Reverberations from the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District were felt in New Hampshire on Wednesday, as both Democrats and Republicans claimed that Cantor’s loss in the GOP primary would work to their benefit.
The New York Times called it “one of the most stunning primary election upsets in Congressional history,” as the leader of House Republicans was soundly defeated by a little known economics professor who was applauded by the Tea Party, but not financed by it.Dave Brat won by hammering on Cantor as not conservative enough, particularly on the hot-button issue of immigration. It didn’t help that Cantor had a poor reputation for constituent services.
“Obviously, it was a stunning development,” said Greg Moore, New Hampshire state director for Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates for conservative policies. “I don’t think anyone was prepared to turn on the TV and hear that Eric Cantor lost in the primary.”
It takes a special dynamic for such an outcome, said Moore. The incumbent has to have done something to alienate the base, and has to be in a one-on-one challenge in the primary so that opposition is not diluted.
Those factors were in play in Virginia, and arguably in New Hampshire, where incumbent Republican State Sens. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, and Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, are facing primary challenges from the right.
They voted for New Hampshire’s version of Medicaid expansion, which in the minds of some conservatives was a vote for a component of Obamacare.
“That is something they are going to have to spend a lot of time explaining to their base voters,” said Moore, whose organization opposed Medicaid expansion.
“The fundamental takeaway from the Cantor results are that you can’t break faith with your base, particularly among conservatives, and expect them not to hold it against you and to not take action,” he said.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley had a slightly different spin:
“Tonight’s results out of Virginia confirm what we all know: Today’s GOP is the party of the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party,” he said. “This foreshadows bad news for Scott Brown (in the primary for U.S. Senate) and Walt Havenstein (in the primary for governor), who will have to spend the next few months pandering to the Tea Party in order to advance their primary politics, all the while leaving them poorly positioned for November.”
Filing en masse
Buckley had predicted a few weeks ago that Democrats would field candidates in all 24 state Senate districts, and in what the party called “a display of unity and enthusiasm,” 21 of them filed their candidacy for state Senate as a group at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
The party press release said 22 would file simultaneously, but District 1 Democrat Jeff Woodburn was among the first to file when the filing period opened on June 4. He was on hand Wednesday, however, to show his support.
As of the end of the day, the Democrats had yet to field candidates to challenge two incumbent Republicans — Chuck Morse of Salem, Senate President, and Dave Boutin of Hooksett, although Democratic filings are expected in those districts before the period closes on Friday.
Only one Democrat filed in District 15, where former Senate President Sylvia Larsen of Concord served for 20 years. A contested primary was expected in the heavily Democratic district. Larsen’s endorsement of Concord School Board member Kass Ardinger appears to have diminished but not eliminated that possibility.
House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, made it clear when he filed for reelection on Wednesday that former Republican House Speaker Bill O’Brien will not have an unfettered path to the podium should Republicans regain control of the House in the fall.
“Today I am announcing that if I am fortunate enough to be reelected in my House district, I will be a candidate for Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives,” Chandler said.
“I believe that my history of leadership positions in the House during my many years serving under and with a number of different speakers uniquely qualifies me for the position of speaker.”
Chandler, who has served 12, two-year terms, said many supporters have urged him to run for the speakership since O’Brien announced his intentions to run again for the House and for House Speaker if elected.
While serving as House Speaker from 2001 until 2004, Chandler struck a more moderate tone than O’Brien, whose term became synonymous with bare-fisted, belicose politics.
Fast and furious
The Andrew Hemingway campaign was a little too anxious for a “gotcha” on Gov. Maggie Hassan, as the Republican candidate in the GOP gubernatorial primary issued a news release on Monday claiming that “Governor Hassan is today again violating her own travel ban by attending her campaign fundraiser in Washington with Joe Biden, and a taxpayer-funded N.H. state trooper.”
Hemingway was sufficiently indignant as he blended a legitimate controversy about the governor’s trade mission to Turkey with a fabricated one about the fundraiser in Washington.
“She shouldn’t be going on a junket to Turkey and she shouldn’t be spending taxpayer dollars on her campaign activities,” he said.
What was the evidence for such a serious charge?
“In a call to her office this morning, Governor Hassan’s team refused to confirm whether a New Hampshire state trooper was actually travelling with her or who was footing the bill for such travel and referred us to another staff member who has not responded,” the news release stated. “Such a refusal can only confirm the fact that indeed a taxpayer-funded New Hampshire state trooper is in D.C. so Governor Hassan can raise money.” Fact-check fundamental: A source’s failure to respond in a timely fashion does not confirm the thesis.
The governor’s press secretary and her campaign manager both responded within minutes to an email from Granite Status, stating that travel costs for the governor and her security detail were paid for from campaign funds. No telling why they didn’t get back to the Hemingway campaign so quickly.