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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: NH GOP takes aim at Van Ostern with dueling website

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 14. 2018 11:44PM

The office of New Hampshire secretary of state is non-partisan but 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern’s bid to unseat longtime incumbent Bill Gardner (Story, Page A4) has attracted a sharp, partisan response.

Republican State Chairman Jeanie Forrester called Van Ostern’s announcement a “cynical ploy.”

“When Colin Van Ostern announced he wasn’t running for governor, we all assumed he had something cynical and self-serving up his sleeve. No one imagined it would be this cynical and this self-serving,” Forrester said.

“It would be a complete disaster to have a professional political operative who is literally trying to buy the office of secretary of state. New Hampshire would lose our first-in-the-nation prestige and our election integrity would be at risk with a political hack as secretary of state. To maintain election integrity, we must reject Colin Van Ostern’s cynical ploy.”

Van Ostern’s kickoff announcement included a new website,, with a petition asking voters to endorse his reform agenda.

The GOP upped the ante in creating its own web site,, to make the case Van Ostern’s selection would put at risk New Hampshire’s treasured spot on the presidential primary calendar.

“The secretary of state’s office in New Hampshire has never truly been a partisan office in modern times,” the site says. “The secretary ought to be seen as a moderator and manager of our state’s elections and business registrations — not a partisan hack with a very politicized career trajectory.”

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Whitefield said he’s backing Van Ostern because Gardner has systematically supported changes in election laws that would disenfranchise voters — starting with the SB 3 law last year — and by agreeing to serve on Trump’s anti-voter fraud commission.

“They were the final straws. They were one of many,” Woodburn told reporters. “I could list a dozen issues that were fundamentally making it harder to be a voter in New Hampshire.”

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Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley vowed to have the unwelcome mat out for President Trump’s visit to New Hampshire on Monday, which the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Paul Feely first reported Tuesday.

“New Hampshire wants President Trump to visit just as little as Trump wants to come to our ‘drug-infested den’ of a state. Trump has made his middling opinion of New Hampshire clear and so have Granite Staters who have repeatedly given Trump low approval ratings and declared him the most important problem facing America,” Buckley said in a statement.

“This visit reeks of a hollow political stunt designed to help his dismal polling numbers in a crucial swing state. Despite the stated purpose of his visit, this trip is a waste of taxpayer dollars that will bring no serious relief or additional funds to combat the opioid crisis.”

Monday’s visit will put Trump in the first-in-the-nation primary state three days before Vice President Mike Pence is expected to be here for a fundraiser benefiting the reelection of Gov. Chris Sununu.

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Two-time state Senate candidate Steve Kenda of North Hampton has confirmed he’s seriously exploring a challenge of Executive Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Exeter, in District 3.

Kenda has stressed to activists that he’s moved to entering this race due to Prescott’s initial support for raising turnpike tolls and his votes for Planned Parenthood contracts,

“Several prominent Republicans have approached me and suggested I take a serious look at Prescott’s seat. Most are shocked at his recent voting record and are looking for a credible candidate to give voters an alternative,” Kenda said.

“His proposal to increase the tolls hits hard-working folks in New Hampshire right in the wallet. At a time when nationally we are cutting taxes, improving business incentives and creating jobs, Prescott is promoting an indirect tax via a toll road increase and endorsing $4 million rail studies.”

Prescott said he agreed to advance the turnpike toll increase as an item the council should consider before Gov. Sununu blocked it from getting on the council’s agenda.

Kenda has run and lost twice in District 24 of the state Senate, the seat New Castle Republican Dan Innis now holds.

He was recently in the news when Sununu removed him from a commission on Seacoast cancer clusters due to Kenda’s strident opposition to the existence of a CDC-defined cluster of cancers in the region.

“It’s not the first time that politicians have let emotion hold sway over science,” Kenda said.

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Former state Rep. Jane Cormier of Hooksett decided at last weekend’s pro gun rally in Concord to confirm she will seek the GOP nomination to replace Manchester Democrat Chris Pappas, who is running for Congress.

Cormer said she’ll oppose single-source contracts and be an advocate for doing more business with in-state firms.

“It’s New Hampshire first, making sure the business of New Hampshire is done to the benefit of the New Hampshire taxpayer,” Cormier said. Cormier, a social and fiscal conservative, was a past candidate for state Senate, losing a primary to then-Republican State Sen. David Boutin.

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A political action committee supporting young women for higher office endorsed Maura Sullivan’s Democratic bid for the 1st District congressional seat this week.

Women Under 40 Political Action Committee is a non-partisan organization.

“We are proud to endorse Maura Sullivan for Congress,” said Atalie Ebersole, president of WUFPAC. “She is a distinguished veteran and public servant who has honorably served our nation. We are thrilled to support Maura’s effort to bring new leadership to Washington.”

Sullivan maintained that while serving in the military, she walked the walk when it came to women’s issues.

“When I explain to people what it was like to fight in the Defense Department for 12 weeks of maternity leave and extended child care center hours, I think about how important it was to simply be in the room. In advancing policy that supports women, there is no substitute,” Sullivan said.

“The Granite State takes a lot of pride in our all-female, all Democratic delegation and I would be honored to continue their work.”

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Former Manchester alderman and state Rep. Phil Greazzo won a seat on the Bedford Town Council Tuesday. Local Republicans are trying to convince Greazzo to run again for a seat in the New Hampshire House this fall.

Another GOP activist, Harriet Cady, was not as fortunate, coming up short in a bid for one of three seats on the budget committee in her hometown of Deerfield.

As for Democratic activists, state party leaders were celebrating the election of Youth Democratic leaders Molly Cowan as a selectman in Exeter, Vicki Garland to the select board in Bartlett, Kelly Boyer as a selectman in Goffstown, Frank Reeder to the Westmoreland Board of Selectmen and Karen Day to the select board in Greenland.

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First Congressional District Democratic candidate Timothy O’Rourke hosts his first fundraiser at the Revolution Taproom and Grill in Rochester Saturday at noon.

The “Eat, Drink and Vote Irish” event, as the campaign dubs it, highlights O’Rourke’s refusal to take PAC money or “big dollar” donations.

“Our campaign is truly ‘people-powered’ and relies on small-dollar contributions from everyday folks who want to reclaim our nation from the special interests,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

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The final results are in and Keno 603 won big, getting a vote of approval in 80 percent of the 45 towns where it was on local ballots.

New Hampshire Lottery spokesman Maura McCann said voters endorsed the game in 36 towns and rejected it in nine — including Newbury, where it died on a tie vote, 110-110.

Among the votes that endorsed keno, there are 366 eligible bars and restaurants that could offer the game with the approval of management, she said.

There are currently 50 locations in seven New Hampshire cities where you can play Keno 603.

Voting will go on for the rest of this week in most of the 30 other towns that will consider keno. Boscawen put off its vote until March 24.

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Republican congressional candidate Mark Hounsell of Conway is building his 1st District organization.

Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor of Alton has signed on as Belknap County chairman.

Longtime activist and former Mount Washington Valley Republican Committee Chairman Shane McKinney of Albany has agreed to be Hounsell’s Carroll County chairman.

The other GOP hopefuls in this race are state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford and former liquor law enforcement chief Eddie Edwards of Dover.

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The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity is hosting an event next Tuesday at Stark Brewery, 500 Commercial Street, focusing on tax reform entitled “My Crumbs: The American Pay Raise in the Granite State.”

Second District congressional candidates Steve Negron of Nashua and Stewart Levinson of Hopkinton have confirmed they’ll be there, along with 1st District-hopeful Edwards. Second District-hopeful Lynne Blackenbeker and 1st District candidate Sanborn have conflicts.

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The 40th St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser hosted by former state Sen. Bobby Stephen is set for Saturday at Executive Court in Manchester starting at 5 p.m.

Stephen has told friends this event could break the record for ticket sales. Those wanting one at the door will pay $70 apiece for dinner and entertainment.

All proceeds benefit the Stephen Fund for Education that gives 25-to 30 scholarships a year for high school graduates in New Hampshire.

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Maverick U.S. Sen. and possible 2020 presidential candidate Jeff Flake, R-AZ, will speak to Politics and Eggs Friday morning at St. Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Flake is expected to focus on his theme of “country over party” and comes a week after St. A’s released the first results of its new polling unit that found 23 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of President Trump.

The event begins at 8 p.m.

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