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Michael Biundo: In NH, a tale of two U.S. senators

Here in the Granite State, we have two very different U.S. senators. Certainly each has differing views on the many important issues facing our state and country. However, more importantly, we have two senators with completely contrasting beliefs of how an elected official should interact with her constituents. Unfortunately, it truly has become a tale of two senators, one who interacts with and listens to those she represents, and one who hides from them.

On one hand, we have Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who in just three years has become a leader in protecting Granite State taxpayers from the clutch of Washington, D.C.’s tax-and-spend philosophy. On important issues from a Balanced Budget Amendment to protecting the Second Amendment to her strong opposition to an Internet sales tax, she has proven to be a fighter for the issues New Hampshire believes in. However, what we have come to appreciate most about Sen. Ayotte has less to do with the policies she fights for and more to do with the truly refreshing way she represents us.

Sen. Ayotte has honored her pledge to hold town hall meetings in every county each year. The senator even refused to be deterred by national organizations spending hundreds of thousands of dollars against her. When most senators would have avoided their constituents for political gain, Sen. Ayotte met them in their neighborhoods to discuss the important issues. She has become one of the most accessible and approachable New Hampshire senators in recent memory. Regardless of one’s views on the issues, that is something she should be commended for.

On the other hand, we have Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. You might hear that name and immediately say, “Senator Who?” That’s probably because you haven’t seen her very often. Sen. Shaheen hardly ever holds any town hall meetings. She hardly ever releases a public schedule or posts events she will be attending on her website. Other than attending fund-raisers to benefit her own re-election, Sen. Shaheen has basically taken a policy of hiding from her constituents rather than engaging with them.

Now, I understand that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has a lot of votes to hide from. Her vocal support for Obamacare, a wasteful stimulus spending spree, and the countless tax and spending increases she has supported over the years are all tough conversations to have with New Hampshire voters. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse for avoiding those you represent. Here in New Hampshire, we pride ourselves on our first in the nation primary status. We expect presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to listen to our concerns in town hall formats up and down the state. With that in mind, we should expect that same courtesy from our own representatives.

As Granite Staters, we are all very passionate about the issues facing our families, the state and the country. We all have differing views, which makes our state a great place in which to live and debate the issues. However, how are we supposed to have that debate when one of our senators refuses to meet with us unless it is at a fund-raiser to benefit her job in Washington?

If you are lucky enough to see Sen. Shaheen, you should respectfully remind her that she represents us and that she has an obligation to provide us access that we don’t have to pay for. However, since you will be far more likely to find Sen. Ayotte, be sure to thank her for always being approachable, accessible and concerned about her constituents.

Michael Biundo of Manchester is founder of RightOn Strategies. He was campaign manager for Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign.

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