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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Sullivan-Pappas fight gets bitter as primary approaches

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
September 06. 2018 2:39PM


It was bound to happen but this sure got bitter at the very end.

We entered the final week in the crowded 1st Congressional District primary and former U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth decided to be the one to take out the full artillery.

In a stinging mailing sent out to Democrats across the district, Sullivan charged that main rival and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas had “no spine” to stand up to Republicans who want to go back in time on health care.

“Does Chris Pappas have the backbone to stand up to Republicans who want to repeal Obamacare?” the Sullivan mailing begins. “Check his record. No spine.”

The mailing makes the case that Pappas “welcomed the support” in his council campaigns from the National Federation of Independent Business, which Sullivan called a “Republican front group funded in part by the Koch Brothers.”

The mailing accused Pappas of getting support from Manchester developers and other business owners, even though they had violated environmental regulations.

“Pappas sold out to Big Developers who trash New Hampshire’s environment,” the mailing said.

Over a two-day period, Pappas had business owners and political supporters speak on his behalf to condemn this move.

“It’s too bad that Maura Sullivan is launching baseless attacks in this campaign. I know Chris to be an honorable and decent small business owner who is always looking out for our concerns,” said Jess Stephens, owner of Cider Bellies Doughnuts in Meredith.

What was the Sullivan campaign defense?

He started it.

“Chris Pappas has been attacking Maura Sullivan for months, either directly on his website, indirectly in his TV ads, and now in direct mail,” said Sullivan campaign manager Whitney Larsen. “The fact is, Chris Pappas welcomed with open arms the endorsement of the NFIB, which is a Koch Brothers front group that wanted to repeal Obamacare. That is a fact and it should raise very serious concerns for New Hampshire Democrats, especially when Chris tries to claim he’s a progressive on health care issues. On the other hand, the NRA and gun lobby are attacking Maura Sullivan because she alone took a tough stand against gun violence, something Chris hasn’t done.”

They released statements from the Pappas campaign on its website for weeks that did make reference to Sullivan taking large amounts of out-of-state money from such corporations as Bain Capital.

Then on Wednesday, Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, turned it up a notch, noting Pappas would be the first-ever gay member of Congress from New Hampshire.

“In 2018, there is no place for the type of dirty, repugnant politics Maura Sullivan is engaging in with her dog-whistle attacks. Suggesting that a gay man is weak or spineless is among the nastiest attacks I’ve seen in any primary and no New Hampshire Democrat, especially those of us who fought for marriage equality, transgender equality and a conversion therapy ban, should stand for these smears,” Watters said.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports Pappas, called Sullivan’s mailer a “homophobic dog whistle.”

“Throughout this campaign cycle, when opponents of openly gay candidates go on the attack, they nearly always appeal to the tired homophobic stereotype of gay people as weaker than others. Maura Sullivan now joins the ranks of candidates willing to engage in homophobic dog whistle politics for their own gain, further proving she is not the progressive in this race,” said Victory Fund Senior Director Sean Meloy.

The Sullivan campaign produced its own gay advocate.

“Chris Pappas needs to answer for the support he welcomed from a Koch Brothers-backed organization three times — plain and simple,” said Kyle Ridolfo of Portsmouth. “As an openly gay man and as someone who grew up in New Hampshire, it is absurd that Chris Pappas and his supporters are trying to twist this examination of Chris’s record into some sort of attack, that in no way is something I have ever associated with my sexual orientation. This is unfortunate, but I guess Chris Pappas must be desperate.”

All this raises a fundamental question. If Sullivan is the candidate with all the money and has more than five times as many TV ads on the air than Pappas in this final month, why is she closing this race by going negative in a mailer?

We know from her Federal Election Commission reports this candidate is spending liberally on “research” (read polling at this point) so has Sullivan decided she loses on Tuesday unless she can drive up Pappas’ negatives?

We’ll know soon enough.

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Democratic candidate for governor Steve Marchand turned heads when he revealed for the first time during his televised debate that he walked away from his role as a co-executive director of the non-partisan No Labels organization upon learning then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was going to be celebrated as a “problem solver” by the organization.

After the televised debate Tuesday, Marchand explained what happened.

“I didn’t attend; I didn’t get paid for a chunk of time. I was the Democratic consultant, there was a Republican consultant. We had counterparts and we told them I don’t remember the timeline on this, I believe it was even the fall the year before (fall of 2015) that if they were going to be open-ended on this about who they might give as opposed to a single award, they were going to give I think they called it a seal that implied anybody theoretically could get it but that was highly problematic,” Marchand said.

The rules of the organization changed when its lawyers told the leadership they couldn’t give any one candidate a special honor, Marchand said.

“When they went down that road I said I’m not touching because as I’ve acknowledged when it comes to Donald Trump and several others that were involved, that is just not acceptable and has nothing to do with problem-solving,” Marchand said.

“They changed over time. Originally it was going to be a single endorsement for a single party and they changed that ... they had to change from endorsing candidates for a single reason to we have to offer it to everybody.”

Everybody didn’t get an award; only those who curried favor with the group and agreed to its four principles.

The six were Trump, then-Republican Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, current HUD Secretary Ben Carson and former Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Marchand said he was “strenuous” in his opposition before departing but there’s no record Marchand told anyone in the media at the time.

It’s also worth noting these “problem-solver” designations were given out in January 2016 and Marchand said he had already left.

Trump also appeared at a No Labels event in October 2015.

At that event, Trump offered this prophetic gem to one questioner who asked whether Trump’s “divisive” rhetoric may make it difficult for him to solve the nation’s problems.

“I went to Ivy League schools, I know what’s divisive, I know what’s not divisive,” Trump replied. “I don’t want to be politically correct all the way down the line. ... I see politicians, they’re afraid to say anything because it’s not politically correct.”

We’ve never had that problem with this POTUS have we?

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Democratic candidate Molly Kelly is rolling out a big Manchester endorsement today, Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy of Manchester.

The pair will appear at an event promoting Kelly’s support for family and medical leave, a day after Marchand hosted his news conference on the topic.

“Having served with Molly in the Senate, I’ve seen her consistent, progressive leadership on a range of issues, especially strengthening education, advancing renewable energy and fighting for working families,” Soucy said. “I look forward to working with Molly once again when she’s governor to build a New Hampshire that works for everyone.”

GOP leaders chose to single out Kelly for criticism this week, calling her a “hypocrite” for her attacks against Gov. Chris Sununu on the state budget to battle child abuse.

State Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, and Rep. Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson, in an op-ed called out Kelly as Marchand had at the debate for once voting to cut Division of Children, Youth and Families spending.

“When it comes to the situation facing New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth, and Families, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly is shamefully trying to alter history for political gain. She has spent the past few weeks attacking Gov. Chris Sununu and the Republican Legislature on the failures of DCYF, but conveniently did not mention one thing: She had a front-row seat to this crisis as it was unfolding and was nowhere to be found,” they wrote.

Kelly said no one has shown more commitment than she has in supporting services that protect children at risk.


“Chris Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans are making clear that they don’t want to face Molly Kelly in the general election. While Molly has always fought for children and families, Sununu failed to follow the recommendations of an independent audit report from December 2016 outlining how to fix the problems at DCYF.” said Kelly spokesman Chris Moyer.

“Further, funding for voluntary services at DCYF was only restored after a child died. Molly believes it’s wrong that Sununu prioritized tax breaks for wealthy corporations over protections for vulnerable children.”


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After the little matter of a primary election, there is government business to be had and today a broad coalition of business, municipal, logger, landowners and public officials will rally at the State House to urge the Legislature to override two vetoes from Gov. Chris Sununu when they meet to take up all those vetoes on Sept. 12.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate remain optimistic they might hand Sununu election-year veto defeats on these bills regarding subsidies for the biomass industry, which has led to some plant closures.

“The future of the biomass industry is at stake, as well as nearly a thousand good-paying jobs throughout the state,” said Jasen Stock of the NH Timberland Owners Association and one of the rally sponsors. “Lawmakers must understand these vetoes will do nothing to save money for ratepayers in the long run. A veto will shut down a statewide local wood-to-energy program that helps maintain healthy forests locally through SB 365. We also face the loss of renewable energy that cuts costs for taxpayers all around the state through SB 446. We urge lawmakers to override these two vetoes.”

Here’s the problem. All Sununu really needs is about 120 core House Republicans to hold firm and these vetoes will be sustained.

Since Kelly, the Democratic candidate for governor with the money, is bankrolling ads critical of Sununu’s energy vetoes, those are fighting words to the GOP.

This gives Sununu better than a fighting chance of surviving this big test.

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The two major candidates in the 1st Congressional District get to make their closing arguments at tonight’s WMUR debate and then will spend the end of the week rallying with supporters.

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, has the big name of the week, 2016 presidential contender and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who will be the star of a rally on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University starting at 11 a.m.

A team of prominent Seacoast financial heavy hitters will host a luncheon for Edwards today at The CR Restaurant in Hampton led by Renee Plummer, former Board of Education Chairman John Lyons and restaurant owner Chuck Rolocek.

Edwards was celebrating wrapping up five newspaper endorsements the latest the Weirs Times and Conway Daily Sun.

The New Hampshire Union Leader, Portsmouth Herald and Foster’s also backed Edwards.

Sanborn’s ability to put more than a half-million of his own money put Edwards at a disadvantage.

In his one and only TV ad, Edwards retold his family story as the son of an abusive father and heroic grandmother who helped Edwards become an accomplished military and law enforcement executive.

At the close, Sanborn was leaving nothing to chance.

He changed his bio ad in the final week to include an attack against Edwards for having served on a non-profit board that gave grants to pro-amnesty for immigrant organizations dubbing his rival “Amnesty Edwards.”

In a final, two-minute YouTube video, Sanborn claimed he was the one who came under attack.

“I’ve been called many things by the political class,” Sanborn says seated in The Draft sports bar he owns in Concord.

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Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua, a 2nd District Republican contender capped the sweep of straw polls in his seven-person race, the last one in Salem where he got 45 percent of the vote to 29 percent for ex-Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord.

In the final week, Negron finally got his first TV ad on the air after letting primary rival and VA whistleblower Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton have the TV airwaves all to himself for several weeks.

“In the military is where I met my wife Terry. She outranked me then; she outranks me now,” Negron quipped in the ad.

“Ann Kuster votes party line. She is more liberal than Nancy Pelosi.

“We don’t need Nancy Pelosi values in New Hampshire. We need to take our state back. Join me and we’ll restore American confidence together.”

All seven contenders will be present for the final Granite Debate Friday night on WMUR at 7 p.m.

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Former Law and Order star and liberal activist Sam Waterston will star at a fund-raiser for a campaign finance group at the Capitol Center for the Arts next Tuesday.

Open Democracy NH benefits from the $35 per ticket event that political organizer Larry Lessig will moderate.

This is the group that took up the mantle for campaign finance reform following the death of New Hampshire’s Granny D. Haddock and championed a statewide march for reform.

The event starts at 6 p.m.

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Former Strafford County Attorney and 1st District Democratic hopeful Lincoln Soldati got creative doing a web video in the final week about having ended up driving Uber through the Seacoast to make ends meet after closing his law practice.

He said this — and driving out to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest a controversial pipeline — put him in touch with what’s on the minds of voters.

“My riders tell me they are desperate for leadership in Washington. Standing Rock reconnected me with my life-long passion for service. When I saw what was happening to my country, I realized: this is what I can do. I can be an advocate, a voice for my community,” Soldati said.

“And, what sets me apart is that I am the oldest candidate and so I don’t need to build a career. I don’t need to worry about re-election. It frees me to take hard votes. I’m not running to get re-elected. I’m running to make change now. It’s time to send someone to Washington who knows what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck.”

Rep. Mindi Messmer, D-Rye, closed her 1st CD Democratic race more conventionally with more endorsements, the last one from retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson.

He was the former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and an advocate about how climate change and drinking water contamination threatens to turn many worldwide into refugees.

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Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock lends 1st District Democrat Sullivan a hand with a news conference call today highlighting her record of fighting for women and families.

On Friday night at 8 p.m., 1st District Democratic rival Pappas will host a Get Out The Vote rally at his Puritan Backroom Restaurant that will mark 10 months on the campaign trail.

Let’s hope this isn’t like the 10-person Democratic primary in Massachusetts to choose a nominee to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas.

This one was so close, 52 votes, that Secretary of State Bill Galvin ordered the ballots sealed and they are likely to go to a recount, with only a few hundred votes separating leader Lori Trahan of Westford, Mass. over Dan Koh of Andover.

The winner gets to face GOP challenger Rick Green and independent Mike Mullens.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


Granite Status