Booker speaks to SNHU graduates

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (right) speaks with Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc during a commencement ceremony on May 12 at SNHU Arena in Manchester.

According to the polls and campaign finance at the national level, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker remains mired in the pack of 2020 Democratic candidates.

But his political organization, especially in the early voting states, is getting some national notice and Booker believes this will make all the difference.

"The reality is right now the polling does not give any kind of good indication of where this nomination is going to go. The metrics I'm focusing on right now is how we are distinguishing ourselves on the ground with organization, endorsements and the like and I'm pretty excited about where we are here," Booker said during a telephone interview Wednesday.

"Sure we are still battling name recognition compared to Joe (Biden), Bernie (Sanders) and some others but there's still plenty of time for that to change and I'm convinced that it will."

During the midterm elections in 2018, no one raised more money and helped more New Hampshire Democrats on the ballot than Booker did.

He has to hope those investments will pay dividends.

"We feel very confident about our strategy; our early primary states are going to give us tremendous momentum. I think we are outpacing our competition and people are telling me we are doing this the right way, running the kind of campaign that has won in the past and can win in the future," Booker said.

Like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Booker has tried to build broader support through policy plans. That includes expanding the earned income tax credit, offering investment accounts for children, a renter's credit to make housing more affordable and a gun-violence prevention plan that is among the most ambitious of all his primary rivals.

Booker continues to believe the path to this nomination is not to offer the greatest anti-Trump rant, but an agenda that inspires voters.

"He wants this election to be all about him. He wants to be the sole focus of American attention and continue to divide this country and we can't allow that," Booker said. "For us to prevail, this race has to be about what we are for."

Harris wins convert with plan for dreamers

2020 Democratic hopeful Kamala Harris won over a prominent New Hampshire supporter with her ambitious plan to deploy as President executive action to prevent immigrants from being deported.

The California senator has used this approach before; her plans on equal pay and reproductive rights would include going over the heads of Congress while she's waiting for Capitol Hill to get its act together.

Harris would direct Homeland Security to retroactively grant work authorization for dreamers and formally admit them into the U.S. by using the model that now exists for victims of natural disaster or families of U.S. service members.

"As a first-generation immigrant and the first Indian American to be elected to the New Hampshire State Legislature, I deeply understand the value of taking bold action to ensure dreamers have a pathway to citizenship," said state Rep. Latha Mangipudi, D-Nashua, who has yet to endorse a candidate.

"Senator Harris' proposal to create a pathway to citizenship for dreamers is smart and critical. With hundreds of dreamers in New Hampshire facing the threat of deportation, the time for action is now. I'm proud that Harris has put out this proposal."

The Harris campaign estimates their policies would help 3,400 in the Deferred Action for Parents of children born legally here and another 400 children in the dreamers category in NH.

"These young people are just as American as I am, and they deserve a President who will fight for them from day one," Harris said.

Sununu holds clear edge in 2020 fundraising

The two new Democratic figures looking to take on Gov. Chris Sununu next year, Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, both D-Concord, did well with money coming into their political action committee coffers during 2019.

But a look inside the numbers reveals the two-term Republican incumbent Sununu did have a decided edge.

On its face, Sununu raised $220,641, just about the amount he did during the same period in 2017.

Feltes raised $114,670. Volinsky did slightly better with $128,034.

But both Feltes and Volinsky had large surpluses left over from their 2018 reelection campaigns, which they won with ease.

Feltes moved $16,189 from his 2018 state Senate account; Volinsky transferred even more. He had $45,302 left over after winning a second council term over Republican James Beard.

Prominent supporters of Sununu early on include car dealer Andy Crews ($1,000); former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card of Jaffrey ($1,000); ex-U.S. Rep. Charles Bass ($1,000); Eversource PAC ($1,000); 2014 GOP nominee for Governor Walt Havenstein of Westlake, Tex. ($1,000); Nextra Energy ($1,000), San Francisco engineer Albert Tanner ($7,000); lawyer Philip Taub ($5,000) and developer John Flatley ($1,000).

As lawyers both Feltes and Volinsky had many members of the New Hampshire bar on their side and there was some overlap.

James Rosenberg with the Shaheen and Gordon firm gave Feltes $5,000 while principal Steve Gordon gave Volinsky $500.

Stonyfield Yogurt co-founder Gary Hirshberg gave Feltes $1,000 as did the N.H. Realtors, sheet metal workers union, Concord lawyer Chris Sullivan and former Executive Council Democratic nominee Dan Weeks of Nashua.

Manchester developer Dick Anagnost gave Volinsky $5,000 and Geoffrey Clark, the husband of Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, chipped in $7,000.  Former state Sen. Harold Janeway and his wife also gave him $8,000.

The other Democrats that haven't ruled out a 2020 run for governor ran for it before — 2018 nominee Molly Kelly of Keene and two-time candidate Steve Marchand of Portsmouth.

Sununu was a frequent flyer

Sununu used his PAC to finance airfare on six occasions for a total of $5,118.60.

These range from a ticket that cost $194.33 last Nov. 15 to an entry with Delta Airlines for last Feb. 4 that totaled $2,925.

The governor has received $19,715 from his inaugural fund, the Sununu Inaugural Celebration, for travel expenses. It’s part of about $39,100 the governor has received in reimbursements from his inaugural fund since its formation.

Last Jan. 25, the committee also paid the governor back $5,000 for a loan he had made to his reelection campaign. 

The committee also paid Sununu's sister, Cathy, $27,500 for "fund-raising expenses" in two payments.

Sununu's inaugural fund had employed Sununu's sister to provide decorations for the governor's celebrations.

Beto gets praise from LGBTQ community

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke proposed using executive authority to reverse Trump administration policies, including the transgender military service ban and the proposed Equality Act that would guarantee protection for the LGBTQ community against discrimination and give them full access to health care.

Carlos Cardona is chairman of Laconia Democrats and a local LGBTQ small business owner.

"While this president's actions tell those in the LGBTQ community that they are not welcome or accepted for who they are, Beto's proposal understands that in order to allow every American to live up to their full potential, our country needs to deliver on this country's founding principle of full equality under the law," Cardona said. "This plan would enact equal protections for LGBTQ Americans, undo the damage of the last two years, and make the United States a global leader on LGBTQ rights."

Emmett Soldati, another LGBTQ small business owner of Teatotaller in Somersorth, said O'Rourke pledged to protect these residents when he visited Soldati's business last April.

"Granite Staters take their liberties and freedoms seriously -- and that includes freedom for all Americans," Soldati said.

"Beto's plan gets our country back on track with the priorities our state cares about and will begin to undo the harms already caused by this Administration’s agenda."

Elbows flying in "shadow" Senate primary

There are three actively exploring a GOP run for the U.S. Senate in 2020, former House Speaker Bill O'Brien, retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc of Stratham and Wolfeboro lawyer Bryant "Corky" Messner.

The three are publicly playing nice, but some have begun to tailor their message to contrast themselves with one another.

It should come as no surprise that O'Brien has been the most blunt about his prospective rivals.

During a recent Lake Winnipesaukee cruise to benefit the Belknap County Republicans, O'Brien said he's the only one with the proven record of standing up for conservative principles.

"Like a lot of you over the last few years. I watch us, see these opportunities to get better representation in Washington, even the State House sometimes, and then people come forward, maybe they come into the state for the first time, maybe they return to the state and they say, 'Trust me. I'm the conservative that you've been looking for.' And then we see that we're disappointed. It's not the conservative we're looking for. They've never been tested in politics," O'Brien said.

"They've never had the blowtorch of a Democratic demagoguery and hatred and name-calling turned on them. One thing those of you who know me know, I had that blowtorch turned up. And when it was turned on me, I didn't stop doing what we know needed to be done. I didn't flinch. I didn't say, 'Oh, you don't like me? Great. I will go back and do what any liberal would do. I'll increase taxes.' I didn't do that."

During a recent interview with the Laconia Sun, Bolduc alluded to Messner's considerable personal wealth and admitted that could become an obstacle for him.

"My background is strong, but my question is about the money side," Bolduc said. "I'm not independently wealthy. I can't just write myself a check. I'm going to need support from others."

For his part, Messner made the first hire of this exploratory phase, bringing on former GOP State Executive Director Todd Cheewing to advise him.

Messner has done very little media but continues to make the rounds at GOP functions and, yes, write checks as he has already this spring to Gov. Sununu ($1,000) andSenate Republican Leader Chuck Morse ($1,000).

Hassan becomes target of AFP mailer/digital ads

The national Americans for Prosperity began what will be a multi-year, multi-million dollar outreach campaign on issues heading into the 2020 elections with a detailed mailing and digital ads critical of a proposed package of "tax extenders."

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, is one of those being urged to oppose this bill, which AFP characterizes as special industry tax breaks that if they were worthy would have been part of the global tax reform President Trump signed in 2017.

Hassan is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which is where these tax breaks would originate in the Senate.

Earlier this week House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass. announced that his committee will be working on such a package next week.

"We are working to make as many voices heard as possible, so that Senator Hassan doesn't miss this opportunity to help level the playing field for all Granite Staters," said Kevin Brinegar, AFP's regional communications manager.

NH AFP State Director Greg Moore said the organization will advocate on behalf of free enterprise policies on many fronts over the next 18 months.

NH Dems well out in front

As with the federal campaign accounts, the New Hampshire Democratic Party continued to far outpace their GOP counterparts when it came to raising money for its state PAC during the first six months.

Over that period, Democrats raised $317,616, slightly less than three times the $108,479 the NH GOP State Committee took in over that time.

The Democrats have a large payroll and infrastructure on the ground which was why to balance this year's books they needed much of a $433,000 surplus they had finished the 2018 calendar year with.

They spent $633,711 since January compared to the $169,205 Republicans spent over the same period.

The state Dems ended this period with about $117,666 in the black, while Republicans had about $51,000.

Senior Democratic, Republican senators sitting on biggest cash piles.

There was quite a contest to this point for the legislative incumbent with the largest surplus, according to the most recent reports.

Senate Republican Leader Morse, R-Salem, held that honor with $254,471 in the bank as of June 5.

The dean of the Senate, Finance Chairman Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, was edged out since he had $240,322 left over.

Both Morse and D'Allesandro have amassed these war chests over several election cycles.

Business groups seek vetoes

A coalition of business groups are urging Sununu to get out his veto pen.

Their targets are two bills, one to ban employers from asking job applicants about their salary history (HB 211) while the other would prevent employers from considering an applicant's credit history (HB 293).

The Business and Industry Association has led this campaign and is backed by the NH Automobile Dealers Association, NH Lodging & Restaurant Association, NH Motor Transport Association, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses of NH, and Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Supporters of these measures say these questions are an invasion of an applicant's privacy and are particularly onerous as the state faces a chronic labor shortage.