TUESDAY, MARCH 4: DINNER INVITATIONS. As U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor again Tuesday to criticize the conservative issues group Americans for Prosperity and its chief funders, the Koch brothers, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was reaching out to the protagonists of recent AFP ads in New Hampshire.
Brown invited state GOP activists Donna Marzullo and Helen DiPrima to sit at his $5,000 table at the March 14 Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua. He also criticized Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for not defending them.
Brown, now a full-time resident of Rye, is considering running for the Senate seat held by Shaheen and, while he has not spoken definitively about his plans, appears to be edging closer to a run almost daily.
DiPrima told him she would be out of state that day, but Marzullo and her husband, state GOP vice chair J.P Mazullo agreed to sit at Brown's table.
The two women are featured in AFP issue advocacy television ads questioning U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster's support for the Affordable Care Act.
Reid last week contended that AFP ads are "lies." He did not specify the New Hampshire ads, but did not name any state and referred to the ads in general.
Republicans in New Hampshire then accused Reid of calling the two women liars.
Brown said in an email Tuesday night, "I was offended when Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to attack the character of Helen and Donna, who like millions of other Americans, were innocent victims of Obamacare's disastrous consequences. Even more outrageous was Senator Shaheen's deafening silence and her unwillingness to stand up for her constituents who were being unfairly smeared.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't all that surprising, as Senator Shaheen has consistently and reliably put the interests of liberal party leaders in Washington ahead of New Hampshire families, especially when she cast the deciding vote that made Obamacare the law of the land."
(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)
MONDAY MARCH 3: ANOTHER RESOLUTION PASSED. The Merrimack County Republican Committee Monday night unanimously passed a resolution opposing the bipartisan compromise health coverage expansion plan contained in Senate Bill 413.
Opponents call it "Medicaid expansion." Proponents are now calling it the "New Hampshire Health Protection Program."
The vote came after state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley spoke in favor of the bill and Charles Arlinghaus of the Josiah Center for Public Policy and Greg Moore of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire spoke against the bill and in favor of the resolution opposing it.
The lengthy resolution says in part that "Medicaid expansion will eventually place enormous pressure on our state budget," and that the state Republican Party platform "clearly opposes" the Affordable Care Act."
Merrimack County's GOP joined the Strafford and Rockingham counties' Republican committees and several local committees in resolutions opposing Senate Bill 413, which is scheduled to be voted on by the state Senate on Thursday.
Regardless of the local opposition, the bill is expected to pass the Senate.
(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)
MONDAY, MARCH 3: MAGGIE FOR MIKE; KELLY FOR JOE. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte are taking sides in next week's special election for the District 1 Executive Council seat, but it appears Hassan is taking a more active role, at least so far.
Hassan and Ayotte, of course, are among the leaders of their respective parties in New Hampshire, but Hassan, being governor, has a direct interest in who serves beside her on the five-member Executive Council, which currently has three Democrats and one Republican. Hassan is viewed as a potential challenger to Ayotte in 2016.
Monday, Hassan's campaign organization sent an email to supporters asking for contributions to Cryans' campaign against Republican former state Sen. Joe Kenney in the March 11 election to succeed the late Raymond Burton.
And in doing so, she took aim at Kenney, writing, "Mike's opponent has become synonymous with the Tea Party agenda in New Hampshire. In my time in the (state) Senate, he stood for obstructing progress, voting to defund Planned Parenthood and blocking access to basic health services for women. And now he's vowed to do it again if he wins on March 11."
Hassan will continue her active support of Cryans Tuesday by campaigning with him at the Lakes Region Community College in Laconia.
Ayotte, according to a senior Republican, "supports Joe Kenney. He's a good friend. She's pleased that many of her supporters have been working hard for Joe, and she's helping to support his campaign with a $1,000 donation."
Kenney is also getting some help from the state Republican Party in the form of two mailers. The second mailer should be arriving in District 1 mailboxes any day now.
Cryans has the support of former Gov. John Lynch, who recently donated $500 to his campaign. And last Thursday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spoke at a Cryans event in Plymouth.
Responding to Hassan's criticism of Kenney, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn called Cryans "a typical tax-and-spend liberal who supports ObamaCare even though its forcing North Country residents to lose their doctors and hospitals.
"Governor Hassan is desperate to get Mike Cryans elected because she knows that will be a reliable vote for more reckless spending that will result in higher taxes for middle class families. Joe Kenney has consistently fought for responsible budgets, and he will serve as an independent voice and a strong advocate for taxpayers as the next Executive Councilor from District 1," Horn said.
Meanwhile, Cryans today picked up the endorsement of Republican former U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff of Jackson, who represented the 1st Congressional District from 1991 through 1996.
In a statement released by the Cryans campaign, Zeliff said Cryans and the late Burton "are men cut from the same cloth who share many of the same qualities. Just like Ray, Mike is a good listener, a gentleman and he has worked and lived in the North Country his entire life."
(The full Sunday, March 2, Granite Status follows.)
SUNDAY, March2: ENCOURAGEMENT. Two weeks ago, this column broke the news that former BAE Systems President Walt Havenstein of Alton was in the early stages of weighing a run for governor.
Since then, he's spoken to two dozen or so top Republicans and has received encouragement.
Havenstein reached out to Sen. Kelly Ayotte and they have spoken, according to a senior state Republican.
"She is certainly familiar with his impressive background," this Republican said, "and she respects that he will make the decision in his own time frame."
He's also spoken to 2010 GOP candidate for governor John Stephen and either has reached out, or intends to reach out, to former Govs. John H. Sununu, Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, as well as former Gov. and Sen. Judd Gregg.
Havenstein has no specific timetable but, we're told, realizes that time is short for anyone to begin mounting a strong campaign against incumbent Gov. Maggie Hassan - especially someone who would be putting his name before voters for the first time.Jamie Burnett of Profile Strategies, a former aide to former Sen. John E. Sununu and Gregg, confirmed Friday he is helping Havenstein on an informal basis.
The GOP thinking is that 2014 may be a better year for strong challenger to Hassan than 2016, even if Hassan at that time runs for the U.S. Senate against Ayotte.
It may be a Republican year nationally, and in 2016, it's likely that Hillary Clinton will be topping the Democratic ticket and will be extremely difficult to beat in this state, which has long been "Clinton Country."
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EFFECTIVE LEGISLATORS. The nonprofit Live Free or Die Alliance is known among lawmakers and political activists as a producer of nonpartisan, straightforward information about big and small state issues.
Its latest project is the "Effective Legislator Initiative," in which state lawmakers will be rated on non-political criteria such as ethics, constituent service and outreach, attendance and participation in voting.
Attendance and participation in voting will be easy to measure.
Ethics will take into account how many, if any, complaints have been filed against each lawmaker at the Legislative Ethics Committee.
Constituent service and outreach will consider each lawmaker's accessibility - that is, what kind of contact information they provide on their legislative website, and how often they communicate with their constituents by holding forums, town halls and other public events or by writing opinion pieces on issues in statewide or local media.
Alliance questionnaires have recently been sent to all state lawmakers trying to establish "their transparency to constituents." The group will also research each legislator's voting record to determine whether the legislator voted on key issues."
The alliance sought advice from key lawmakers, including 12-term Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, who called it "a well-intentioned program with potential for making a meaningful contribution to the political process in New Hampshire."
He said he believed one unwritten goal of the program "is to soften the rhetoric and perhaps reduce the partisanship that has infiltrated state politics.''
But Hess said, "Frankly, how you measure some of these things can be a problem."
Regarding attendance and voting, "most of us stopped worrying about getting gold stars in kindergarten," he said. "You have to keep in mind the longer you're in Concord, the more cognizant you are of what's important and requires your attention.
"So, if you happen to miss one roll call on a consent calendar (which can include dozens of bills), your voting participation can plummet," Hess said.
Hess said he hopes the alliance asks legislators to identify "who they believe is the most influential and respected member of their own party and the most influential and respected member of the other party.''
"That will tell you who is viewed as effective and with respect among their peers," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said that overall, the Live Free or Die Alliance has "done a good job of creating their town hall forum that allows people to weigh in on different issues."
He said he appreciates the group's "fact-based" approach to presenting arguments on both sides of issues and also said he supports its new initiative.
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HUCKABEE WAS HERE. It remains to be seen whether he'll run again for President in 2016, but former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is making the rounds in key states - now including New Hampshire.
Huckabee slipped in and out of the first-primary state Friday and spent about 90 minutes meeting with a handful of top members of his 2007-08 "band."
The meeting took place in Manchester, shortly before Huckabee appeared at a meeting of the American Renewal Project, a national group that encourages conservative pastors to become more involved in politics.
Huckabee has spoken to chapters of the pastors group in other states, and he has separately met with small groups of supporters and business leaders in fellow early-voting states Iowa and South Carolina.
Friday's meeting included only Huckabee and the inner circle from his 2007-08 presidential run in the Granite State. He finished a strong third in that primary behind John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Deb Vander Beek, his state campaign manager seven years ago, said she and Huckabee were joined by fellow top Granite State Huckabee campaign advisers and staffers, including Bob Clegg, Cliff Hurst and Periklis Karoutas.
Given Huckabee's strong showing in national and some early state polls, she said, "we are of course encouraging him to run again."
Vander Beek said Huckabee "has made it clear he's not made any decision about the race, but we thought this was a good time to talk to him about it.''
"It's been seven years, and I don't think a week goes by where I don't talk to somebody who wants to know if the governor will run again."
While Vander Beek was reluctant to speculate on Huckabee's plans, his close national adviser, Hogan Gidley, told CNN in December he believes Huckabee is more serious about running than he was four years ago.
Vander Beek added, "We wanted to let him know that he has a lot of fans in New Hampshire. He made it clear he's listening to and talking to people, but as for his thinking, I just don't know."
Huckabee will return to the state on April 12 to appear at the "Freedom Summit" organized by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United.
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DEAN HELPING CAROL. Howard Dean will return to New Hampshire to help his old friend, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Dean will be featured at a fundraiser at a private home in Stratham on April 5.
Dean, of course, is the Democratic former Vermont governor who went on to run for President in 2004, finishing behind John Kerry in the New Hampshire Primary.
He then served as Democratic National Committee chairman from 2005 to 2009.
Shea-Porter in 2012 was named a member of the "Dean Dozen," a group of 12 Democratic U.S. House candidates endorsed by Dean's Democracy for America.
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GOP'S CONFERENCE UPDATE. The state GOP has confirmed a new speaker for its Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua on March 14 and 15.
Richard Tisei is an openly gay candidate for the Massachusetts congressional seat now held by Democratic Rep. John Tierney.
The state GOP says the goal of this major event is to talk about broadening the base and overall attraction of the party heading into the mid-term and 2016 presidential elections.
Disclosure of Tisei's appearance comes after the party was criticized by prominent GOP gay rights activist Tyler Deaton for inviting to the event former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has voiced anti-gay sentiments in the past.
Tisei served in the Massachusetts Legislature for 26 years, including as Republican leader of the state Senate, and was Charles Baker's running mate and candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. Just prior to being picked by Baker, he announced that he is gay.
In 2012, Tisei was the GOP nominee for the state's 6th District U.S. House seat and lost to Tierney by about 3,500 votes out of nearly 375,000 cast.
Meanwhile, the party says the aforementioned Havenstein and his wife, Judy, have signed on as $5,000 event sponsors for the conference, prompting praise from party Chairman Jennifer Horn.
A sampling of other sponsors includes announced U.S. Senate candidates Jim Rubens and Bob Smith, possible Senate candidate Scott Brown, the New Jersey and New York Republican parties, Purple Strategies, the Heritage Foundation and state Senate President Chuck Morse.
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MEDICAID EXPANSION. It's an uphill battle, but state and even national groups are now working the phones and sending emails in opposition to the health insurance (Medicaid) expansion to be voted on and probably passed by the state Senate on Thursday.
Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire has been making paid calls to Granite Staters, connecting them to their state senators.
Washington-based Freedom Works has its own initiative under way, with emails complete with links where one can "log a call" to Republican Sens. Bradley, David Boutin, Jeanie Forrester, Jim Rausch and Nancy Stiles.
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ANTI-BROWN BUY. A new $25,000 radio ad buy by the pro-environmental group Ocean Champions, up statewide in the past several days, portrays Brown as "one of Big Oil's biggest advocates" and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as "a senator who works for us."
John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter:@jdistaso.