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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

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January 16. 2014 8:03AM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: NHGOP executive director subpoenaed in probe of Christie administration 'Bridgegate' scandal


FRIDAY, JAN. 17: VLACHICH IS SHAHEEN'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Friday her Senate office state director, Mike Vlachich, is moving to head her reelection effort as campaign manager.
 
He is being replaced at the Senate office by Sarah Holmes, a long-time advisor and current Special Assistant for Policy and Projects. She will officially be the Acting New Hampshire State Director.
 
The moves are effective Monday.
 
Vlachich is the former director of the state Division of Economic Development and also held the posts of deputy chief of staff and acting policy director for former Gov. John Lynch.
 
(An earlier Granite Status report follows.)
 
THURSDAY, JAN. 16: MOWERS SUBPOENAED. New Hampshire Republican Party Executive Director Matt Mowers is being subpoenaed in a New Jersey legislative committee's probe of the Gov. Chris Christie administration "Bridgegate" scandal, a source in the NHGOP confirmed to the Granite Status.


A New Hampshire GOP source said Mowers learned of the subpoena on Thursday evening from committee officials in the Garden State.
 

(FRIDAY, JAN. 17, UPDATE: The NHGOP confirmed Friday that Mowers' subpoena at this point involves only texts and emails he may have exchanged prior to the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. However, the source pointed out, based on the content of those documents, Mowers may be asked to testify at a later date.)
 
 
Mowers, 24, who has been the NHGOP's top staffer since November, was identified earlier this week in reports as the Christie campaign worker who approached Democratic Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich last spring seeking an endorsement for Republican Christie in the governor's race.


But no reports have tied Mowers to the retribution exacted against Sokolich for failing to back Christie by some of the governor's staffers, ordering the closure of approach lanes to the busy George Washington Bridge in September.


A subpoena does not necessarily mean Mowers has been accused of wrongdoing, but rather that he is being ordered to appear before the investigating legislative committee to answer questions, or, in this case at this point, to provide texts and emails.
 

Prior to working for Christie's campaign last year, Mowers worked in his office as a regional governmental relations director for an area that included Fort Lee.


In that state government role, Mowers worked for at least a year, and possibly more, under Bridget Anne Kelly, the Christie deputy chief of staff who Christie fired last week as the governor and possible 2016 presidential contender acknowledged that some members of his staff were involved in the lane closures.


New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn issued the following statement Thursday evening:


"Matt is an extremely talented worker and a valued member of our team. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing and there is zero indication that he is in anyway connected to the decision to close the bridge lanes.


"Partisan hacks will try to shamelessly exploit this issue to distract from the Jeanne Shaheen's disastrous deciding vote for ObamaCare. But it will do nothing to help the thousands of Granite State families who have lost their health insurance because Shaheen's blind support for the failed Obama health care agenda.


"Matt has my full support and confidence, and I look forward to his continued service to our party."


New Hampshire Democratic Party communications director Harrell Kirstein issued this statement:


Matt Mowers spent years working directly under now-disgraced aides of Chris Christie, and we are all left to wonder what dirty tricks they taught him and what plans he has to use them in New Hampshire.


"It has been more than a full week since this venomous political revenge scheme was revealed and Granite Staters deserve to know about Mowers's role in Christie's growing bridge scandal. He and the NHGOP leadership should come clean and answer some basic questions for the people of New Hampshire."
 
Mowers is among 17 people subpoenaed in the the probe.
 

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)


THURSDAY, JAN. 16, UPDATE: BIG MONEY FOR SHAHEEN. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's campaign says its year-end fund-raising report will show she raised $1.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 and a total of $5.8 million since being elected in 2008.
In 2013 alone, she raised $4.5 million.
 
 
As Shaheen continues to gear up for a reelection bid, her campaign entered 2014 with $3.4 million in cash on hand.
 
 
Friends of Jeanne Shaheen said it received donations from 14,624 donors during the quarter alone, with 95 percent of the contributions from "grassroots donors who gave less than $250."
 
 
"The support our campaign has generated to date shows that we'll have the resources we'll need to run an aggressive, winning campaign this year regardless of whom Republicans nominate to run against Senator Shaheen," said Andy Darkins, Shaheen campaign finance director said in a statement.
 
 
"Senator Shaheen is proud to have many people supporting everything she does to grow the economy and support New Hampshire's small businesses and middle-class."
The fund-raising disclosure came as a new poll showed Shaheen in a dead heat with potential GOP opponent former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (see item below).
 
 
 
(An earlier Granite Status report follows.)
 
 
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 15: POLL: IF HE RUNS, IT'S CLOSE. A new Granite State survey by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling has Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a virtual dead heat with Republican former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in a potential mid-term election match-up, and also shows Brown far ahead of the announced GOP field for the Senate seat.


The poll of more than 1,300 Granite States Jan. 9-12 has Shaheen at 46 percent and Brown at 43 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.


Also, the poll shows Brown, who has not announced (yet) for the seat, far ahead of announced candidates Bob Smith and Andy Martin, 42 to 11 percent, and further ahead of the others.


Shaheen holds double-digit leads over Smith, Rubens and Testerman in head-to-head match-ups.


Democrats say it's telling that the Brown-Shaheen numbers are virtually unchanged since the last PPP poll last September, when Shaheen led, 48 to 44 percent, because since then, conservative groups have spent more than $500,000 in negative ads, related to the Affordable Care Act, focused on her.


But Republicans say the numbers are a "disaster" for Shaheen because she is below the 50 percent threshold after serving as a three-term governor and a U.S. Senator. Brown, they point out, has been a resident of the state for less than a month.


A potential trouble spot for Brown is that 48 percent of GOP Senate primary voters polled said they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who backed an "assault" weapons ban, while 21 percent said it would make no difference.
PPP said the poll sample of 1,354 Granite Staters comprised 528 GOP primary voters and overall, 44 percent self-identified independents, 28 percent Democrats and 27 percent Republicans. The same sample was made up of 38 percent self-identified conservatives, 34 percent moderates and 28 percent liberals, PPP said.
The poll also shows Gov. Maggie Hassan in a strong position, with 50 percent approving of the job she is doing while 27 percent disapprove. She leads potential GOP foes Bill Binnie, George Lambert and Andrew Hemingway by at least 20 percentage points.
The poll shows strong support for universal background checks for gun purchases, while 60 percent of those polled said the state's gay marriage law has had no effect on their lives.
But 46 percent of those polled said they disapproved of the Affordable Care Act while 39 percent approved, said PPP.
(See earlier Granite Status reports elsewhere on this page or by clicking on "Granite Status" above.)


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