THE NEW HAMPSHIRE Republican State Committee continues to struggle to keep up with fundraising from its Democratic counterparts, but it passed a milestone last month.

For the first time in its history, the chairman was paid for his fundraising prowess.

GOP Chairman Steve Stepanek confirmed a $1,600 bonus he was paid on April 25 was the first paid to him as a commission for bringing in dollars to the state GOP.

Two years ago the party changed its bylaws to allow the chairman to be paid.

But during the tenure of former chairman Jeanie Forrester the party struggled to raise money and she left in July 2018 to pursue work in municipal government.

In response, the state GOP convention last January chose Stepanek to replace her, given in part his successful history of raising big money for Hillsborough County and for former House Speaker Bill O’Brien.

At that time the party changed its bylaws to permit “compensation” for the chairman.

Officials said this would permit the party boss to work on commission.

Stepanek said Wednesday the arrangement endorsed by the Executive Committee calls for him to get paid 10 percent of what he brings in on his own.

“This is only money that I’ve directly solicited, not the result of things like fundraising emails or other correspondence the party sends out to raise money,” Stepanek said.

Since January, the state GOP has raised $170,497 and spent nearly $145,000.

It has $50,627 in cash on hand after starting 2019 about $25,000 in the black.

By contrast, the New Hampshire Democratic Party raised $847,062 this year. Thanks to cash at the outset it has more than 10 times the GOP surplus, or a net $533,000 cash on hand.

Among the large GOP donors of late are Bedford auto dealer Andy Crews ($10,000), B2W software CEO Paul McKeon ($10,000), Augusta Petrone of Dublin ($6,735) and Bedford lawyer Phil Taub ($10,000).

“I’m working on potential fundraisers in Massachusetts, New York and DC,” Stepanek said. “It’s a slow slog but we are headed in the right direction.”

One clear financial advantage that Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley has over Stepanek is the Democrats sell their extensive voter file, while the GOP does not.

In the past few months alone these sales generated more than $300,000 as both 2020 Democratic hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke kicked in $100,000 apiece, while Elizabeth Warren already forked over $50,000.

Stepanek also said not to look for massive transfers coming into the NH GOP through national party committees.

The Republican National Committee’s “donation” will come from staffing up the state party.

There were already four full-timers working in New Hampshire for the national party and Stepanek said “more help is on the way.”

Meanwhile any financial support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican Congressional Campaign Committee will be on their own behalf.

“We don’t do things like the Democrats; these committees will operate independently and provide support to our campaigns on their own,” Stepanek said.

Potential GOP Senate candidate stumbles

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc of Stratham isn’t yet a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire but he’s already had his first public stumble on Twitter.

Earlier Wednesday, Bolduc responded to someone who praised as a military hero Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher.

“God bless him and his family,” Bolduc answered.

The response was met by some who pushed back at Bolduc about his comment, since Gallagher has been accused of war crimes. Those include using a knife to kill a teenage Islamic State prisoner in Iraq as well as separate incidents of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians.

“He also allegedly threatened to kill his fellow SEALs if they reported him ...,” someone tweeted back at Bolduc.

Gallagher is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks.

According to published reports, President Trump at the urging of conservatives was considering pardoning several American military members, including Gallagher. The official act could come on or around Memorial Day.

Within minutes Bolduc corrected himself.

“I responded to a tweet that I misread,” Bolduc clarified. “I do not condone LOAC behavior. I support our justice system and respect the moral courage of those who reported the behavior.”

LOAC refers to the Law of Armed Conflict and the Geneva Conventions, which cover international humanitarian law in war.

One of those who tweeted outrage at Bolduc’s initial comment was understanding about the controversy.

“I figured that was the case. Thank you for clearing it up General!” the person said.

(For more Granite Status, go to www.unionleader.com.)

Shaheen gets foreign policy endorsement

A nonpartisan national PAC has endorsed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s bid for reelection.

Foreign Policy for America Action Network saluted the New Hampshire Democrat for being a “leading voice” on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Senator Shaheen has been a powerful advocate for smart, diplomacy-first foreign policy, which is why we’re proud to endorse her today,” said Andrew Albertson, treasurer of Foreign Policy for America Action Network.

“At a time when President Trump is alienating our allies and threatening to send American troops into a senseless new war in Iran, we need her leadership now more than ever.”

Shaheen is the first candidate the group has endorsed in 2020.

It’s worth noting the group’s recent surveys have given very low grades to GOP leaders in Congress like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (33 percent) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA (23 percent).

“We do favor incumbency: when an elected official in a particular seat works consistently in defense of principled American engagement in the world, we support those champions,” the PAC says on its website.

“Endorsements may be made at various stages in the political cycle.”

Sununu goes to bat for disabled under Obamacare

Gov. Sununu has faced his share of partisan attacks for criticism of the Affordable Care Act but he has called on the all-Democratic congressional delegation to support his efforts to strengthen it.

Sununu said ACA rules dating back to the Obama administration in 2014 ended up preventing families of disabled members on Medicaid from being able to use a single provider agency for their care.

The two-term governor said he’s been pursuing through the Trump administration without success a Medicaid waiver for New Hampshire that would allow these families who prefer to work with one agency to continue to do so.

“I respectfully ask that you work to put forward legislation to change this rule and permit waivers to states,” Sununu said in his letter. “This will allow New Hampshire to continue to be the gold standard for service delivery to individuals with developmental disabilities. I stand ready to work with you in partnership to make this change.”

Gun group gets new leaders at pivotal timeJust as the Democratically-led New Hampshire Legislature approaches crunch time on several gun control measures, one of the leading groups for gun owners is making a change at the top.

Alan Rice

, a longtime leader and president of the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, announced recently he’s stepped down from that position to take a more prominent national post in Gun Owners of America.

”The one thing that is constant in life is change. I was proud that in 2003 I was one of five founding directors of NHFC; but I have decided that after over 15 years of volunteer service it is time to move on,” Rice wrote in an email to supporters.

Rice said he decided serving both organizations going forward wasn’t feasible.

”As many of you know, for quite some time I have represented Gun Owners of America. I have recently been asked to take on a larger role within GOA that involves a significant amount of interstate travel,” Rice said.

”When I’m out of New Hampshire I cannot effectively lead NHFC and that’s not fair to the rest of the board and the NHFC Membership.”

NHFC Vice President Paul Marquis thanked Rice for his service.

”By all measures we have grown on your watch. I’ve watched you work and admired your ability to take on whatever task was required to get the job done. I have especially admired your tenacity in protecting our rights,” Marquis wrote.

”I wish you well on your continued service with Gun Owners Of America and I am sure we will see you soon at the State House.”

All gun rights groups are working over time either to block final passage or to convince Gov. Sununu to veto measures to close the background check loophole or adopt “red flag” legislation to make it easier to take guns away from those seen by a judge to be a risk to themselves or others.

Pappas leads on LGBTQ protectionsRep.

Chris Pappas

, D-NH, along with colleagues, introduced Wednesday legislation aimed at protecting the benefits of LGBTQ veterans who were at risk in the wake of the transgender military service ban President Trump has pursued.

”As we work to improve care for veterans and combat the national crisis of veteran suicide, we cannot forget the more than 15,000 transgender service members and veterans whose benefits may be at risk because of this Administration’s discriminatory transgender ban and those left behind by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in years past.” Pappas said in a statement.

Last November, Pappas became the first openly gay person to win a seat in Congress representing New Hampshire.

The measure had the backing of the Human Rights Campaign, ACLU and other organizations.

”Thousands of our nation’s veterans are currently barred from receiving due benefits because of inappropriate discharges anchored in their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America.

Shaheen dealt setback on women’s currencyTreasury Secretary

Steven Mnuchin

handed Shaheen a political defeat with his announcement that a $20 bill redesign featuring

Harriet Tubman

will not occur by a federal 2020 deadline but instead be delayed until 2028 at the earliest.

”There is no excuse for the administration’s failure to make this redesign a priority,” said Shaheen. “Sadly, this delay sends an unmistakable message to women and girls, and communities of color, who were promised they’d see Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill,” Shaheen said. “The needless foot-dragging on this important effort is unacceptable. Our currency tells our country’s story and it is past time to honor the contributions of Harriet Tubman.”

Shaheen had for years pursued federal legislation to honor women on American currency and wanted the 2020 deadline met to correspond with the 100-year anniversary of women getting the right to vote.

In 2016, candidate Trump had called the move “pure political correctness,” and said that Andrew Jackson should not be replaced on the $20 bill; instead, Tubman could go on a $2 bill.

Recently Shaheen and other lawmakers reintroduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act as a way to pressure the Trump administration to keep the 2020 schedule.

Will election law reform be more veto bait?A NH Senate panel moved a step closer to changing the state’s voter registration check system but will Governor Sununu stand in its way?

The House without controversy earlier this spring adopted a measure (HB 315) that would have the state get out of the controversial Interstate Crosscheck Program to detect voter fraud.

Critics maintain the program database is flawed, leads to too many false positives and could be used to knock voters improperly off registration rolls.

The Senate’s election committee went further, however, not only to get the state out of crosscheck but to require the state instead join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a California-based program that is a favorite among progressives.

”Today’s committee vote is a critical step toward ensuring the security, accuracy and fairness of New Hampshire’s registration system,” said the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights in a statement. “If Governor Sununu is serious about the integrity and security of our elections then he should sign this bill.”

But Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a Sununu confidante, has been a staunch defender of the Crosscheck program.

Gardner has pointed out his staff works diligently to cull all of the false positives out of the data before it reports on any instances of voter fraud.

This measure still has a ways to go before heading to Sununu, but Democratic legislative leaders may like nothing better than to have an end-of-the-session fight with this governor over voter integrity.

Harris lays out NH impact of equal pay reformDemocratic presidential hopeful

Kamala Harris

said her equal pay plan would provide an average raise of $5,074 a year for New Hampshire women.

The former California attorney general said NH women are paid just 79 cents on average for every $1 paid to men and for Hispanic women the average goes down to 64 cents.

Her proposal would require companies to show that they aren’t engaging in pay discrimination and fine companies that fail to close gaps.

”The Harris plan means that women will no longer have to fight big corporate employers over pay issues, a fight which can cost them their jobs and the opportunity for advancement,” said former Party Chair and Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan of Manchester.

”Corporations which are doing the right thing and paying women equally have nothing to worry about. Companies that choose to persist in discriminating will pay for that choice.”

Rep. Jackie Weatherspoon, D-Portsmouth, attended the World Conference on Women in Beijing 25 years ago.

”Senator Harris has a long record of advancing women’s economic opportunity and working towards solutions for these very issues, and I applaud her new plan to tackle the gender pay gap head-on,” Weatherspoon said in a statement.