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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Expect no election fallout from power struggle

Kevin Landrigan

Let’s start with the most obvious.

When the New Hampshire Republican Executive Committee votes to remove Chairman Jack Kimball from office – and it will happen Thursday – this ugly struggle for power will have zero impact on who wins and who loses in November 2012.

Yes, there will be some tea party members who will bear grudges against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, of Nashua, and House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, for their roles in pressuring Kimball to get out.

Some will vote with their feet and could even leave the GOP.

But if past is prologue, the overwhelming numbers of fiscal and social conservatives trending with the GOP before all this will stay put when the time comes for them to act.

The fact that this will be a presidential election year – a bigger turnout and even more money to get folks out to the polls – will further dilute the role of these disaffected voters.

The sudden removal of New Hampshire party leaders has taken place in the past, and in virtually every case, the embattled rank-and-file in the party rally together once the smoke clears, especially when there’s so much at stake in the next election.

Let’s consider these celebrated cases:

 • March 1995: GOP State Chairman Steve Duprey takes a leave and ultimately resigns to fight a widening federal investigation that resulted in guilty pleas from his employees.

Charges were never brought against Duprey, who was cleared in the matter. Duprey took himself out of the seat before significant calls built for him to depart.

 • November 1996: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen becomes the first woman governor in history and the first Democrat in 14 years.

But despite President Bill Clinton’s cakewalk victory in New Hampshire, Republican Sen. Bob Smith and Congressmen John E. Sununu and Charles Bass win re-election, and the Legislature stays solidly Republican.

 • January 2007: The leading contender to be the N.H. Democratic Party chairman, Raymond Buckley, backs out after allegations from his former roommate, Steve Vaillancourt, that Buckley possessed child pornography.

Vaillancourt didn’t produce proof to back up the allegations, no charges were brought and Buckley was cleared of impropriety.

Buckley runs as a write-in candidate and easily becomes chairman despite opposition from Congressman Paul Hodes, who withdraws his support after seeing a YouTube video of a younger Buckley using inappropriate language.

 • November 2008: Gov. John Lynch easily wins re-election, Shaheen upsets U.S. Sen. Sununu, U.S. House incumbents Hodes and Carol-Shea Porter win again, and Democrats retain control of the Legislature and Executive Council.

Enough said.

Burning bridges

This controversy went from palace intrigue to outright bizarre in a hurry, starting with the high-level summit of the GOP’s elite over Kimball’s fate, which was first reported in The Sunday Telegraph.

O’Brien had become the designated emissary, and told Kimball it was time to think about quitting for the good of the party.

There are conflicting reports internally about whether Kimball was ever given the option of staying on if he agreed to cede more control to the elders over fundraising, staffing and issue messaging.

At any rate, Kimball took the weekend to think about it, but by all accounts, he huddled with tea party loyalists and his inner circle rather than reaching out and trying to save himself by contacting the 36-member Executive Committee that decide his fate.

What’s most stunning about this is that while Kimball pooh-poohs the impact, several committee members predisposed to Kimball were furious he had signed a petition to put the Libertarian Party on the 2012 statewide primary ballot automatically.

Kimball said he thought the petition was only for one Libertarian candidate, and got his name taken off it as soon as he realized his mistake.

These committee members considered it a prima facie violation of the party’s bylaws and an infraction that could justify removal.

Kimball badly needed to speak to them, confess his “sin’’ and seek their ideas for the new directions the party should take going forward.

By Monday morning, O’Brien and Co. got word that Kimball had divulged all the details of the meeting to his insiders, a charge Kimball continues to deny.

Whatever the truth, there was no option for Kimball’s future at that point.

Ayotte, O’Brien and others started calling the Executive Committee members and quickly lined up the votes to remove him.

While Kimball talked Thursday about serving as the bridge between the tea party and regular Republicans, he lashed out at those seeking to remove him and proceeded to burn every one of those bridges, too.

But the fatal mistake Kimball made time and again over the last several months was making this about him.

Sure, the best party chairmen are engaging personalities, but at the end of the day, they also remind themselves they exist as servants of the rank-and-file, as well as the party’s elders.

Even some of those who feel Kimball is getting summarily pushed off the cliff surely don’t like hearing him claim his survival is the only way to avoid Armageddon between the tea party movement and the establishment.

Betting on gambling

The fast movement of expanded gambling in Massachusetts last week may have been the best thing for those who don’t want to see it come to New Hampshire.

At long last, Gov. Deval Patrick and that state’s legislative leadership have gotten behind a plan for three casinos and a slot machine palace to serve the northern Massachusetts, Boston and Worcester markets.

We’ve heard all this before, and no one should take to the bank that this will be a seamless road to fruition. Nothing happens that easily on Beacon Hill, even with one party controlling all the levels of power.

But the looming threat has fired up the anti-gambling forces, and comes at a heady time when New Hampshire House Republican leaders are looking at more belt-tightening and not new revenue to already deal with holes in the two-year state budget.

Lynch hasn’t dropped his severe reluctance to embrace a full-blown expansion of expanded gambling, and the state GOP can ill afford alienating law enforcement further by getting onboard for slots for tots.

There are exceptions to this dynamic, with House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, both R-Salem, playing the hometown tune for Millennium’s plan to convert Rockingham Park into a racino.

Will expanded gambling efforts make a mini-comeback in the state Senate next year? It could, but the odds of this one going the distance in 2012 have just become longer.

Moving in NH

The sleepy Obama for re-election campaign in New Hampshire began to awaken last week.

First, Obama’s team sent out its first New Hampshire-centric issue attack, calling on supporters of a state minimum wage to sign a petition in protest of its repeal and to flush out GOP presidential candidates on the issue.’

“For the next six months, New Hampshire will be overrun by Republicans who want to be president,” said the e-mail alert from Battleground States director Mitch Stewart.

“Voters deserve to know if the Mitt Romneys, Michele Bachmanns, and Rick Perrys of the world stand with State Rep. McGuire.”

“Add your name to the call to get the Republican presidential candidates on the record on the minimum wage – especially whether young people are ‘worth’ it.

“The federal minimum wage – same as NH’s own – now carries the day as the state law repeal went into effect last week.

“New Hampshire has a unique place in American politics. Presidential campaigns can be made and broken in your backyards, and as President Obama’s supporters on the ground, we have a responsibility to keep our opponents honest.”

Obama’s team is expected to follow that up with hiring some full-time staffers in New Hampshire for the re-election effort.

All this is obviously welcome to Democratic partisans here who’ve noticed the president has blitzed over purple states throughout the spring and summer, and even while vacationing on Cape Cod hasn’t stepped foot in the first-primary state in more than a year.

Backing Javrin

The New Hampshire AFL-CIO stuck with its own and bucked the trend with its endorsement Thursday night of Seabrook firefighter Kevin Javrin for the open House seat to be decided on Sept. 6.

As we know, New Hampshire Democrats have been on a mini-roll, and their candidate is Ryan Mahoney, a staffer who has run the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“Their questionnaires were identical, and we felt Kevin deserved our support, especially since he was not the darling choice of the Republican Party establishment,” said Kurt Ehrenberg, New Hampshire AFL-CIO spokesman.

Indeed, some tea party and House Republican Alliance members protested they would be backing Libertarian Brendan Kelly, of Seabrook, after Javrin upset GOP leadership favorite Lou Gargiulo in the primary.

All things being equal, the party registration clearly favors the GOP candidate, but if Kelly were to get 10 percent of the vote, that would make it tough for Javrin to prevent yet another Democratic upset.

Meanwhile, the election comes the day after Labor Day, making always difficult voter turnout even tougher.

Maybe that’s why New Hampshire Democrats will continue canvassing in this Rockingham County district through this weekend despite the threats of Hurricane Irene.

Targeting Bass – again

The Democratic Congressional Campaign stepped up its effort to pressure Bass, with Web-based advertising appearing on top of gasoline pumps in the 2nd Congressional District.

This follows up the radio ads the campaign aired against Bass, who remains one of the most targeted GOP seats in the Democrats’ “Drive for 25’’ to take over the U.S. House in November 2012.

The campaign is dubbed “Choosing Millionaires over Medicare’’ for Bass opposing raising taxes on the wealthy while voting for the House budget that contains deep cuts in Medicare spending over the next decade.

Bass said recently he could support ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans, but not before 2014 or until the nation’s sluggish economy recovers fully.

Public servant

Former Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter is seeking a political comeback.

Streeter is collecting petitions to run for Ward 7 alderman in Nashua.

Two-term incumbent Richard Flynn, 63, died last month after a bout with leukemia and other medical complications.

This move from Streeter also comes after it has become abundantly clear, as The Sunday Telegraph first reported, that the votes aren’t there on the Executive Council for Lynch to give Streeter a three-year term on the state Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, check Landrigan out on Twitter (@KLandrigan), and don’t forget The Telegraph’s interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.