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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

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January 18. 2014 11:12PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Another NH-NJ tie: Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Christie accuser, is UNH grad

MONDAY, JAN. 20: HOBOKEN MAYOR, UNH ALUM. There is another New Hampshire connection to potential 2016 GOP presidential hopeful New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his troubles in his home state.

Dawn Zimmer, the Democratic mayor of Hoboken, N.J., was brought up in Laconia and is a 1990 graduate of the University of New Hampshire.

Zimmer, 45, is embroiled in the latest Christie controversy. She told CNN on Sunday she is prepared to testify under oath that Christie administration Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief funds from her community unless she supported a real estate project he favored.

Christie spokesman Colin Reed, who, by the way, is a former spokesman for Rye resident and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, denied Zimmer's allegations. But Zimmer held fast.

In a statement Sunday, Zimmer said she had met with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the region, and, "As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project," she said.

Zimmer said the Christie administration wanted her to approve a project by The Rockefeller Group, a real estate developer with ties to Christie's administration.

Ironically, Zimmer was recently featured in UNH Magazine, and her photograph appeared on the cover, for her efforts in leading Hoboken's recovery from Sandy. In the piece she recalled when Christie, after the storm, helicoptered in to Hoboken, which is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and praised its residents as "tough, gritty, no-nonsense people."

Also in the UNH Magazine piece, Zimmer said she moved with her family to Hoboken from New York City because she it had the "small-town feel" of Laconia.

Zimmer is the second person with New Hampshire ties to be involved in Christie controversies.

Last week, New Hampshire Republican Party executive director Matt Mowers, a former regional aide in Christie's reelection campaign and, previously, in his administration, was subpoenaed to provide documents, texts and emails for a legisaltive probe of the George Washington Bridge lane closure"Bridgegate" scandal.

Mowers was the aide who initially approached the Fort Lee, N.J. Mark Sokolich about supporting Christie's reelection bid.

Hoboken is about eight miles south of Fort Lee on the west bank of the Hudson River.


(Our full Sunday, Jan. 19, Granite Status follows.)
 
SUNDAY, JAN. 19: CHRISTIE UPS AND DOWNS. When we last left New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and "Bridgegate" last Sunday, top political experts in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state were saying the potential Republican candidate would not be hurt by the scandal unless a smoking gun linked him to the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

And a poll of New Hampshire Republican presidential primary voters taken directly after his lengthy "apology" news conference showed support has grown since last September.

But that poll was taken before last week's developments:

-- A Democratic-led New Jersey legislative committee opened a probe by issuing subpoenas for current and former Christie staffers, among others. That was in addition to a probe announced earlier by the state's U.S. Attorney.

The subpoenas for 17 individuals and three organizations seek documents for now, the chairman of the legislative panel said. Christie's office immediately hired its own outside legal team headed by a longtime associate of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

-- The executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, 24-year-old Matt Mowers, was among those subpoenaed. We confirmed Friday that his subpoena at this point also involves only texts and emails, but sources also said it is possible Mowers will be called later to testify.

Mowers, before joining the New Hampshire GOP in November, was a regional campaign director for Christie's successful reelection effort and was identified as the one who approached Democratic Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich last spring about endorsing Christie.

Mowers previously served in Christie's governor's office as regional government relations director, and for at least part of that time, his boss was Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff Christie fired.

Mowers has not been accused so far of involvement in the decision to close the approach lanes to the busy bridge, but while refusing to comment, he, too, as of Friday, was in the process of hiring an attorney.

State GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn noted Mowers has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and in a vote of confidence said, "I look forward to his continued service to our party." Another top party official insisted Friday that Mowers "will be fine."

We'll see.

The pre-subpoena poll, taken Jan. 9 to 12 of 528 Republican primary voters by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, had Christie, with 24 percent, ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, each with 12 percent.

When PPP last polled Granite State GOP primary voters, last September, moderate Christie and conservative Paul were in a virtual tie at 19 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

PPP said 89 percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters said they had heard about the scandal, and 64 percent said their opinion of Christie was the same as it had been before he admitted his administration (though not him personally) ordered the lane closures. Eighteen percent said their opinion of him had gone down, while 14 percent said they actually felt better about him than before.

Christie's favorable/unfavorable rating among GOP primary voters was an impressive 57/27 percent.

Democrats, meanwhile, love Hillary Clinton more than ever. Her support jumped from 57 percent last September to 65 percent, with Vice President Joe Biden a distant second at 10 percent.

But in a head-to-head potential 2016 general election matchup, Clinton leads Christie by only 43 percent to 39 percent, nearly within the 2.7 percent margin of error. The 1,354-voter sample comprised 44 percent independents, 28 percent Democrats and 27 percent Republicans, PPP said.

That's not to say that Christie would not face challenges in the first-primary state should he run, as we pointed out last week, with the help of a few top political experts. That's especially so if any direct Christie links to scandal emerge.

Top Democratic National Committee spokesman Mo Elliethee noted our Jan. 12 report in a nationally circulated memo Friday, adding, "Needless to say, (Bridgegate) is not how Governor Christie wants to be introduced to Granite Staters."

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THE HOWARD DEAN PLAYBOOK. Republicans don't like Howard Dean's liberal view of the world, but they sure respect the former Democratic National Committee chairman's party-building abilities.

When Dean headed the DNC from 2005 to 2009, his 50-state strategy revolutionized how the national party applied its resources. Dean recognized the campaign season never truly ends and continued to pour money into state party organizations continually, rather than waiting until the height of an election cycle.

The Republican National Committee is finally catching up.

A wire report last week said the RNC was "getting out of the business of underwriting" state party organizations and doing television ads. The reference to "underwriting" was later removed after the RNC complained that the opposite was true.

Steve Duprey, veteran New Hampshire RNC member and former state party chair, said the RNC intends to dole out dollars differently.

"We learned a lot from 2012," he said. "You can't have these (RNC-funded) 'Victory' efforts, opening eight or 10 offices around the state, start in the final three months of a campaign and be as effective as you need to be. And you can't leave it to the candidates to build their own data bases" identifying voters.

At a meeting of the full 168-member RNC this week, the party budget for 2014 will be reviewed, Duprey said, "and we're going to put a heck of a lot less into these 'Victory' office pushes and campaign pushes in the last three or four months and instead invest the money on an ongoing basis."

He said the RNC has already begun the new approach here and in other states.

Duprey, a confidante of Chairman Reince Priebus, said the RNC began last summer sending the NHGOP $12,000 to $14,000 monthly, which has funded two of the party's four staffers. The two are working exclusively on developing data bases and "strengthening our field operations," he said.

"That had been unheard of in the recent past," Duprey said.

The state Democratic Party, by the way, has 11 staffers; two funded by the DNC.

"Two or three more people doing this for two years in New Hampshire is a lot more effective than having 10 or even 20 people come in for three months," Duprey maintained.

The back-loaded 2012 approach "was too little, too late."

The RNC sent about $1.3 million to its state party in 2012. The state Democratic Party had received $3.2 million from the DNC.

Duprey also said that much of the 2012 funding the NHGOP and other state party organizations received was to support television advertising, but now, he said, "you'll see less of an emphasis on that and more on strengthening and building that database and using it the right way."

Broadcast advertising will be left to the outside advocacy groups, PACS and SuperPACs.

Duprey said Dean's approach to building state party organizations was "how the Democrats turned this from a red to a purple state. The Republicans have now come full circle and we're going back to that. We lost our way."

(SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Coincidentally, 10 years ago tonight Dean made the infamous "Dean Scream" in Iowa before heading to New Hampshire where his presidential chances quickly died in the first-in-the-nation primary.

Today, Dean emailed Democracy for America supporters: "W
hen I said we were heading to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Oklahoma... and to Washington, DC to take back the White House... it turns out I wasn't kidding.

"In a funny way, that moment was the launch of the 50 State Strategy -- a leave-no-community-behind framework for change that transformed the Democratic Party in the years to come, fueling my campaign to become DNC Chair in 2005 and the fight to take back Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008."

The email's subject line: YEEEEAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!! )

- - - - - - -

DEMOCRATIC GRASSROOTS TRAINING. The Democrats have their own association for the chairs of state committees. The Association of State Democratic Chairs has been headed for several years now by New Hampshire's Raymond Buckley.

Ramping up for 2014, ASDC will focus on "communications and digital" organizing at its winter meeting on Feb. 26 in Washington. State chairs and vice chairs will train in the DNC's Media Facility, where Obama prepares for political speeches and debates.

For the next three weeks, the ASDC is hosting weekly webinars focusing on showing state party officials how to effectively coordinate campaigns.

- - - - - - - -

SEEING PURPLE. Last month, we reported first that veteran political pros Republican Pat Griffin and Democrat Jim Demers were about to head a new Boston office of the nationwide strategic communications and consulting firm Purple Strategies.

With the office in the process of opening, the company's first Granite State event is slated for Jan. 30 at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. A panel discussion will focus on "the political mood of New Hampshire" looking ahead to the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Joining Griffin and Demers will be Purple Strategies' co-founders, Republican Alex Castellanos and Democrat Steve McMahon, and public opinion research expert Doug Usher.

- - - - - -

RUBENS, TOO. Potential GOP U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown last week penned his second email in two weeks soliciting donations for the state GOP.

Announced candidate Jim Rubens will soon do the same.

Brown, in a possible further hint of his political plans, cited "legendary statesmen like Senators Styles Bridges, Norris Cotton and Warren Rudman" as evidence of the state's "proud tradition of sending independent and fiscally responsible leaders to Washington."

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QUICK TAKES:

-- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's camp, after reportedly raising $4.5 million in 2013 and $5.8 million since being elected in 2008, announced Friday her Senate office state director, Mike Vlachich, is moving over to manage her campaign. He'll be replaced by Sarah Holmes, a longtime adviser and current special assistant for policy and projects.

-- Shaheen, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter will speak Monday at the New Hampshire Cultural Diversity Awareness Council's 12th annual "Keeping the Dream Alive" Martin Luther King dinner. Shaheen in 1999 signed into law legislation adding King's name to the pre-existing "Civil Right's Day."

-- The conservative issues group Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire has a new office ready to officially open in downtown Manchester on Wednesday.

-- With a special GOP primary for the District 1 Executive Council seat on tap Tuesday, former state Sen. Joe Kenney said he has won the backing of 14 sitting state House members in the district and plans to air three television ads in the coming days. Former Belknap County Commissioner Christopher Boothby recently unveiled 11 House members and 15 county officials backing him.

-- If you can't get enough of Bridgegate, see Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon mock Gov. Christie's predicament by singing altered lyrics to "Born to Run.'' Springsteen made an appearance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," and with the host doing his best Boss impersonation, the pair belted out the revised song. Check it out below:

John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. Email: jdistaso@unionleader.com; Twitter: @jdistaso.


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