FORMER REP. Maureen Mooney of Merrimack is running for the state Senate. An energetic conservative, she could lose her primary not for betraying her party, but for serving it. Because she has spent years in dedicated service to the state GOP, one of her opponents, Dan Dwyer, asserts that she should not be elected. He dismisses her as an “establishment Republican.”
That phrase is conservative code for “sellout” or “not conservative enough,” neither of which applies to Maureen Mooney. Dwyer is hoping that primary voters ignorant of Mooney’s views will perceive him as the true conservative. Other Republican primary races provide similar examples of minor deceptions that could have major consequences.
In Executive Council District 4, 2012 Republican nominee Bob Burns posts on his website an endorsement quote from former District 4 Councilor Ray Wieczorek — who is not only endorsing Burns’ primary opponent, Jim Adams, but is Adams’ co-chairman. The quote is from the 2012 general election. Burns knows that Wieczorek is actively opposing Burns’ candidacy. He keeps the quote on his website anyway for the sole purpose of deceiving primary voters into thinking that he has the support of the well-liked former councilor.
Incidentally, Burns last week insulted Wieczorek on Twitter, saying they had not spoken since Wieczorek “refused to support Marine Vet Joe Kenney.” Wieczorek backed Kenney for governor and council and said he was not sure what Burns was talking about (Kenney had no primary for governor). By the way, Burns supports Andrew Hemingway for governor over Marine veteran Walt Havenstein.
Former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta presents a more subtle implied endorsement. His new TV ad contains an old image of him with former Rep. Stella Scamman, wife of former Speaker Doug Scamman. The Scammans, GOP royalty in New Hampshire, are backing Guinta’s rival Dan Innis for Congress.
The flip side of implying the endorsement of people who oppose you is hiding your backers. Andrew Hemingway, running for the Republican nomination for governor, mysteriously left some donors blank on his campaign finance report. As Grantham attorney Sheridan Brown discovered when going through the report, Hemingway did not name the Marijuana Policy Project, a Nevada casino executive, controversial activist Aaron Day, and Michael Gill, who gained some notoriety for using billboards to post offensive messages advancing his claims that the New Hampshire judicial system is corrupt.
So much of politics is about defining one’s opponent as someone who does not share the voters’ values. In primaries, that gets trickier because widely shared values are presumed. How do Republicans win the votes of fellow Republicans in a Republican primary? Sometimes they do it by misleading members of their own party, even in small ways.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His column runs on Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.