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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: GOP's Sapienza jumps into Hillsborough County race

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 10. 2018 7:52AM

So far, this is shaping up as a Democratic wave election year, but Manchester Republicans politically are becoming a little more active of late.

The latest contest in the pipeline is a potential primary for Hillsborough County commissioner, with Ed Sapienza of Manchester confirming that he’ll be seeking the District 1 seat on the three-member commission.

Until very recently, Sapienza, a former candidate for Manchester alderman, was a lifelong Democrat, but he’s changed party affiliation.

“I always considered myself a conservative Democrat but in reality there just aren’t any, so I became a Republican,” Sapienza said.

Sapienza seeks the seat held by longtime incumbent Commissioner Toni Pappas of Manchester.

Pappas confirmed she’ll be running again and said the biggest challenge the county faces is staying on budget — particularly with the opening of a new women’s prison in Concord, which ended decades of renting to the state the county-owned property in Goffstown.

“The loss of revenue from the women’s prison is the biggest hit to us; health insurance rates are going up again and of course we’ve got collective bargaining agreements to deal with, but the department heads work so hard. We’ve got a good team and I really want to continue to be part of it,” Pappas said during a telephone interview.

Sapienza is a part-time bailiff in Hillsborough County and a retired county corrections officer.

“I have walked the walk, I know what the county’s needs are and think I could do a good job,” he said.

Despite plenty of encouragement to do so, Manchester Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur decided he will not take on incumbent County Attorney Dennis Hogan of Nashua.

Levasseur has run for and lost bids for state Senate, but supporters thought this could become a very competitive race — in part because Hogan has antagonized at least some among the rank-and-file in law enforcement.

Levasseur said the commitments at his restaurant rule out going for the county post.

“I’ve even had Democrats say I should go for it and it is a job I think I’d love to do and could do pretty well, but it just doesn’t work for me right now,” Levasseur said.

He had eyed his own run for the vacant Executive Council seat, but once former Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas jumped into the Republican primary, Levasseur looked elsewhere. He will file for the ceremonial post of county register of probate next month.

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In 2016, the third-party candidacy of Aaron Day attracted nearly 18,000 votes and by any objective measure helped deny Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of Nashua another six-year term. Instead, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan was elected to the seat, securing 1,017 more votes than Ayotte.

Fast-forward two years later. Aaron Day again appears ready to deploy the same upset-the-apple-cart strategy as he confirmed he is seriously exploring an independent run for governor.

Against Ayotte, Day made known his animus for her support of Obama administration policies such as the Clean Power Act, immigration reform and a GOP bill to strengthen the federal, criminal background check system for gun owners.

With first-term GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, Day’s dissatisfaction is more about what he considers the governor’s failure to deliver on conservative principles.

“Another banner day for @GovChrisSununu. Right-to-work, Amazon, Marsy’s law, and now school choice #epicfail,” Day tweeted last week. “I’m sure he’ll succeed in continuing to steal money from children through Mediscam and Medicaid Expansion. #nhpolitics #tcot #day4nh.”

Day has been especially critical of Sununu when it comes to education reform.

“If I run, it is not as a protest vote. After the failures of complete Republican majorities, I no longer believe that the Republican Party is a viable vehicle for the promotion of liberty,” Day posted last Tuesday on social media.

Third-party candidates for governor in New Hampshire do not have a long and successful history. The last candidate to break 5 percent was Libertarian Party nominee and eventual State Liquor Commissioner Miriam Luce of Windham back in 1992.

But if this race for governor between Sununu and the Democratic nominee-to-be tightens, every percentage point Day and Libertarian hopeful Jilletta Jarvis get could make it even closer.

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Campaign finance reform is another issue that splits the two Democratic candidates for governor.

Former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand got this latest debate going by endorsing public financing of state campaigns.

Marchand’s plan would require small donations (no more than $100 apiece) from at least 2,250 in-state residents or $225,000 to qualify a candidate for matching money from the taxpayers.

“It is not enough to simply offer generalities about getting “dark money” out of politics. If you want to fundamentally clean up the way we do policy and politics in our state and country, then you need to fundamentally change the way we fund our elections,” Marchand said.

Both Democratic primary rival Molly Kelly of Keene and Marchand have now said going forward they will not accept corporate money for their campaigns.

As it turned out, however, Marchand’s own campaign finance reports reveal he had taken corporate money already; $7,000 from Portsmouth Chevrolet in May 2017; $4,000 from Portsmouth Used Car Superstore LLC last November; $1,000 from Maryland-based Constellation Energy Group last June and $1,000 from Texas-based Calpine Corp. in May 2017.

Marchand said the money came in long before his reform plan and it’s a small part of what he’s raised since he began this race more than a year ago.

A spokesman for Democratic rival Molly Kelly panned Marchand’s idea, saying: “She does not believe New Hampshire taxpayers should pay for political campaigns and TV ads.”

It should come as no surprise Republican State Chairman Jeanie Forrester was enjoying this small food fight.

“This is starting to get good. The Steve Marchand-Sanders wing of the New Hampshire Democrat Party wants taxpayers to fund political campaigns, while the Molly Kelly-Clinton wing wants well-heeled insiders to control the Democrat nomination process,” Forrester said.

“Democrats in New Hampshire are free to debate new ways to spend and waste taxpayer dollars, but New Hampshire Republicans are focused on delivering prosperity for Granite State workers and taxpayers.”

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Meanwhile, Kelly continued to staff up her campaign, hiring Chris Moyer as communications director and Naomi Miller as finance manager.

Moyer, a Derry native, returns here after previous campaign roles, include press secretary for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010 and working in Ohio on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Miller managed state Sen. Donna Soucy’s re-election campaign and was finance director for the Democratic leader in Virginia that took over control of the House of Delegates last November.

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The New Hampshire Democratic Party announced its officers for the party’s election-year convention June 23 at the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham.

Co-Chairs of the event are state Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, and Dr. and former Rep. Tom Sherman of Rye, who is running for a state Senate seat this fall.

The other officers are Sergeant at Arms David London, Secretary Donald Stokes, Treasurer Cayla Eck and Parliamentarian William Christie

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New Hampshire Democratic leaders like to avoid party primaries if at all possible, and they ducked what would have been a competitive one in Senate District 13; Sen. Bette Lasky is retiring.

House Deputy Democratic leader and longtime Finance Committee leader Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua was the clear choice of party establishment figures.

But Nashua Alderman-at-Large and retired fire department executive Mike O’Brien had his fans as well.

At the beginning of this past week, O’Brien took himself out of the running and confirmed he’d again run in the House.

“Although I am confident I would have run a strong campaign for the state Senate, Rep. Rosenwald is the progressive champion we need to succeed Senator Lasky,” O’Brien said.

“In the past, we have partnered together on such important issues as the opioid crisis, commuter rail and providing property tax relief to all municipalities as it relates to the NH Retirement System. I wholeheartedly endorse Cindy’s run for state Senate.”

O’Brien had confided prior to this decision that he thought it would have been challenging for him to juggle both the Senate duties and those of an alderman who represents the entire city.

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Democratic presidential candidate and Maryland Congressman John Delaney returns for his eighth visit to New Hampshire Friday night.

Delaney will host a question-and-answer session with activists at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester starting at 6 p.m.

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The fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity group is railing against the near-$100 million in spending that cleared the Republican-led state Senate last week.

AFP began a digital media effort aimed at convincing the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to reject at least some items.

The page links to a tool inviting residents to sign a petition opposing the spending.

“We don’t need massive new wasteful spending programs. We need fiscal responsibility and we need more money in citizens’ pockets to help our economy stay strong,” the petition states. “Please oppose these wasteful spending proposals.”

This campaign has an uphill road, since all House Democrats are sure to go along with all the spending the Senate has approved. Only a small number of GOP members will be needed to get final agreement once this measure (HB 1817) comes back from a conference committee for a final vote later this month.

The House Finance Committee was briefed on the spending measure on Wednesday.

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U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, both D-N.H., helped lead the effort to force a Senate vote on reinstating the net neutrality rules that the Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission has rescinded.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, joined all 49 Democrats signing a discharge petition to bring it to a Senate vote. They still need one more senator to come aboard to pass it.

“Access to a free and open internet is critical to promoting innovation, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses across New Hampshire, and encouraging economic growth,” Hassan said. “Repealing net neutrality protections threatens hard-working Granite Staters and Americans and hurts our economy ...”

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Democratic congressional candidate Levi Sanders of Claremont has to hope he has more success with his own race in the 1st Congressional District than in a Senate seat in Ohio.

On the eve of Tuesday’s vote, Sanders chose to weigh in on the Buckeye State race embracing the bid of former U.S. Rep. and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

While the few pre-primary polls in this race showed it to be close, when the votes were counted former Obama administration financial regulator Richard Cordray crushed Kucinich, 62-to-23 percent.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H. no doubt hopes for a far better fate for her handpicked successor. Earlier this week she anointed longtime Chief of Staff and former campaign manager Naomi Andrews of Epping.

Andrews became the ninth Democrat to announce she’d try to replace Shea-Porter as the Democratic nominee in September’s primary.

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U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Shea-Porter, D-N.H., were celebrating Wednesday at the news that U.S. House GOP budget writers had agreed to include in a VA spending bill their language on ambulatory surgical centers.

Both insist the VA should build more beds for day surgery procedures and believe access for vets at privately run surgical centers could be an important source of health care, especially in rural areas.

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320 became the third labor union to endorse Garth Corriveau’s Democratic bid for Executive Council in District 4.

The Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association and Manchester Association of Police Supervisors were already on board.

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