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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Gatsas makes it official: seeking 3rd term as Manchester mayor

By John DiStaso
Senior Political Reporter

April 19. 2013 1:30PM

FRIDAY, APRIL 19: McCONNELL UPDATE: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's fund-raising consultant said Friday Capitol Hill police refused to allow McConnell fly to Boston today, for obvious reasons, and that was why his trip to New Hampshire for two fund-raisers was cancelled.

We had received conflicting reports on why McConnell cancelled. See our updated report below, following our report on Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas' reelection announcement.

(Earlier Status reports follow.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 19. GATSAS SEEKING REELECTION. Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas told the Granite Status Friday that it's official: he'll seek a third term this year as chief executive of the state's largest city.

"I am running for reelection as mayor of Manchester," he said.

Would he serve a full term if reelected, or would he run for another office, such as governor or Congress, next year?

"At this point I'm running for mayor and I would never eliminate anything in the future," he said.

So....does he intend to serve a full term?

"I'm running for mayor and if there are any other situations that came before me, I would look at them. I would never rule anything out at this time," he said. "That could be anything that comes forward."

He said long-time Republican operative B.J. Perry will head his campaign operation with businessmen Fred Tausch and Sean Owen co-chairing his 20-member finance committee.

Gatsas' campaign will have a fund-raising event on June 6 at the St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester.

"We have accomplished a lot," said Gatsas, a former alderman and former state senator. "There are still things we have to accomplish, and I love being mayor."

Democratic Alderman Patrick Arnold has already begun campaigning for mayor.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 19: SCRATCH McCONNELL. U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cancelled his planned trip to New Hampshire Friday.

McConnell had been scheduled for a fund-raiser with state Sen. Andy Sanborn and state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, both R-Bedford, at their pub, The Draft, in Concord this afternoon.

He had also been scheduled for a fund-raiser later Friday with media executive and former U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie at Binnie's Wentworth-By-The-Sea Country Club.

Andy Sanborn said he was told Friday by McConnell's staff that McConnell would not be coming to New Hampshire due to "security reasons" in Boston associated with law enforcement's pursuit of the Boston Marathon bomber.

Other Republicans told the Granite Status that McConnell's trip was actually cancelled due to a poor ticket sales for the Sanborns' event. But Andy Sanborn said that was simply not true.

He said he had patrons lines up for the event, which was to be co-hosted by former Sen. John E. Sununu and former Rep. Frank Guinta.

Two Republicans familiar with Binnie's event said Binnie's fund-raiser sold out, but also noted that it was supposed to be a small fund-raiser since its inception.

These Republicans said McConnell's camp felt that it would not be worthwhile for McConnell to travel to New Hampshire for the single, small Binnie event since the Sanborn event had -- allegedly -- failed to attract a satisfactory crowd.

But Peter Simmons, McConnell's fund-raising consultant, backed up Andy Sanborn's explanation.

Simmons explained that McConnell is assigned four Capitol Hill police officers who had "advanced the trip for him through Boston. They advanced the airport in Boston and the hotel in Boston and advanced the events in Concord and Rye.

"But because the trip came through Boston, the Capitol Hill police would not allow him, for security reasons, to fly to Boston today."

Simmons said the events "are in the process of being re-scheduled."

(An earlier Status report follows, and for more Granite Status, click on "Granite Status" above.)

THURSDAY, APRIL 19: RE-DEFINING PUSH POLLING IN NH. The state Senate Thursday passed legislation that redefines a push poll, a sometimes annoying campaign tool that is essentially a political advertisement loosely disguised as a poll.

The bill, which had been tabled last month and now goes to the House, adds a requirement to current law that political groups and hired companies that make push polls specifically tell those who receive a call that the call is a political ad.

Other changes emerged after sponsors conferred with top national pollsters, who had been upset with the state law as written because they felt it disallowed legitimate political opinion surveying, a tool meant to gauge voters sentiment about candidates when informed about their positions on issues and not to directly lobby for their votes.

Under Senate Bill 196, which now heads to the House, push poll is newly defined as making telephone calls "as part of a series of like telephone calls that consist of 2,000 connected calls that last less than two minutes in presidential, gubernatorial, United States senatorial or United State congressional elections."

A push poll under the bill can also be "conducting such calling as part of a series of like telephone calls that consist of 500 connected calls that last less than two minutes in executive council, state senate, state representative" or local elections.

The bill also specifies that a push poll is "for purposes other than bona fide survey and opinion research."

Under the bill, those making the calls, prior to asking a question relating to a candidate, must:

- Inform the person that the telephone call is a "paid political advertisement."

- Identify the organization making the call and the organization paying for the call and

- Provide a valid, current, publicly-listed telephone number for the organization making the call.

As under the existing law, the caller must also say that the call is being made "on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to a particular candidate or candidates for public office, and identify that candidate, or the candidates, by name."

The bill grew out of several actions brought by former Attorney General Michael Delaney in recent years against political campaigns and pollsters, most recently a civil action against former U.S. Rep. Charles Bass's 2010 campaign committee. That case is still in the Merrimack County Superior Court.

The Bass committee is arguing in court it was not engaged in a push poll, but rather legitimate opinion research. And the committee points to an advisory opinion last year by the Federal Election Commission that the state's push poll law does not apply to elections for federal office.

Despite the FEC opinion, the new bill subjects candidates for federal office to the state law, but it is unclear if that provision would be upheld in court.

But Sen. David Pierce, D-Etna, said it is the Senate's position that any campaign that "reaches into the state" should adhere to the law, regardless of whether it is involved in a state or federal election.

Pierce said that under the current law, a push poll "is defined by reference to the subjective effect of a campaign call on the voter being contacted."

Pierce said pollsters testified "that they are concerned that the subjective standards could, and in some cases have, triggered investigations by the Attorney General into their bona fide polling research.

"Their concern has led a few to threaten to pull out of the state and not conduct polling in New Hampshire," Pierce said. "Because political polling is, for better or worse, an integral part of New Hampshire elections -- especially the presidential primary -- the (Senate Public and Municipal Affairs) Committee believed it was time to act."

He said the bill "moves away from subjective tests and defines what is and what is not a push poll by reference to objective criteria." As a result, he said, pollsters will have "clear guidance about what is and what is not prohibited."

Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said the current "ambiguous and broadly written push-polling law has caused problems and raised objections from political campaigns and polling organizations alike."

He said the Senate bill "takes necessary steps to clarify the law and establish clear guidelines that will allow for legitimate voter outreach and survey research while also ensuring that campaigns are accurately identifying themselves and their motives to voters.

"Equally as important, this bill clarifies the law in a way that will allow national pollsters to lawfully operate in the Granite State during the presidential primary, helping to protect the legitimacy of our state's historic position in the primary calendar."

Pierce said the bill is "a necessary response to legitimate concerns raised by state based and national survey research and political organization from both sides of the aisle. Politics is Hew Hampshire's state sport, and polling is an integral part of the game. This legislation provides clearer guidance to the campaigns and pollsters that compete here every two years and provides a fair and level playing field for all involved."

Also Thursday, the Senate voted 14-10 to table a bill that would have required additional signatures to be make by "caregivers" submitting absentee ballots for another person.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the provision did not contain enough safeguards and has "the potential for rampant election fraud."

The Senate passed also a bill setting up a joint legislative committee to study the state's election laws and procedures with an eye toward increasing voter participation and limiting waiting times and lines at polling places. The committee, which must submit a report by Nov. 1, 2014, also must review voter registration, the possibility of early voting and how the state conducts absentee voting.

(For earlier Granite Status reports, click on "Granite Status" above.)

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