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Friday, November 16, 2012

Norelli, Campbell have share of supporters heading into Dem caucus to elect new Speaker

CONCORD – The newly-elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has the chance to elect only the second speaker from Nashua in 150 years.

This Democratic race is a rematch of 2010, pitting former Speaker and House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli of Portsmouth against six-term Nashua Democrat Rep. David Campbell. ...

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CONCORD – The newly-elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has the chance to elect only the second speaker from Nashua in 150 years.

This Democratic race is a rematch of 2010, pitting former Speaker and House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli of Portsmouth against six-term Nashua Democrat Rep. David Campbell.

After the voters turned the House over to Republicans two years ago, the Democratic minority
decided Norelli should stay in charge and chose her over Campbell to lead them.

Now that the voters have once against changed their minds and put Democrats in control, Campbell said the message should be one of moderation.

“We’ve got to present ourselves as a party that is capable of leading responsibly as well as restoring some civility to the process,” Campbell said Thursday.

The last speaker of the House from Nashua was the late Republican Rep. Marshall Cobleigh from 1968- 72.

“There have only been four from Nashua in the 350-year history of the House that goes back to Colonial times,” Campbell said.

“I haven’t put much stress on it in this race but certainly it couldn’t hurt the city making its case in Concord.”

Bette Lasky, a Nashua Democrat who won back a seat in the state Senate last week, served in the House for a decade before she moved on to the state Senate in 2008. She lost in 2010.

“Sure there’s nothing wrong with bragging rights and having a speaker from Nashua would be fine,” said Lasky, who has served with both Norelli and Campbell in the House.

“They are both exceptionally qualified candidates. My experience has been that there really are very few issues that come before a Speaker or a Senate president that affect a single community, positively or negatively.”

Nashua’s Democratic delegation has bulked up with this election from only six of 28 before to now 24 out of 27 House members.

The city lost one seat after the 2010 Census compelled the Legislature to realign its House districts to comply with population changes.

Most Nashua legislators who were willing to speak on the record said they will vote for Campbell.

“I don’t mind saying it,” said Rep. Kenneth Gidge, who, like Campbell, represents Ward 6 in Nashua. “Nashua deserves one of its own and my constituents sent me to Concord to get the best deal for our city and that’s Dave Campbell.”

Former Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Nashua, decided to come out of voluntary retirement to run again.

The longtime deputy chief of the Nashua Fire Department won last week and said the city needs a stronger advocate in Campbell.

“In my view, Nashua and Manchester took it on the chin and not just in the last two years under Republican control,” O’Brien said.

“The taxpayers in these cities take on the lion’s share of a lot of our safety net and steadily through this recession the state budgets have just shredded it.”

Other veterans in the Nashua House delegation are expected to support Norelli, like Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, who Norelli had named to chair the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, and David Cote, who had run the House Judiciary Committee. Many said they are having to quickly make a tough call.

“This will be a very difficult one for me,” said Linda Harriott Gathright, who was as a Democratic volunteer in past elections and agreed at the behest of Campbell and others to run this time. “Terie Norelli has called several times and offered a lot of encouragement.”

The new House members will meet privately in Representatives Hall and cast secret ballots.

One thing Norelli was able to offer more of was money. She chaired the Committee to Elect House Democrats that raised and spent $170,000 in the 2012 election, much of it in campaign contributions to House candidates and local committees.

The checks sent to Democrats on the ballot ranged from $200-$1,500 and the committee gave $3,000 to the Manchester Democratic City Committee.

Rep.-Elect Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline, returned after losing two years ago with the House PAC’s help, as did Rep.-Elect Mary Ann Knowles, D-Hudson.

“I’m voting for Terie. She did a lot of good things while she was there and I look forward to her leadership again,” Levesque said.

Norelli said last week she was confident she would prevail Saturday and looking forward to changing the tone in Concord.

Campbell said recently that he’d have a different leadership style than would Norelli and would do a better job of fostering good relations with the Republican minority.

Norelli said if elected she’d be able to work effectively on compromise with the state Senate, where President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, will remain and preside with a 13-11 GOP advantage.

Campbell and Norelli have both squelched rumors that if they lost Saturday, either would conspire with Republicans to become Speaker when the full House makes its decision Dec. 5.

Eight years ago, Stratham Republican Doug Scamman did just that, losing a November 2004 caucus to then-House Majority Leader Mike Whalley only to cut a deal with Democrats to become speaker a month later.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).