YOU THOUGHT THE fight over the paid family medical leave bill during the mid-term election last year was personal.

Strap yourselves in because it’s already clear this 2019 edition is going to be a much bumpier ride.

For weeks, state Democratic leaders in the state House of Representatives and Senate had been getting their shots in, promoting their paid leave bill while panning the voluntary proposal Gov. Chris Sununu has proposed with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

At last weekend’s Granite State Taxpayer’s Rally in front of the State House it was Sununu’s turn.

During his remarks Sununu spoke about a protest for the paid leave bill that recently had taken place outside the governor’s office.

“Here’s the funny part. They bring all these people…about a week ago a group of young people, probably about 30 of them, most of them paid volunteers of the Democratic Party all came to my office to give me a pen to sign SB 1 the income tax,” Sununu said.

Later the governor added, “Half of them are probably paid staff, I don’t think there is a lot of passion there.”

In response Karen Hicks, a Democratic activist and cancer survivor, took to Twitter to attack Sununu.

“#whatssofunny about taking time off for cancer treatment @govchrissununu? 74 trips to Boston for chemotherapy. Not funny. #paidleavenow #nhpolitics,” Hicks tweeted.

The New Hampshire Republican State Committee answered Hicks on Monday night.

“#whatsofunny is that @karenhicks is a paid lobbyist for SB1, which means she’s being paid to promote an income tax,” @NHGOP tweeted.

“Meanwhile, @govchrissununu & @govphilscott pfml plan will cover every family and individual that needs access without a boondoggle income tax disaster #nhpolitics.”

Later that night @NHGOP deleted its tweet but Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley was having none of it.

“As the leader of the N.H. Republican Party, Governor Chris Sununu needs to immediately apologize to cancer survivor Karen Hicks for having his party mocking her experience,” Buckley said.

Sununu’s spokesman Benjamin Vihstadt said critics misunderstood the humor he was referring to.

“The “funny story” Governor Sununu was referring to was the fact that the activists dropped off red pens at our office in support of SB1. As you know, red pens are usually reserved for vetoes,” Vihstadt said in a statement.

“Governor Sununu remains committed to passing a truly voluntary paid family medical leave plan that does not require an income tax.

The NH GOP did not respond to a request for comment.

Hicks is a registered lobbyist and her only client in 2019 is the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy.

The campaign endorsed the paid leave effort last year and this year.

Obamacare repeal off table, drug prices front and center

Earlier this week President Trump agreed to back off on his drive to repeal Obamacare until after the 2020 election.

But we saw renewed evidence here in New Hampshire this week that soaring prescription drug prices will remain a central theme.

The latest illustration came from a health care industry network that started a seven-figure advertising buy in 20 key states including nearly $100,000 on advertising in New Hampshire according to a spokesman.

The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) is opposed to a Trump administration rule on drug rebates that it depicts as a “Big Pharma Bailout.”

These groups maintain that getting rid of prescription drug rebates will raise premiums for seniors and the disabled by 25 percent and only line the pockets of drug makers.

Among those groups financing this campaign are health insurers like Anthem and Blue Cross to CVS Pharmacy and the Federation of American Hospitals and other medical providers.

The campaign’s spokesman said there is no set time frame for how long these ads will run but vow to keep the pressure on until the Trump administration rule is withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the President’s daughter-in-law, Lara Lea Trump, said in Nashua Tuesday night that thanks to Trump prescription drug prices are the “lowest they’ve been in 40 years.”

On a related topic, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a federal Medicaid reform bill that would give federal regulators more power to go after drug makers that designate medication as a generic so they pay less to the government in rebates and cheat taxpayers.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, co-sponsored that rebate provision.

The House passed the same bill last month and it now goes to Trump’s desk.

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

Shaheen praises Trump on Turkey

It’s not every day that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, gives a qualified thumbs up to President Trump on foreign policy.

This presidential action Shaheen and a bipartisan group of senators have been pressing for is to halt the planned delivery of F-35 aircraft equipment to Turkey.

Shaheen was on point of a Senate resolution to prevent Turkey from getting the U.S. fighter equipment unless the U.S. could confirm that Turkey would not get delivery of a Russian military defense system.

She vowed to keep pushing.

“I’m glad the administration is heeding the bipartisan call in Congress to delay the transfer of F-35 equipment to Turkey to help ensure U.S. military technology and capabilities cannot fall into the hands of the Kremlin. Though Turkey is an important U.S. ally, their close relationship with Putin and persistent efforts to acquire the Russian S-400 air defense system could seriously compromise our national security,” Shaheen said.

“This is an important step forward, but doesn’t go far enough — I’ll continue to call on the administration to prevent the delivery of the F-35 aircraft until Turkey abandons its plans to obtain the Russian defense system.”

Sununu pushing 2020 state political priorities

The two-term Republican chief executive Sununu hasn’t ruled out challenging Shaheen’s bid for re-election in 2020.

But at Tuesday night’s fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, Sununu’s mind was all about achieving state election victories next year in New Hampshire.

Sununu stressed opposing the agenda of Democratic legislative leaders alone will not win and the state GOP must present a positive vision that voters can embrace next year.

‘We talk a lot about the extremism out there. They want to create loopholes on the voter laws they want to overturn the Second Amendment, they want to create an income tax, it seems there is no limit to what they want to do but if you think we are going to win by saying they’re socialists and we’re not, that’s not enough,” Sununu said.

“It’s not about them being socialists; it is about us being for New Hampshire and that is a winning message in 2020.”

Sununu also was frank about the party’s need to improve its candidate recruitment if it’s to reverse last November’s defeats and take back the Legislature. He noted the GOP lost 35 NH House seats by 120 votes or less.

“This is all about the state House and the state Senate. Those are our seats; we didn’t earn them. We took them for granted,” Sununu said.

“We had candidates waiting until September or October to knock on doors. This race started two months ago. You guys stick with us; we’ll stick with you.”

Outside this GOP fundraiser, a group of NH Democratic activists held mock signs that depicted how much cash Sununu and family members received from the governor’s 2017 inaugural fund.

Meanwhile, his father, former Gov. John H. Sununu tried to impress how important it was for every House and Senate GOP member to support Sununu’s vetoes that are bound to come during the next few months.

“He is standing between us and disaster in this state,” the elder Sununu said of his son.

“It is not the issue. It is standing firm as Republicans so that we can create power and sustaining that veto so we can get that legislation right. Even if you are uncomfortable sustaining that veto is critical.”

Steady stream of 2020 Dems return

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will be the commencement speaker for the New England College graduation ceremonies May 11 in Henniker.

Now that the first quarter fundraising is completed, 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are flooding back into the first-in-the-nation primary state with five potential candidates with events this weekend including Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif (See candidate calendar).

Trump’s ex-campaign mgr. back in NH

Corey Lewandowski

of Windham, Trump’s former campaign manager in 2016, will be the keynote speaker next Thursday for a fundraiser benefiting the Hillsborough County Republican Committee at Murphy’s Taproom and Carriage House in Bedford.

GOP State Chairman Steve Stepanek has made financially revitalizing the GOP’s county and city committees a major objective of his term.

Veterans will recall that Stepanek was that Hillsborough County GOP chair back in 2009 who built a significant war chest and helped roll up big gains in that 2010 election.

Thanks to the Republican National Committee and Trump team, he’s got five field staffers at the state GOP and one of their marching orders is to help rebuild that organizational and financial infrastructure across the state.

603 Alliance summit plannedFormer State Rep.

Fran Wendelboe

, R-New Hampton, is putting together a standout lineup of conservative speakers for its 603 Alliance Summit on Sat. April 13.

Entitled, “Liberty Trumps Socialism,” the all-day event will be at the Marriott Courtyard in Nashua.

Those confirmed include former House Speaker and potential U.S. Senate candidate Bill O’Brien, Stepanek, James O’Keefe, investigative journalist and founder of Project Veritas, Jenny Beth Martin. co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, Dan Mitchell, economist and former senior fellow at the Cato Institute and Ann Marie Banfield of Bedford, a longtime education activist.

Speaker Pelosi weighs in for PappasAs we’ve often noted despite Democrat Chris Pappas’ impressive win last November, New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District seat remains among the most targeted ones for the national GOP to try and take back in 2020.

Therefore it shouldn’t be any surprise that when Pappas’ own first quarter fundraising was wrapping up at the end of last week who should send out one of his final email pleas but House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

.

”This seat has flipped 5 times in the last 7 cycles, and Democrats haven’t won re-election here since 2008, so Chris needs your immediate support because if Democrats FAIL to hold onto Chris’s seat, we’ll almost certainly lose the House majority,” Pelosi wrote

”Look, we can’t afford to lose Chris’s seat. That’s why I’m asking you personally to support his race now.”

NH Young Dems pick leadersThe New Hampshire Young Democrats elected a new slate of 26 officers to serve on key committees and help build on the momentum they’ve built upon since the 2016 election.

Lucas S. Meyer

will serve as its president. The lobbyist and campaign operative is serving his fourth term on the board.

Kayla Montgomery, director of advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is its vice president of political affairs.

Other key officers including Corey Garry, district director for U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, who is vice president of public affairs, Gene Martin of Manchester as treasurer and Manchester Democrats Cayla Eck and Donald Stokes Jr. as national committee representatives.

“New Hampshire is becoming known for the strength of our young activists. That’s because we know success in passing strong progressive priorities and electing Democrats at every level of the ballot is dependent on serious investments in robust, sustainable infrastructure to engage young voters — which will be the largest voting bloc in our country’s history — on the issues they are passionate about and turn them out to vote,” Meyer said.

PFAS activists seeking documentsThe New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance and the Toxics Action Center are seeking under the state’s Right to Know Law public records regarding the testing of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in sludge and wastewater from the Dover and Merrimack wastewater treatment plants.

Late last month the state of Maine issued a moratorium on licensed plants allowing the application of processed sludge in that state until PFAS testing showed the sludge there was clean.

”New Hampshire has the highest rates of bladder, breast, esophageal and pediatric cancers in the nation along with a double pediatric cancer cluster in a five-town area of the Seacoast. We must take proactive steps to address the PFAS issue in NH to protect public health and prevent cancer wherever necessary,” said Mindi Messmer, co-founder of the safe water alliance.