NEW HAMPSHIRE’S two elected members of the U.S. House could be pivotal votes if they end up going with embattled Nancy Pelosi, who had a pretty good week as she fights to regain the post of Speaker of the House.

She’s got one of them and the other was very much in play.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, has committed to backing Pelosi, while Rep.-Elect Chris Pappas has yet to do so.

But it’s important to note that, unlike others, Pappas never pledged to oppose Pelosi as the new leader.

Maura Sullivan finished second in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District seat to Pappas. Sullivan said it was time for a change and she preferred someone other than Pelosi.

Pappas said through a spokesman that he’s no closer to making up his mind than he was back then.

“Congressman-elect Pappas is evaluating the race as it unfolds and hasn’t yet decided how he will vote in next week’s caucus. He has said from the beginning he looks forward to seeing who steps forward to run for positions across the leadership,” his spokesman said.

“He has met and spoken with his new colleagues in the two weeks following Nov. 6 and during new member orientation. He is excited to be a part of a freshman class that is determined to change the way Washington works and focus on getting results. He believes the next leadership team should reflect the diversity and common sense that is embodied by incoming members.”

As we’ve written before, Kuster became the first Democrat to win the 2nd District seat four times in a row and had every right to try and strike the best deal with Pelosi that she could.

By seniority, Kuster was already entitled to the chairmanship of a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee that is in charge of oversight of the agency.

But Kuster had been inquiring about other opportunities on key committees and perhaps similar working subcommittee chairmanships on issues dealing with the environment, energy and health care, among others.

We’ll see if those talks yielded any new assignments but her glowing statement about Pelosi leaves no doubt where she is.

“Nancy Pelosi has proven her effectiveness as a leader by protecting and strengthening access to healthcare for millions of Americans and I believe that experience is critical as we work to bring down costs and improve quality of care. We must continue to stand strong against efforts by this administration and congressional Republicans to undermine access to healthcare and focus on improving the ACA for all families in the Granite State,” Kuster said.

“We have a tremendous array of experiences and perspectives in our caucus and new voices will be an important part of our leadership. I will carefully consider the candidates for all leadership positions. I do believe the institutional knowledge and experience of leader Pelosi will be valuable as we transition to the majority and will pave the way for the success of future leaders of our party.”

One by one, Pelosi has been turning her detractors into allies.

First earlier this week there was Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and the only House Democrat who publicly was exploring a run for speaker.

On Tuesday, Fudge cashed in and said she was backing Pelosi, who agreed to name her as chairman of a re-created subcommittee on elections.

Fudge’s change of heart also came hours after published reports leaked that, in 2015, Fudge had asked for leniency for a former judge who had been convicted of savagely beating his then-wife.

Last week the same ex-judge was arrested in connection with the woman’s murder.

Then there was Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY, who had been one of the 16 signatories who said they would not be voting for Pelosi on the House floor.

There was Higgins on Wednesday with his own change of heart, saying he was endorsing Pelosi because she promised to act on two of his priorities.

Higgins said Pelosi agreed that he could play a major role on pushing his pet legislation that would permit anyone over 50 to buy into Medicare.

If Pappas is looking for something to get from Pelosi, he may act pretty fast or she soon may run out of gifts to give.

Up for debate

As Secretary of State Bill Gardner races to try and save his job, his chief challenger, Colin Van Ostern of Concord, is trying to block that campaign.

After Van Ostern won the overwhelming recommendation of House Democrats in a closed caucus two weeks ago, Gardner said he looked forward to having a “forum” with reporters so he could address all of Van Ostern’s allegations about the office.

In response, Van Ostern took it to be a debate challenge and wrote Gardner suggesting some dates when the two might appear together and answer questions from all incoming legislators.

Van Ostern suggested next Monday through Wednesday as possible dates since there will be legislative orientation sessions on all three days.

“If none of these times are available, please suggest another time and date that might work for you between Nov. 26 — Dec. 4,” Van Ostern wrote Gardner.

“I’m happy to consider any format you suggest, so long as incoming legislators have the opportunity to hear from us directly and ask questions. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Gardner said his remarks were meant to lead to nothing of the sort.

“He’s had eight months to throw all these allegations out there. This is not a debate; it’s my opportunity to finally respond,” Gardner said.

The final showdown before the entire Legislature to decide the winner is on Dec. 5.

The “found” ballots after a State Senate recount last week brought back memories.

In the latest case, a missing box of 300 ballots was found at Exeter Town Hall and brought to Concord last Tuesday, confirming the recount victory for Democrat Jon Morgan over Republican State Sen. Bill Gannon.

No, it’s not a common occurrence for recounts to occur at the State Archives Building only to have Secretary of State Bill Gardner realize not all the ballots are there.

But it has happened before.

Gardner recalled that in 2000 his office was doing a recount of a state rep race from the North Country and noticed the vote totals didn’t add up when they got through.

“It seemed like we were missing ballots from Northumberland so I called up there and sure enough they found a box under a table in the town hall,” Gardner said.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg of Hudson had volunteered to do many a recount and he had his own recollection.

“I did a recount where three boxes were found. Someone had taken them home because they were too tired to take them to storage,” Clegg said. “Yes, the votes made a difference.”

Longtime GOP operative and former Attorney General Tom Rath said it was political symmetry that Exeter would be in the mix since that town back in 1974 was involved in what was the closest U.S. Senate race in the country between then-U.S. Rep. Louis Wyman and Manchester Democrat John Durkin.

“I will always remember opening the Exeter voting machines in the Wyman/Durkin recount. They were stored deep in the Town Hall cellar,” Rath remembered. “Now, folks, that was a real recount.”

There were two recounts and a Ballot Law Commission decision and a Senate special committee’s work that failed to settle that outcome.

Durkin agreed to Wyman’s proposal for a runoff election, which Durkin won by 27,000 votes in September 1975.

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U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, will take part in a field hearing Monday on the national gas pipeline explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley that killed one, injured more than two dozen and damaged more than 100 buildings.

Hassan is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that will take testimony on efforts to learn from the disaster as they hear from federal, state and local officials.

The event is at the South Lawrence East Middle School Gymnasium in Lawrence, Mass., starting at 9 a.m.

Others taking part in the hearing will be Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both D-Mass., U.S. Reps. Nikki Tsongas and Seth Moulton, both D-Mass., and Rep.-Elect Lori Trahan, who the voters earlier this month elected to replace the retiring Tsongas.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, just returned from the 10th annual Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia where she was awarded the prestigious Builder Award.

This honor is given each year since 2012 to to individuals or groups that “work to ensure the Halifax International Security Forum continues to further its mission of advancing strategic cooperation among democracies.”

“This year’s conference was a great success and with such a large group of U.S. lawmakers participating, reaffirms the United States’ firm commitment to our transatlantic alliance and dedication to continuing U.S. leadership in maintaining world order,” Shaheen said in a statement.

“I’m humbled to have been honored with the annual Builder Award and am deeply appreciative of the forum’s recognition.”

The Builder Award was previously awarded to the Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., and last year went to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who accepted on behalf of NATO.

The New Hampshire Republican State Committee needs some work following the midterms.

But there sure are a lot of folks who want to be the next chairman.

Former State Rep. and Trump Co-Chairman Steve Stepanek of Amherst became the first official one jumping in with a major event last Monday in Concord.

Stepanek is the front-runner clearly given not only his friendship with the President but also that he’s liked by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of Windham.

Since the Nov. 6 results came in and Gov. Chris Sununu was the last man standing, Lewandowski has been telling associates that Trump won’t allow 2020 to be a repeat.

For example, Lewandowski has assured that, unlike in 2018, the state GOP will not be outgunned financially the way it as by Democrats up and down the ballot.

Current Chairman Wayne MacDonald of Derry has said he’s gotten encouragement to consider serving a full term and he’s expected to make his decision soon.

Former Vice Chairman Matt Mayberry said he wants to meet with Sununu on the matter but he too hasn’t ruled out.

Then there’s veteran GOP consultant Mike Biundo of Manchester, fresh off his working as the lead for 1st Congressional District GOP nominee Eddie Edwards, who won a primary upset and did respectably in losing to Pappas in the general election.

Biundo said he’d have to wind up or turn over a lot of business to partner Derek Dufresne and associates but he’s giving it a look.

And that’s not all.

Among others at least giving this race a look are defeated House Assistant Majority Leader Victoria Sullivan of Manchester, State Senate GOP nominee Dan Hynes of Bedford and Cheshire County GOP activist Kate Day.

Initially there were reports Sununu might not take as active a role in this choice as he did in handpicking the last Chairman, Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, only to have her leave 15 months later to take a municipal post.

But of late, Sununu has informed all who are interested he wants to sit down individually with all of them.

That’s not hands off and it won’t be.

Education Commissioner Frank Edleblut will be the keynote speaker at the biennial meeting of the Granite State Taxpayers.

The event is next Thursday at Murphy’s Tap Room and Carriage House in Bedford starting at 5:30 p.m.

Now that billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has used his NextGen America organization to deliver major turnout of young voters for the midterm, what’s he to do for an encore?

How about run for President in 2020?

That’s what several media outlets have now concluded from Steyer’s latest venture, his town hall tour to promote his “5 Rights” that he says all Americans should receive.

“These five rights should be at the core of the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform — but this is bigger than any political party,” Steyer said.

“These rights are fundamental to our shared belief in the promise of America, a promise of the freedom and power to pursue our dreams and earn a fair share of this country’s vast wealth.”

Steyer’s tour starts Dec. 4 in Charlestown, S.C., one of the states in the top four of presidential primary and caucus events.

Sources close to Steyer confirm follow up town halls probably all next month will be in the early states of New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada.

You get the picture.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, Shaheen didn’t mince words in attacking President Trump for his announcement that his administration will continue to stand by Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi.

“President Trump’s habit of siding with murderous foreign dictators over American intelligence professionals is a stain on our democracy that undermines the American ideal,” Shaheen said in a statement.

“Fortunately, the President is not the sole protector of that ideal. Congress must now stand up with bipartisan resolve to condemn the brutal slaying of Jamal Khashoggi and pass legislation to respond to this and other Saudi crimes.”

Shaheen has been working with a bipartisan group of senators on the Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018.

This is legislation to ensure effective congressional oversight of U.S. policy on Yemen, provide leverage to push the stakeholders in Yemen’s civil war toward a political process, address the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and demand meaningful accountability for the murder of Khashoggi, Shaheen said.

Your TV guide wasn’t wrong.

Last Sunday Shaheen had been scheduled to appear on NBC-TV’s “Meet The Press” with fellow Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC.

The two are co-chairs of the recently reestablished NATO Observer Group.

A conflict prevented both of them being there for the taping so it was put off and that happened after the deadline for printing of the TV guide, officials said.

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