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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Biden back in N.H. Thursday

Kevin Landrigan

Exeter is a perfect spot for Vice President Joe Biden to bring the Obama re-election campaign train back to New Hampshire on Thursday. Why? This is the quintessential, well-heeled Republican town that Democrats have to win or stay very close to prevail in the Granite State. As Exeter goes, so goes the rest of the state? Not quite but it’s an important bellwether for Rockingham County.

And Republican presidential nominee to be Mitt Romney is comfortable there as well. The campaign hosted two rallies at the same Exeter Town Hall where Biden will preside over a CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) event.

At one of them, former New Hampshire Governors Judd Gregg and John H. Sununu made a rare, joint appearance as warm-up acts for Romney who test marketed some ideas for a jobs plan he unveiled a day later elsewhere.

Two-time New Hampshire primary winner John McCain loved the venue too. There were four town hall-style forums by McCain at the same location during his campaigns.

In 2008, Obama beat McCain by 1,800 votes on his way to the nine-point victory. The most powerful New Hampshire Democrat who’s still going to be around after this November, Jeanne Shaheen, has never lost there. Ditto for retiring Gov. John Lynch.

There were signs that Biden may narrow his rhetoric from the entire presidential field and GOP in general to Romney specifically. The Obama N.H. campaign debuted a web video last week titled, Romney vs. Reality, that included footage from President Obama’s visit to the state last February.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign appears to be dampening expectations of winning the neighboring state. A Romney campaign political director says he’s not ‘’losing any sleep’’ about failing to mount any momentum here. Romney’s right-hand New Hampshire man, Jim Merrill, told RealClearPolitics last week that “we’re the underdog.’’

With 30 staffers on the ground and events in all 10 counties, the Obama team seems to be trying to run up the score early. A Gallup poll has POTUS leading Romney collectively by nine points in six swing states that include New Hampshire, along with a 19-point swing to the incumbent among independent women since last fall.

It’s hard to fathom Obama being in this solid a shape here when, just three months ago, only 39 percent of New Hampshire voters thought the country was headed in the right direction.

LGC files suit

The Local Government Center has a court fight looming with its insurance companies even as it fights off allegations from the state Bureau of Securities Regulation. The LGC and its affiliate groups recently filed a suit in Merrimack County Superior Court to try and force two insurance companies to provide insurance and indemnify them as they face allegations of owing cities and towns as much as $100 million.

The National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh has a management and professional liability policy with the LGC. The Employers First Insurance Co. holds a Managed Care Organizations Errors and Omissions Liability Policy with the LGC.

According to the lawsuit, both insurers have informed the LGC they will neither provide any defense or indemnify the city and towns lobby and affiliate groups as they try and rebut these charges.

Last week, lawyers for National Union tried to push the case from state jurisdiction to the US District Court. The lack of any insurance coverage means that cities and towns, and indirectly the taxpayers, are paying for the LGC’s defense of the allegations.

No third term for Houde

The surprise decision of State Sen. Matt Houde, D-Meriden, to not seek a third term has thrown wide open the District 5 seat.

‘’It’s really with mixed feelings because I’ve loved working in the Senate and the people around here,’’ Houde said. ‘’With a new job and a new family this seems a good time for me to make a change.’’

At 43, don’t expect we’ve seen the last of this articulate lawyer in state politics. Party insiders had already penciled Houde in as a quality candidate for congress or even governor.

Can a GOP candidate win in the turf that Houde will leave behind? Sure. They have former-Senator and 1998 candidate for governor Jim Rubens and of course, the liberal lion Republican and former Senate President Ralph Hough.

But thanks to redistricting, this is not going to be as friendly territory for the Grand Olde Party as it once was.

‘’It’s a district that hugs Route 12-A. This went from possible swing to solidly Democratic,’’ said one Democratic operative.

So who’s in? Likely suspects start with Claremont School Board member and local firefighter Brian Rapp. Many also expect three-term State Rep. David Pierce, D-Hanover, to jump in especially since it looks like both Reps. Bernie Benn, D-Hanover, and Laurie Harding, D-Lebanon are out.

There are some State House veterans trying to talk Rep. and Fire Capt. Andrew White, D-Lebanon, into giving it a go as well.

This one could get a little crowded before too long.

Filling the spaces

We said the race for governor had spaces for candidates and one tried to fill it this week.

He’s Bill Kennedy, 59, a Danbury firefighter and Bronze Star winner.

He’s never held elective office and his only campaign was an unsuccessful bid for Rockingham County sheriff. But Kennedy’s got a good name and plenty of energy according to those who know him.

He won’t pledge to veto an income or sales tax and says before the primary he’ll come out with a definitive statement on whether the tax structure needs a complete overhaul.

He’s undecided on casino gambling and on whether we need to raise the gasoline tax to spend more on infrastructure.

When the Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley says he’s never heard of the guy, you know there’s an uphill fight ahead.

Kennedy said he would be a ‘’bridge’’ to unite conservatives and liberals and notes that when John Lynch came out of nowhere in May 2002, nobody knew him either.

Redrawing plan draws ire

When one legislative body works for months to craft a redistricting plan, it typically gets a pass from the other branch. With the redrawing of maps for the districts in the Executive Council, such political courtesy went right out the window.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, concluded the House map has too much gerrymandering, particularly saddling Councilor Dan St. Hilaire with a district that spans from Keene to Rochester.

What the Senate Internal Affairs Committee came up with had Councilors Raymond Burton, R-Bath, Raymond Wieczorek, R-Manchester, and St. Hilaire all up in arms.

Burton was peeved that it would strip him of Grafton County towns and saddle him with Rochester, Dover and Somersworth.Wieczorek can’t fathom how a district centered in the Queen City can go all the way to Barnstead and Durham. St. Hilaire loses nearly all the Merrimack County towns (except his own in Concord) that he represented as county attorney. Finally there’s Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields. The House plan stripped him of the Democratic stronghold of Portsmouth and the Senate would put it back. Look for amendments to emerge when the Senate takes this up next week.

Big hearings for Senate

The State Senate continues its fast break on House-approved bills with a packed schedule of big hearings this coming week.

Along with three abortion bills, Senate panels take testimony on the big overhaul of the state school building aid program, the proposed, moratorium on refugee resettlements where any community approves them, the 10-year highway plan, defined contributions for retirement and bulking back up the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, realizes that time is a wasting if his chamber is going to dispense with all 308 measures that came over to the House by the scheduled final date for action of May 9.

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