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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Attorney General to lose longtime, popular deputy

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 03. 2018 9:36AM

Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald is about to lose his right-hand person and it’s probably going to be an even bigger loss to much of state government, which relied on her stepping into the breach.

After 28 years with the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice of Concord will retire from state government effective June 29.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had, working under the guidance of eight attorneys general,” Rice wrote in the letter of resignation the Executive Council received Wednesday.

“I have been fortunate to work with so many exceptional people, both within the office and throughout state government who are dedicated to public service. The legal issues that I have been able to work on over the years have been challenging and fascinating. It has been an honor to be (a) member of the Department of Justice.”

Former Gov. John Lynch named Rice as deputy in 2011, but her influence in the department and all of state government goes much further back. She previously ran the division of public protection, which was all of criminal justice, environmental and civil case bureaus.

Throughout her career, Rice had an impeccable relationship with the New Hampshire Legislature no matter which party was in control — someone who always gave them straight answers and doggedly defended their prevailing views, not just in court but in the court of public opinion.

She will be missed and remembered as a capable, responsive public servant.

There are many veteran prosecutors in the ranks of the N.H. Justice Department to move up. What this job requires, however, is someone more interested in administration than the actual practice of law on the state’s behalf.

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It sure looked like Gov. Chris Sununu’s “concerns” — and outcry from the rank-and-file — prompted longtime Division of Children, Youth and Families supervisor Sherry Ermel to turn down her promotion as deputy director.

Once Ermel was chosen as number-two in the agency, there was plenty of unrest internally, given that last November she had been charged with a domestic violence simple assault charge in Brookline.

Investigators said she threw a ceramic mug full of water at her wife during an argument.

According to court records, the case was placed on file as long as Ermel stayed away from her partner and did not commit any further crimes in the next year.

Initially, HHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers and DCYF Director Joe Ribsam defended the choice, saying Ermel’s leadership over nearly 20 years prepared her for the role.

This is not a post that required the approval of Sununu or the Executive Council and Meyers said his agency leadership unanimously picked her.

But a day after Sununu’s office raised “concerns” about the pick, Ermel was out Wednesday. She will return to her post as assistant bureau chief of field services.

“At this time our focus needs to be on DCYF’s mission and efforts to transform the child welfare system, and my appointment has become a distraction,” Ermel said in a statement.

Meyers said in his own statement that he and Ribsam “respect Sherry’s decision to withdraw.”

This was not a controversy Sununu needed in the waning weeks of a legislative session while he tries to nail down multi-million investments for services to families under DCYF’s care.

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If you have been following the scramble to become the next representative serving in the 1st Congressional District, you probably have sensed there were more surprises to come.

This week’s was the stunning announcement Wednesday that Naomi Andrews of Epping would enter the already crowded Democratic primary field to replace retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter

Andrews has served as Shea-Porter’s chief of staff.

“I have worked for Carol for more than a decade, and I share her love for people and her determination to fight for the rest of us. As her chief of staff, I worked each day on all of the national and state issues and the challenges that impact our lives in New Hampshire, including the opioid crisis, and I can hit the ground running on day one to serve our citizens,” Andrews said.

She not only faces eight Democratic challengers, she’s late to this party since Chris Pappas, Maura Sullivan, Mack MacKenzie. Mindy Messner and others have spent more than eight months raising money, wooing activists and seeking the support of interest groups.

But of course, Shea-Porter first came out without any party establishment support and stunned then-House Democratic Leader Jim Craig in 2006.

“I also know how to win in this tough district, because I was the campaign manager for two of Carol’s winning campaigns. I have the experience, enthusiasm, and commitment to serve the people of this district that I love so much,” Andrews said.

Unlike many other prominent Democrats, Shea-Porter hasn’t weighed in on who should replace her. At the time of her announcement last fall, Shea-Porter strongly suggested she’d stay out of it.

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The battle to win over party activists in the competitive Democratic primary for Executive Council, Dist. 4 is on.

As we reported, former, Manchester Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau got a head start jumping into the race first to try to replace as nominee Chris Pappas of Manchester, who is running for Congress.

The veteran party regular and 2016 candidate for Hillsborough County Attorney, Corriveau wasted no time getting former colleagues on the city aldermanic and school boards to embrace his bid.

Enter Graham Chynoweth, the Manchester entrepreneur and a chief executive with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Initiative under inventor Dean Kamen. Chynoweth is making this his first major foray into elective politics.

The Status has confirmed Chynoweth is working to make up for lost time and landed several prominent Democrats, including Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart and Ward 3 Alderman Tim Baines.

Stewart is executive director of the StayWorkPlay initiative and Chynoweth has been on that group’s board.

“As a Manchester business owner and alderman representing the city’s downtown, I know Gray has the experience to help the state make better decisions on modernizing and improving state government,” said Baines, owner of the Mint Bistro.

“Now is the time for new leadership. Gray is the right person to move the state forward.”

Also joining Team Chynoweth is Manchester Youth Services Advisory Board member Hassan Essa from Ward 12 and entrepreneur Brenda Noiseux from Ward 7.

“I’ve learned that if you focus on the customer, you’ll succeed. I am thankful to have the support of so many smart, committed and hard-working Manchester leaders and look forward to continuing to build a broad coalition of supporters across all of District 4,” Chynoweth said.

Meanwhile, Corriveau moved quickly to the State House and we’ve learned he has landed 18 of the city’s 24 Democratic state representatives. Among those signing on are Delegation Chairman and Rep. Patrick Long, former Ward 3 alderman, Vice Chair Patti Cornell and longtime Reps. Bob Backus, Jeff Goley, Ben Baroody, Mary Heath, Barbara Shaw, Tim Smith and Jean Jeudy.

“They have been leaders on so many crucial issues facing our state, including the opioid crisis and extending health care to tens of thousands of hard-working Granite Staters. They have worked, in some cases for decades, to make our communities safer and stronger,” Corriveau said.

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For better than a year, New Hampshire Democratic leaders have made blind loyalty to President Trump a political prod at Gov. Sununu and other current and would-be Republican officeholders.

This week, GOP Chairman Jeanie Forrester had her own target and it’s the news U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if re-elected will run to again become Speaker if Democrats take over that chamber.

“The liberals running for Congress in the 1st District need to come clean as to whether or not they support her. Do Maura Sullivan and Chris Pappas support her for Speaker?” Forrester said Wednesday.

“Do they support her anti-middle class scheme to repeal Republican tax reform, which is fueling our economy and putting more money into the paychecks of working Americans?”

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The unexpected decision of four-term state Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, to not seek re-election to spend more time with her family living outside new Hampshire throws wide open what looked like a very safe Democratic seat in 2018.

District 12 is one of the two most Democratic in the 24-person Senate. In a mid-term election like this one, Lasky’s replacement should come from her party’s own ranks.

Two popular Democratic state reps have already expressed interest — longtime House Finance Committee veteran and Ward 3 Rep. Cindy Rosenwald and retired Nashua Fire executive Mike O’Brien, who represents Ward 9.

But Republicans have mounted a strong campaign in this district before and among Republican Reps. from this district are House Finance member Timothy Twombly and longtime Reps. Bill Ohm and Don LeBrun.

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Hey, it’s the first time any pollster’s had the guts to try to do a presidential horse race in New Hampshire this far out from 2020, so at least give Suffolk University credit for trying.

Much like Mitt Romney, Mike Dukakis, John Kerry and the late Paul Tsongas before her and well ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary here, there’s a well-known Bay State politician out in front.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (26 percent) leads both former Vice President Joe Biden (20 percent) and 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary winner Bernie Sanders (13 percent) in this poll done April 26-30

Further back in the field are New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker (8 percent), California Sen. Kamala Harris and former MA. Gov. Deval Patrick (4 percent each).

“Elizabeth Warren overtakes the entire field in her neighboring state, if she decides to run,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “The biggest losers are Sanders, Patrick and Harris, whose respective overlaps of political philosophy, geography and gender, rotate to Warren.”

The same poll found President Trump thumping potential 2020 primary rivals Mitt Romney, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

Like other recent surveys, Gov. Chris Sununu leads his two Democratic challengers by about a 2-1 margin. Libertarian candidate Jilletta Jarvis gets 4 percent in each poll, which is the mark that third party needs to obtain to retain automatic ballot status.

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The big-name endorsements continue to roll in for Democratic candidate for governor Molly Kelly, this one from the state’s senior U.S. senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

“I’m pleased to endorse my friend Molly Kelly because she is exactly the type of person we need as governor. The focus of Molly’s campaign is on creating opportunity by expanding job training, skills training and college opportunity,” Shaheen said.

Some of Shaheen’s most devoted followers well remember that Kelly’s primary rival for governor in 2018, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, jumped into a U.S. Senate campaign in early 2007 to try to take out Republican Sen. John E. Sununu.

They thought Marchand was being presumptuous since Shaheen had not yet decided whether she would leave her post at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and seek a rematch with Sununu in 2008.

Shaheen got into the race in September 2007. Marchand dropped out and quickly endorsed Shaheen, but many close to her don’t fondly remember the whole episode.

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