GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU is the only Republican governor in the country who has refused to weigh in on whether the U.S. Senate should vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sununu was one of four GOP governors who declined to sign a letter of support for Barrett. He was joined by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Baker, Scott and Hogan also said the vote shouldn’t take place before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Last Friday, Sununu said he hadn’t even watched the three days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination, though he said he was glad to hear reports that it at least remained “civil.”
“I share relief about that with everyone across America with how badly the process was with Justice (Brett) Kavanaugh,” said Sununu, who did sign a letter backing Trump’s last pick to the nation’s high court.
Sununu, who called the Washington fight a “mess,” said he decided awhile ago his opinion on the topic would not matter much.
“Frankly those votes are baked in anyway. They aren’t going to amount to a hill of beans,” Sununu said.
He then quipped, “Did you notice the eye roll? ‘He said with eye roll.’”
Govs’ association all in
The worst-kept secret in the 2020 state election was publicly revealed last week when the Democratic Governors Association confirmed, through campaign finance filings, that it had bankrolled more than $1 million worth of campaign ads the New Hampshire Democratic Party aired attacking Sununu as the “Trump guy through and through.”
The DGA gave the state party $1 million on Sept. 23 and another $47,000 on Oct. 6.
The state party’s own report detailed that it had purchased $641,000 worth of TV ads on Sept. 23 and $366,296 six days later.
Meanwhile, the Live Free or Die PAC, aka the Republican Governors Association’s PAC, has more than kept pace.
The Republican governors group gave the PAC working for Sununu’s reelection $1.6 million over the past month and has bought $1.4 million in ads attacking Democratic nominee Dan Feltes.
What remains unknown is how much these groups up the ante in the final two weeks.
Curiously, the Democratic governors’ New Hampshire PAC has sent $2.3 million back to its parent since Sept. 21, leading one to wonder if the national group shipped some of that money to other targeted races in the final weeks.
The DGA’s New Hampshire PAC still has $795,000 that it can choose to spend here.
Meanwhile, the RGA’s PAC had $300,000 left as of last Wednesday. Two days later it reported spending another $15,000 on a mailing attacking Feltes.
Unlike the Democrats, the GOP group ventured outside TV, spending $80,000 on mailings for Sununu and another $65,500 on polling in the past two weeks.
All this becomes pivotal for Feltes, who not only trails Sununu in the polls but does not have close to the cash on hand that the incumbent has for the stretch run.
Feltes had raised an impressive $1.4 million so far, but by the middle of last week, his campaign had gone through all but $99,000 of it.
Feltes spent much of his recent cash on his own TV ads, totaling $295,000 since the middle of September.
Sununu has raised slightly more than Feltes overall, approaching $1.6 million, but unlike Feltes, he could afford to wait longer before tapping that fund.
Even after spending $173,000 on his own positive TV ads over the past month, Sununu’s campaign had $594,000 in the bank — six times Feltes’ balance.
Biden takes sides
Last Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden joined ex-President Barack Obama in coming out for Feltes.
“As governor, he will lead New Hampshire through its COVID-19 recovery and fight to protect the interests of hard-working Granite Staters by making health care more affordable, raising the minimum wage, and strengthening public education,” Biden said in a statement.
President Donald Trump is backing Sununu. The governor has returned the favor.2024 hopefuls make noise
Has anyone noticed how many potential Republican presidential candidates for 2024 are making moves in these final weeks?
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was here last Thursday, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was reportedly planning a second 2020-cycle visit of his own to the state.
Last Friday, Maryland’s Hogan confirmed he wrote Ronald Reagan’s name on his absentee ballot, and Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse couldn’t pile on Trump enough during a call with constituents.
“He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” Sasse said. “His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
Rockingham deeds race
According to veteran party activists, Democrats for the first time in rock-ribbed Rockingham County recruited candidates who filed on their own for every single county office.
One race getting some attention is Rockingham County Register of Deeds, an office currently held by Cathy Stacey of Salem.
The Democratic candidate is Michael McCord of Exeter, a retired reporter/columnist with Seacoast Online.
Stacey was in the news last month after the Rockingham County Commissioners sustained her decision that recording clerk Marynia Page had to quit or be fired. She couldn’t return to work because she had to stay home to care for her brother-in-law, 59, who had Down’s Syndrome.
Stacey said her office workload went up 22% during the pandemic and while she would welcome Page back, she had to fill the vacancy.
“If and when circumstances change for Marynia, I would absolutely want her back,” Stacey told Seacoast Online. “I would encourage her to reapply.”
Despite the controversy, Stacey remains the clear odds-on favorite.
Dems continue advantage
Republican State Committee Chairman Stephen Stepanek made putting the state party on firmer financial footing a top priority of his administration.
He has succeeded, in part by borrowing the playbook of his arch enemy, Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley.
Over more than a decade, the state Democratic boss has grown the party’s financial empire, partly by getting candidates, other N.H. political party PACs and national groups to “invest” heavily.
In the past month, the state GOP raised $437,000, for a total of $938,000 since the 2020 cycle began.
Fat checks from the state Senate ($150,000) and House Republican PACs ($39,100) are to thank for much of the recent cash.
The state GOP at the middle of last week had $252,000 in the bank.
Stepanek still has some distance to go to match the Buckley machine.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party raised three times as much in the past month, $1.5 million, for a total of $4.1 million for 2020.
After spending $1.6 million of late, the state party still had $563,351, or more than twice what Republicans did.
Meanwhile together, the state Senate Democratic Caucus and the House Committee to Elect House Democrats gave Buckley’s HQ just $18,000 shy of $1 million in the cycle.
Just to show how closely both parties are eyeing the other group’s work, New Hampshire Democrats spent $373,255 on mail since mid-September.
The state GOP spent $334,583.
Charter schools on ballot
The Democratic-led Legislative Fiscal Committee again voted last Friday to table the state’s acceptance of a five-year, $46 million federal grant to more than double the number of public charter schools in the state.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said the North Country especially needs this expansion since there are few charter options in that part of the state.
“I am shocked and almost speechless that my Democratic colleagues have yet again resorted to blocking federal education funds that would improve the lives of thousands of Granite State children,” Bradley said.
“Most shocking of all is the Fiscal Committee’s unwillingness to take testimony or even listen to the voices of students and their parents who are so badly hurt by their intransigence.”
Democratic legislative leaders have said existing public school charter programs need more attention and support from the state before New Hampshire creates new ones.
GOP playing catch-up
House and Senate GOP leaders have had their hands full trying to keep pace with their Democratic counterparts in a year when control of both legislative chambers is up for grabs.
The Senate Democratic Caucus has raised more than $1.3 million and as of the middle of last week had $173,000 left to spend.
The Senate Republican PAC raised a third as much so far, $416,000, and had half the surplus Democrats did, about $83,000.
Under Rep. Dick Hinch of Merrimack, the Committee to Elect House Republicans has worked all year to stay competitive.
In its latest report, the Committee to Elect House Democrats had raised $545,000 and were left with $180,000 in the bank.
The House GOP counterpart had raised $335,000 but had close to the same surplus left over, $166,400.
Those who don’t think the outcome of the struggle for control of the Legislature in little New Hampshire isn’t a concern nationally should note:
Emily’s List, the nation’s leading abortion rights PAC, gave N.H. Senate Democrats $100,000 and House Democrats $30,000, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee under ex-Attorney General Eric Holder kicked in $50,000 of its own last month.
On the other side, the national Republican State Legislative Committee gave the House GOP PAC $25,000.
Most costly Senate race
The District 24 State Senate seat might not be the closest one on Nov. 3, but it’s on its way to setting modern-day records for the most expensive.
Incumbent Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, already has raised $290,000 in quest of a second term, and as of the middle of last week still had more than $130,000 in the bank.
His Republican opponent, Hampton Falls businessman and Trump 2016 delegate Lou Gargiulo, had raised $342,400 and had more than $250,000 of it to spend.
Most of Gargiulo’s money has come from his own bank account, the latest $29,500 loan raising the total to $270,000 since his race began.
Reporter in new role
Award-winning Concord Monitor reporter Alyssa Dandrea is joining the staff of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence as a community relations specialist with the group’s public affairs team.
Spokeswoman Amanda Grady Sexton said Dandrea is a perfect fit for the agency, most recently writing a four-part series on domestic violence in the state that featured a family’s push for change after a murder-suicide and a mother’s quest to help other survivors after 13 years of marital abuse.
She also wrote stories detailing sexual abuse by students and staff at St. Paul’s School in Concord.
Dandrea also worked for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and the Keene Sentinel.