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Kathy Sullivan : Welcome to NH, Mr. Mowers; you've got a tough job ahead of you

November 12. 2013 7:42PM

The New Hampshire Republican Party has hired a new executive director, Matt Mowers, whose most recent employment was as a regional field director for Chris Christie's blow-out reelection as governor of New Jersey. I would like to welcome Mr. Mowers to New Hampshire, and, as a house warming gift, give him a Democrat's view of the state of the Granite State GOP.

Matt, at this point in time, the state's Republican Party may be in the worst shape it has been in since Ulysses S. Grant's second term. For one thing, it continues to suffer from a Bill O'Brien hangover. In Nashua, O'Brien's last majority leader, Pete Silva, who lost his seat in 2012, was thumped last week in a special election comeback attempt, losing to Democrat Latha Mangipudi. That race provided a textbook case of the problems plaguing the GOP both here and nationally.

First, Silva put his foot in his mouth in making some unfortunate comments regarding Mangipudi's ethnicity, claiming that on primary day, the ward had looked like New Delhi. Silva must not have remembered that type of comment killed George Allen's political career in Virginia seven years ago.

Then his supporters passed out flyers that did not comply with New Hampshire election law, resulting in a complaint to the attorney general. Bad publicity from dumb campaign antics and poor strategy has been a problem for the New Hampshire Republican Party this century. Just ask anyone about those anti-Gordon Humphrey postcards in 2000, the phone jamming in 2002, the misleading NRCC robocalls in 2006, and the really stupid anti-Maggie Hassan ads the Republican Governors Association ran here in 2012.

Election day, when all available activists should have been engaged in getting out the vote, the secretary of Nashua's Republican Committee spent the day filming voters at the polls. The obsession of right wing Republicans with non-existent voter fraud, instead of doing the things that actually win elections, like, oh, calling people to remind them to get to the polls, is just one more example of how the party is flailing.

It isn't just Nashua. In Manchester, the GOP city committee has more drama than TNT. The committee decided not to support Republican alderman-at-large Joe Kelly Levasseur in his reelection, because of his criticism of Mayor Ted Gatsas. How did that work out? Levasseur won anyway, defeating former committee chair Will Infantine. Levasseur will be one of only two Republican aldermen. This was a black eye for Manchester's Republicans, and particularly for its acting chair, Tammy Simmons. It is basic politics that winning elections means defeating the opposition, not fighting publicly with your own candidates.

The state committee is not faring much better. Chair Jennifer Horn has been the invisible woman. It took the state GOP seven hours after the polls opened to send out a generic Twitter message reminding Republicans to vote. She continues to struggle to find a viable candidate to run against popular Gov. Maggie Hassan. The only name that has popped up recently is Chuck Rolecek, a former donor to Jeanne Shaheen and John Lynch whose sole prior race for office resulted in a third-place loss in a Republican primary for Executive Council. At least he hasn't pulled a ballot in a Democratic presidential primary, like one of the candidates for the Republican nomination in the first congressional district did in 2008.

And then there is the United States Senate. The latest Republican to say no to a race against Jeanne Shaheen is former congressman Charlie Bass. His decision to bow out prompted announced candidate Jim Rubens, a former state senator, to issue a statement saying it was time for all Republicans to unite behind him. Instead, Bass and Sen. Kelly Ayotte decided it was time to call Massachusetts resident Scott Brown, who has a summer house here. It is pretty sad when New Hampshire Republicans can't find a New Hampshire resident to run for one of the premier political positions in the state.

Under the circumstances, Matt, New Hampshire Republicans should be delighted that someone affiliated with Christie's landslide in a blue state is willing to work here. However, your former boss may be an issue for you. Fran Wendleboe, assistant secretary of your new employer, attacked Christie last Tuesday, saying there is no way conservatives will buy him. A GOP state representative also criticized Christie over reports he allegedly turned down a request to campaign for Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, calling it "Christie's version of Benghazi."

Matt, you have your work cut out for you.


Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.

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