When Democratic Senate minority leader Sylvia Larsen decided she wasn’t going to seek reelection after two decades in the State House, she didn’t share the secret with too many people until the day she announced it on the New Hampshire Senate floor.
Concord School Board member Kass Ardinger got the word from Larsen ahead of time, and announced for the District 15 Senate immediately after Larsen’s shocker.
Although Larsen has since said she is not endorsing Ardinger, her advance vetting of the candidate suggested to many that Ardinger was the chosen one.
“I thought it was helpful to line up a very talented and capable person,” Larsen told the Concord Monitor. “The seat is not mine to give away, it’s the voters.”
Any hope that Ardinger was going to cruise through the Democratic primary with those voters was dashed on Wednesday, when a slate of prominent Democrats, including several current and former office-holders, endorsed Concord attorney Dan Feltes, the only other Democrat to file.
Feltes has worked for the past eight years at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, advocating for low- to middle- income clients in court and in the state Legislature.
The Feltes forces include former Congressman Paul Hodes, who at one point was talked about as a potential candidate for the state Senate seat.
Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, whose district includes Concord, was second on Feltes’ list, followed by Mary Louise Hancock. The first woman to be elected senator from the district in the 1970s, Hancock has been called the unofficial grand dame of New Hampshire Democrats.
Six incumbent state representatives are on the list, including former Concord Mayor James MacKay, along with three Concord city councilors. Former state party chair and Health and Human Services Commissioner Ned Helms is also on the list of more than 100 names.
So far, the only endorsement on Ardinger’s web site comes from Peter Burling, former state senator and representative, and current member of the Democratic National Committee
“I will be coming out with a list of my supporters in due time,” Ardinger said. “I have been busy these last few weeks knocking on doors and talking with many voters. I have had a very positive response from people who know about my work on the Concord School Board and are excited and supportive of my campaign. It’s important to me to connect with as many voters as possible and hear their concerns and hopes for the future.”
Larsen is scheduled to participate in a national teleconference with reporters on Tuesday, hosted by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), to unveil a list of state legislatures where Democrats expect to make inroads or obtain majorities in the fall election.
According to a DLCC spokesperson, the former dean of the New Hampshire Senate is going to explain how Democrats expect to take a majority in the chamber, which broke 11-13 last session in favor of the Republicans.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, DLCC chairman, will join Larsen and other state legislative leaders in the presentation.
Larsen is going to have to explain how the Democrats make the numbers work, when they don’t even have a candidate on the ballot in Senate District 16, which includes Bow, Candia, Dunbarton, Hooksett and Manchester Wards 1, 2 and 12.
Incumbent Republican Dave Boutin won this swing district by only 396 votes out of nearly 14,000 cast in the 2012 election. His opponent in that race, Kathleen Kelley Arnold of Manchester, is married to Patrick Arnold, who ran for mayor of Manchester that year and lost to Ted Gatsas.
Democrats apparently put all their eggs in the Arnold basket, hoping Patrick would run for the Senate seat. When he decided to keep his hopes alive for Manchester mayor, the Democrats apparently ended up with no one. Party Chairman Ray Buckley didn’t respond to requests for information about how the party intends to proceed, but there’s little doubt he’s beating the bushes for someone willing to mount a write-in campaign.
Failure to field a candidate in District 16 could go down as one of the big misses for Democrats in 2014, with the Senate majority turning on one or two seats.
Boutin is facing a Tea-Party style primary challenge from former state Rep. Jane Cormier, whose campaign is being promoted by the Republican Liberty Caucus as payback to Boutin for his votes in support of Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
Either a wounded Boutin or a non-incumbent Cormier would have been good scenarios in District 16 for Democrats, who now must pin their hopes on a write-in, if they can find one.
Cormier fired up her internecine warfare against Boutin on Monday with the endorsement of state Rep. Bill O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon. The former House speaker is hoping to regain the gavel if Republicans like Cormier form the next majority.
Boutin fired back the next day with the announcement of his campaign co-chairs — Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, former Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek and Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard.
Politics of reversal
Two candidates for federal office reversed their positions on carbon emissions last week, and agreed to sign a pledge promoted by the Americans For Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group Jim Rubens, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, announced on Tuesday that he was signing the “No Climate Tax” pledge, which states: “I pledge to the American people that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”
The announcement by Rubens came just days after 2nd District congressional candidate Gary Lambert took the same pledge.
Greg Moore, who serves as state director for the AFP, said the organization welcomed the change of heart by both candidates, but said it was not due to any AFP lobbying.
“It caught us flatfooted,” he said. “That pledge has been dormant since 2009 and 2010.”
Moore said he was contacted by a Rubens campaign worker soon after Lambert’s announcement.
“He asked if we were interested in having Jim sign the pledge,” Moore recalls. “I said it was online, but we haven’t been pushing it because there’s no movement in Congress to pass cap and trade or climate tax legislation. ”Still, Moore welcomed the support.
“We are thankful to both of them for signing the pledge since both have supported cap and trade, and in Senator Rubens case, also a carbon tax,” said Moore. “So from our perspective, we’re glad they are starting to come around and understand the damage that cap and trade or a carbon tax will do for the economy.”
Both Rubens and Lambert are in tough primary fights, and in both cases are facing candidates whose positions have been more closely aligned with the AFP pledge.