Beto O’Rourke isn’t the first presidential candidate to come roaring into the first-in-the-nation primary state with a ton of public curiosity and even more hype.
Who can forget the anticipation and wonder about what really would happen next while dozens of reporters waited inside a hangar at the Pease International Tradeport in June 2015 for the Trump plane to land and Donald Trump to end more than a decade of playing Hamlet and actually run for the White House?
What about the national media and public mobs that followed a one-term U.S. senator named Barack Obama around New Hampshire when he decided in 2007 — despite all establishment advice to the contrary — that he’d try to wrestle away the nomination from one of the nation’s most outspoken first ladies in modern history?
A personal favorite, however, is the one that never came, the long and fruitless day of Dec. 20, 1991, when then-New York governor Mario Cuomo kept the voters and media guessing right up until the filing period closed at 5 that Friday afternoon to decide he wasn’t going to run in the election Bill Clinton would win the following year.
All the reviews aren’t in just yet, but the former three-term Texas Congressman O’Rourke got off to a pretty nice start this week.
During his over-analyzed U.S. Senate loss to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, O’Rourke understood one way to compete in a red-state race against an entrenched incumbent was to outwork him.
So, like he did in beating an incumbent to first win a congressional seat, O’Rourke made a point of visiting every county right out of the gate in the Senate race; he repeated the approach here, 10 stops in all 10 NH counties over three days.
And O’Rourke used his first morning campaigning here to announce he had raised in a 24-hour period a record $6.1 million from 126,000 individual donors, which comes out to an average of $47 a donor.
O’Rourke edged 2016 New Hampshire primary winner Bernie Sanders’ own performance last month. Sanders had taken in $5.9 million in his first day from 223,000 donors, which was even less per supporter, an average of $27.On many issues in this trip, O’Rourke’s remarks were clearly aimed at trying to stir the most liberal and passionate base in his party from opposing a ban on late-term abortions (“I trust women to make their own decisions about their own bodies”) to the concept of banning the retail sale of some high-powered weapons (“We should not be selling weapons designed for the express purpose of killing people on a battlefield.”)
Top Senate Dem’s party coming up
Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, turns 40 and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is coming to help him celebrate this weekend.
Bullock will be the keynote speaker for a fundraiser at the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord Saturdaystarting at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $40 (what else) but sponsors can sign up for as much as $5,000 apiece.
“Serving in the state Senate, fighting for and advancing our shared values, has been an incredible experience and a great privilege,” Feltes said in the invitation.
With Feltes leaving open the chance he could make a Democratic run for governor in 2020, this event is likely to attract even more attention than the typical State House bash.
Weld back next week
Former Mass. governor Bill Weld brings his 2020 Republican exploratory presidential campaign back for four straight days next week and a fifth day of campaigning on March 31.
The events will include a house party hosted by former GOP State party chairman Fergus Cullen, a luncheon with former House Speaker Doug and Stella Scamman in Stratham and a Main Street walking tour.
Trump’s attacks on McCain hit home
You didn’t think President Trump’s serial condemnation of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s legacy was going to have no repercussions in McCain’s “adopted” state of New Hampshire did you?
While in Ohio on Wednesday, Trump tripled down, saying he “gave him the kind of funeral he wanted” and that “I didn’t get a thank you.”
Former GOP chairman, Republican National Committee member and McCain campaign traveling companion Steve Duprey had bailed from Facebook on Feb. 1 but came back on St. Patrick’s Day to hit POTUS between the eyes.
“President Trump isn’t worthy to carry even John McCain’s Navy cap. In no measure is he the patriot or public servant that John McCain was. Ever.” Duprey posted.
NH GOP getting staff boost Republican State Chairman
Steve Stepanek after taking over as party boss wasn’t shy about asking the Republican National Committee and Trump folks for more personnel and they’ve responded.
The NH GOP took on one full-time field person two weeks ago, and starting April 1, there will be four others bringing the total state party personnel to seven.
”We’re off and running. This is another sign the RNC and this President are committed to New Hampshire and we really appreciate it,” Stepanek said.
The RNC will provide some financial help to support the field staff, he added.
Pappas goes to bat for first responders
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., has crafted bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting firefighters and EMTs from losing or paying more for their life insurance policies because they carry Narcan to help reverse opioid overdoses.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. and a GOP leader on homeland security matters, is the lead Republican on this measure as the New Hampshire Legislature debates whether to close this loophole in state insurance law.
”The first responders on the front lines of this epidemic don’t deserve to be punished because of the work they do,” Pappas said. “Preventing these dedicated public servants from obtaining life insurance is a great injustice. That is why I’m proud to help introduce the Insurance Fairness for First Responders Act, which prevents first responders who are equipped with Narcan from being taken advantage of by insurance companies.”
Some insurers are denying or increasing life insurance premiums for first responders that have these standing orders and this has become a national concern since narcan is used in all 50 states to battle overdoses.
Town meeting elections lead to complaints
The state’s Election Law unit received 61 inquiries to the hotline Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office set up for Town Meeting events last week.
The unit opened four cases that alleged illegal campaign activity and a fifth that contained charges of misconduct by an election official.
Routine issues and concerns were quickly taken care of with support from investigators in the field or attorneys on the hotline, the AG’s office said.
Will ed lawsuits translate to short-term $$$
How will the education funding lawsuits affect the spate of bills before the Legislature this year to increase state aid grants to the hardest-hit towns?
Even before ConVal became the first and Monadnock Regional School Districts the second this week to sue, state Democratic leaders were pounding Sununu for proposing no increase within his proposed state budget for education aid grants.
Sununu did call in his spending plan for earmarking another $10 million more to cover special education costs at the local level.
If past is prologue, lawsuit threats in the past have prompted lawmakers to toss some more money into the education aid pot especially during good economic times.
On this topic, however, Senate and House Democrats will have to keep making more education aid grants a priority if they’re going to succeed in convincing Sununu to support it as part of a grand bargain on the budget.
If Sununu is true to form, he’ll be more open to increasing education grants with one-time surplus money and not making permanent changes to the education aid formula that he’ll argue could only strait-jacket the state during economic down times.
Climate change and maple sugaring
U.S. Sen. Shaheen and Rep. Pappas will join environmental and community leaders for a breakfast that highlights the impact of climate change on the maple sugar season.
The Friday event at 7:30 a.m. at the University of New Hampshire at Durham’s Holloway Commons is free and open to the public.
The League of Conservation Voters, New Hampshire Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists in partnership with the UNH Sustainability Institute are event sponsors.