committees - Armed Services, Natural Resources and Education and Labor.

Shea-Porter will retain her seniority from her previous two terms.

No word yet on Kuster's staffing situation, although her campaign spokesman, Rob Friedlander, remains with her, at least for the time being.

- - - - - -

DRAFTING JENNIFER. Nashua conservative Republican activist Jennifer Horn, who we first reported here last week is interested in running for chairman of the NHGOP, is the subject of a new "Draft Jennifer Horn" Facebook page that went online Wednesday.

The page was created by longtime Horn friend and fellow Nashuan Paul LaFlamme and a few other supporters.

"I really do appreciate it," Horn said, "but I really have not decided yet.

"I am taking the process very seriously, making some calls, considering the impact it would have on my family and trying to honestly evaluate what kind of contribution I could make if I were to do this," Horn told us.

She says she will decide by the end of the coming weekend.

A key player in Horn's corner, should she run, will be former candidate for governor Kevin Smith, who said he was not involved in the Facebook page but believes she would make "a great chairperson."

"She's articulate, has shown herself to be a great organizer of the grassroots and has experience in fundraising for a congressional campaign," Smith said.

Smith said he realizes Horn was a weak fundraiser during her two congressional campaigns, but believes candidate fundraising is "much different" than fund-raising for the party, which relies heavily on its finance committee.

Former Manchester city GOP chair Cliff Hurst, who is the subject of another "draft" Facebook page, continues to mull running for state chairman but also has not decided, yet.

Hurst says that if he runs, he's not going to try to be someone he's not, will put together a strong leadership team and will be tough on the Democrats without "trying to destroy somebody."

He said he believes in practicing integrity in politics.

And Ryan Williams, the sharp-tongued former spokesman for the NHGOP under John H. Sununu and then for the Mitt Romney campaign, laughed at rumors that some are interested in drafting him as party chair.

No doubt Williams would make life unpleasant for the Democrats, but after the long campaign, he said, "AlI I'm thinking about right now is getting to Florida for a vacation."

The NHGOP state committee will choose its chairman and other officers in January.

On the Democratic side, by the way, the state committee does not elect officers until March 2013.

- - - - - -

MAGGIE'S FINAL NUMBERS. Hassan's campaign raised $1,916,738 from 7,648 contributors, including 7,554 individual contributors, during her successful campaign.

Hassan's final campaign finance report, to be filed later today, also shows that she spent $1,865,33. She ended the campaign with $35,009 on hand.

Her report shows she raised $96,985 during the final reporting period, Oct. 30 to Nov. 6.

CHAT WITH THE GOVS. Former Govs. John H. Sununu, Steve Merrill and Craig Benson will be featured in a "fireside chat" at the annual Josiah Bartlett Dinner on Dec. 4.

Retiring Executive Councilor and former Manchester Mayor Ray Wieczorek will be honored.

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy is a conservative self-described nonprofit, non-partisan research center and think tank.

The dinner will be held at the Grappone Center in Concord beginning at 6 p.m. on Dec. 4, with dinner at 7 p.m.

Wieczorek will receive the center's 2012 Libertas Award.

Ticket/contribution levels range from $100 to $10,000.

- - - - - -

All three former Republican governors were active in the just-concluded election. Sununu was a top - and often controversial - national surrogate for Mitt Romney, while Benson supported Kevin Smith and then Ovide Lamontagne for governor. Merrill was also a top Lamontagne backer.

It should be interesting to hear their views on the results.

- - - - - -


-- David Cuzzi, a former senior aide to former Sen. Sununu, has opened Prospect Hill Strategies, a government, public affairs, and business development consulting firm in Manchester.

- - - - - - - -

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at Twitter: @jdistaso.

Granite Status

More Headlines