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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Conservative NH group airs first TV ad of '14 US Senate election, hitting Shaheen for health care vote

Senior Political Reporter

June 05. 2013 8:41AM

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5: CRITICIZING SHAHEEN ON ACA. The conservative advocacy group Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire today began airing a 30-second television ad in the state criticizing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act.

It's the first ad of the 2014 cycle focusing on the Democratic incumbent, whose campaign is actively raising money and aggressively preparing for her reelection run even as it remains unclear what Republican will take move to take her on.

The "Citizens" group was co-founded in March by several Republican activists and has Republican operatives Mike Biundo, Derek Dufresne and Kory Wood of RightOnStrategies working as its consultants.

It is a 501 (c)(4) self-described "diverse, nonpartisan grassroots coalition of concerned citizens, community leaders and other stakeholders concerned with promoting and preserving strong families and a strong economy for New Hampshire."

Biundo told the Granite Status the ad is airing on WMUR and state cable outlets with a total initial buy of $110,000.

The ad describes Shaheen as "the deciding vote for Obamacare," and says that as a result of the health care law, "employers may cut your weekly work hours from 40 to 29 to avoid the new taxes and penalties."

"Fewer hours. Less money. Tougher times. Tell Senator Shaheen you can't afford Obamacare," the ad says.

In a statement, Biundo said, "With skyrocketing healthcare premiums, New Hampshire is already feeling the pain from Senator Shaheen's deciding vote for Obamacare. Unfortunately for Granite Staters, the worst may be yet to come. Because of mandates in Obamacare that could force small businesses to cut their employees' hours from 40 to 29, harder times for many New Hampshire families could be on the horizon."

Group director Kristin Beaulier said, "While a majority of New Hampshire residents have said they do not support Obamacare, Senator Shaheen has yet to join them in opposition to a law that is already proving to have a negative effect on families in our state. Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire is calling on Senator Shaheen to join with her constituents, work to repeal the current law, and fight for New Hampshire families that will be forced to live with less."

Dufresne said the ad was produced Bill Eisner of NonBox, with offices in based Oregon, Florida and Wisconsin.

Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover said last week he is exploring running against Shaheen. Other Republicans considering candidacies are state Senate Majority Leader and former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley and former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta.

Shaheen's campaign responded Wednesday afternoon with a fund-raising email entitled "First Attack," saying, "Today a right-wing group is launching a TV attack ad against me -- the first of the campaign.

"This is only the beginning. Groups like this one and Karl Rove's will spend millions to twist words and bend truths," Shaheen writes, urging supporters to contribute to her campaign.

The state Democratic Party earlier blasted the "phony attack ad." Spokesman Harrell Kirstein said in a statement that "the people of New Hampshire aren't buying it."

"Only the Republicans want to go back an re-fight the health care battle," he said.

"Everybody else knows health care reform is expanding coverage and reducing costs here and across the country. In New Hampshire 93% of small businesses already provide health care coverage. The people of New Hampshire know Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and they know she's on their side, fighting for middle class families and small businesses."

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky added, "In 2012, Republicans and conservative outside groups spent hundreds of millions of dollars attacking Democrats over health care reform and it proved to be a failed strategy. These blatantly false attacks have already been discredited and rejected by New Hampshire voters. What matters most to voters is Senator Jeanne Shaheen's strong record of fighting for New Hampshire's middle class and small businesses. Republicans have been unable to recruit a serious challenger so now they've resorted to desperate, worn out attacks."

State GOP Chair Jennifer Horn responded to the Democrats' criticisms, saying:

"Polls show that Granite Staters overwhelmingly disapprove of ObamaCare because they know that it will damage our economy and kill jobs. As ObamaCare begins to take effect, New Hampshire small businesses will be devastated by onerous new regulations and working families will be burdened with higher health care costs. Senator Shaheen was aware of these issues before she ignored the will of her constituents and decided to ram ObamaCare through Congress. In 2014 she will face the consequences for imposing this disastrous law on New Hampshire."

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

MONDAY, JUNE 3: PORTMAN, AYOTTE AT NHGOP FUND-RAISER. Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman will join New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte for a private fund-raiser for the state Republican Party next week.

Portman will attend a private business luncheon with Ayotte at the Tuscan Kitchen in Salem on June 14 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Tickets are $250 and can be purchased by visiting the state party's web site.

A Dartmouth College alumnus, Portman added the appearance at the fund-raiser to a previously scheduled visit to his alma mater, where he will participate in an American Politics panel as part of a weekend of events in Hanover for the Dartmouth Class of 1978's 35th reunion.

We understand that he reached out to Ayotte a few days a go to let her know that he would be in state, and Ayotte suggested that he host a fund-raiser for the NHGOP.

Portman, one of the leading GOP voices on fiscal issues in Washington, was on Mitt Romney's short list of potential vice presidential candidates when he last visited the state in July 2012.

He is up for reelection in 2016 but is also becoming increasingly mentioned as a potential presidential hopeful.

Portman in March became the first sitting Republican senator to voice support for marriage equality when he said his gay son had influenced him on the issue.

NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn called Portman "a leader in the fight to promote pro-growth policies that will create jobs and restore fiscal discipline to Washington. We are very pleased that he has agreed to help our party raise the resources that we need to elect responsible Republicans in 2014 who will help control spending, reduce taxes and limit government."

The fundraiser next Friday follows a successful event the party held on May 20 featuring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

It was reported last month that Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will appear on the same day at a fund-raiser for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at the home of state Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen in Concord. Gillibrand is also a Dartmouth alumnus and is attending the same reunion.

Shaheen, meanwhile, is hosting her annual "Senator's Harbor Cruise" fund-raiser this Friday, June 7, aboard the M/V Thomas Laighton, which will depart from Portsmouth at 6 p.m. Tickets are $100.

Shaheen's campaign raised $1.23 million during the first quarter of 2013, which ended on March 31.

(See our item below for more on the early stages of the 2014 U.S. Senate race.)

(The full Sunday, June 2, Granite Status follows.)

SUNDAY, JUNE 2: IS IT TOO EARLY? Not if you want to run for the United States Senate against a popular incumbent who happens to be a former three-term governor and who is out there raising millions of dollars herself.

So word that Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens (a key opponent of casino gambling) is making calls exploring a run against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen isn't a case of "too soon'' at all.

Next month, if history repeats, after the Legislature (presumably) goes home, things should begin to heat up.

The summer of the off-year before an election year is usually when U.S. Senate races take shape.

In June of 2009, there was much speculation that Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte would run for the seat that incumbent Judd Gregg had announced his intention to vacate months earlier.

On July 7 Ayotte resigned. Two weeks later, she formed a U.S. Senate campaign committee.

Democrat Paul Hodes, on the other hand, had told us back in February of 2009, when Gregg announced his plans, that he would run.

Republican Ovide Lamontagne was even quicker than Ayotte, saying he was seriously considering running on July 2, 2009.

GOP businessmen Bill Binnie and Jim Bender were the late-comers waiting until the early fall of that year.

Dial back to the previous election, when Republican incumbent John E. Sununu was seeking reelection.

Shaheen, even as she headed the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, was being recruited to run as early as April, 2007, for a rematch of her 2002 loss to Sununu.

Democratic power Kathy Sullivan had set up a "Draft Shaheen" organization in June of 2009. Shaheen remained quiet during the summer, announcing her candidacy in September. But it was clear in July what was about to unfold.

This year, ever since Sununu announced in April that he won't go against Shaheen, GOP speculation has focused on state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and former U.S. Sen. from the Bay State, Scott Brown.

Bradley is viewed as a likely, though where he is right now seems less certain than where Ayotte or Shaheen were at similar times.

Bradley needs to get through the legislative session before making a final decision, although he has been speaking to GOP groups statewide, ostensibly in his role as majority leader.

It's going to be a tough June at the State House, with final action on the budget, Medicaid expansion and the state role in the administering the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) heading a list of big issues.

But if Bradley intends to become a candidate and raise money, July is the time to move, as it begins the third quarter fund-raising period.

The same goes for Guinta, although a Senate bid is beginning to look a bit unlikely. If he chooses another run against U.S. Rep Carol Shea-Porter, he can wait longer, but not too much.

Rubens, at least for a month, is expected to have the field to himself.

(Well, not exactly. Conservative activist Karen Testerman has expressed an interest in the seat. And Andy Martin, a former candidate in the New Hampshire presidential primary, actually announced on Memorial Day that he's running.)

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AFP VS. RUBENS. As we have reported, Rubens is expected to make a call for a "carbon tax" to offset climate change. He says it would be a major component of his campaign, should he run.

That puts him "to the left of Jeanne Shaheen," according to Greg Moore, executive director of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire.

"There's no support in the U.S. Senate now for a carbon tax and I can't understand why any candidate would look at it as a key component of their campaign," Moore said. "It will drive up the cost of energy at a time when we have among the highest energy prices in the country.

"We'd like to sit down and talk to him about the negative consequences," Moore said.

Rubens proposes a "pollution tax" and cuts in corporate in individual taxes, which, he says, taken together, would be "revenue neutral."

Rubens, who spent 18 months living in a commune years ago, has never shied away from his belief in man-made global warming and a need to address it.

Nor has he been afraid to take on big business and the fossil-fuel energy industry.

Back in 2008, as a consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists, he said big business and energy industry opposition to a cap-and-trade bill then pending in the Senate was "pure fear-mongering by industry front groups using slanted economics to try to maintain America's addiction to fossil fuels."

"Having failed to confuse the public about the science of global warming, they are now trying to confuse us on the economics of dealing with the problem," Rubens said at the time.

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NO 'OBAMACARE' HELP FROM NH? Bradley and fellow Republican state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford, joined by Sen. Sam Cataldo of Farmington, recommended in Senate Commerce Committee last week that legislation be killed that would allow the state to participate in implementing President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

House Bill 668, passed by the House in March, would change current state law that prohibits the state from setting up its own state-based insurance exchanges.

The bill would not only restore additional state authority on exchanges but would align state rules with pending ACA rules on broader aspects of the individual and small group markets.

It was a 3-2 party line vote in committee to kill the bill, and that's expected to be upheld by the full Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow, 13-11, majority.

But it was not, as of Friday, a slam dunk. Two, and possibly three, GOP senators were described to us by an activist who backs the bill as being "shaky,"

While Bradley and Sanborn will push for Senate Republicans to uphold the committee vote, even if the inexpedient-to-legislate motion does not win, their positions are established in clear contrast to potential Democratic opponents should they run for higher office next year.

While Bradley may try to take on "Obamacare" supporter Shaheen, Sanborn is considered a potential challenger to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who also backs the ACA.

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THREE FOR THREE? We'll see. New Hampshire Democrats have gone "two for two" in state House special elections since the November 2012 general election.

The third special election is Tuesday, June 4, in Claremont's Ward 2, and the candidates are well-known in their communities and in their respective parties. Both are also former House members.

It's a Democratic district, but not a "given" for the Democrats, observers in each party say.

The Republican, Joe Osgood, 59, owns Joe's Family Car Center, and lost to David Pierce in the 2012 District 5 state Senate election.

Osgood was elected to the House in 2005 and then served three full additional terms.

The Democrat is Larry Converse, 70, a retired factory worker who served in the House from 1983 to 1984 and again from 2004 to 2008. Political veterans will remember that Converse stepped up back in 1984 to be his party's sacrificial lamb to run against Judd Gregg for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.

Gregg won by 96,000 votes.

Democrats won the special elections held so far in Nashua and Manchester.

This one could be more competitive.

Osgood last November beat Pierce, who's from Hanover, in Osgood's home ward.

Still, a GOP victory here would be considered an upset.

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NHDP CONVENTION. State Democrats were scheduled to gather last Saturday at Nashua South High School for the annual state convention. On the list: party leaders, grassroots activist training sessions, and awards.

Don Manning, long-time party activist and former chief of staff to House speaker Terie Norelli, received the Peter Burling Legislative Award, while Londonderry activists Don and Pam Jorgensen received the Norm and Anita Freedman Award. Both recognize commitment to the party.

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RNC CO-CHAIR HEADS TO NH. Later this month, RNC co-chair Sharon Day will be in New Hampshire.

On June 14, she will speak about "Women and the GOP" at the Congregational Church in Exeter, with the event sponsored by the Rockingham County Republican Executive Committee, as well as the Exeter and Seacoast Republicans.

The following day, she will be featured at am activist training session at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.

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

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