By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
TUESDAY, JUNE 3: LAURIE’S IN. After telling Granite Reports last Friday that she would not necessarily back former Speaker Bill O’Brien for Speaker if the GOP regains control of the House in November, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford today took the next step and announced her candidacy for the top post.
It depends on whether the GOP wins the House, of course, and the Democrats will have their own contest on who will lead their caucus now that Speaker Terie Norelli has decided not to seek reelection.
Sanborn told us last Friday that for the past several months “my phone has been ringing off the hook” with people encouraging her to run.
Today, she said in a statement that Republicans “are looking for a new face, new leadership and new energy to lead the NH House and the party.
“Current and past Representatives, as well as committed Republican activists, have been reaching out to me and asking me to consider leading the House forward. Seeing such strong support, I have decided to announce my intent to run for Speaker.”
Sanborn said she is “grounded in Republican principles, have a positive vision for this state and am an effective leader who can bring people together to solve problems….As we look towards 2014 and beyond, it’s time for a new conservative leader who has demonstrated the skills, leadership and presence to bring our party together.”
Sanborn is the House Republican Policy Leader, the third-ranking member of the GOP caucus. She created the House Business Caucus in her first term.
Sanborn represents Hillsborough 41, the towns of Bedford and Amherst.
See our earlier reports below and elsewhere on the New Hampshire Journal on O’Brien’s decision to run again for the House and speaker.
(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)
SATURDAY MAY 31: A TWEAK. We won’t call it a shakeup because no proverbial heads are rolling.
We’ll call it an adjustment. A tweak. Some call it a “re-focusing.”
Republicans won’t say so publicly, but, in case you’ve been out of the country for a while, there has been growing frustration in the party over the Walt Havenstein for Governor campaign.
It’s all about addressing the tough time the candidate and his operation have had in bringing the fight aggressively, clearly – and without mistakes — to Gov. Maggie Hassan. Let alone to primary challenger Andrew Hemingway, whom they had better take seriously.
And then there’s been a perceived (fairly or unfairly) lack of presentation of clear policy alternatives to Hassan’s ideas. Beyond that, there has been the “caught on camera” Havenstein dissing of Department of Resources and Economic Development Director Jeffrey Rose, his weak explanation for it, and his lack of understanding of how the constitutional amendment process works at the State House.
According to sources close to the campaign, until the past week, there had been — in reality if not on paper — a shared leadership arrangement among campaign manager Matt Seaholm, an import from the Scott Walker wars of Wisconsin, and veteran New Hampshire political strategists Jamie Burnett and James Sununu of the Profile Strategy Group.
But after several weeks of difficulty, in the past week, a shift has brought Seaholm to the forefront as the clear manager of the campaign – not only in title but now in practice. Burnett and Sununu remain on board in key advisory roles, but Seaholm (and the candidate himself, of course) have the final word.
Communications director Henry Goodwin remains on board working closely with Seaholm.
A source close to these developments says it is Havenstein’s style to have stayed with the Granite Staters he knew very well for advice and guidance. And while those Granite Staters, Burnett and Sununu, remain important players in the campaign, the idea now is to allow Seaholm to show his stuff and work as he did in Wisconsin in promoting Gov. Walker’s agenda.
As we’ve reported, Seaholm has close ties Walker, who is frequently mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, and Walker’s advisers.
Seaholm is the former national field director of the conservative issues advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, but at least equally significant is his prior role as the Wisconsin state director for AFP.
In that post, he was a major supporter of Walker and his budget reform plan, known as Act 10. Seaholm’s activities included organizing successful rallies and bus tours for the Walker agenda.
Sources say that in the “natural progression” of a campaign, with Seaholm now adapted to the Granite State and with a vote of confidence, there will be increasing activity evident.
His focus will go beyond the day-to-day operations and become more about a pro-active, and not solely reactionary, plan.
There is still plenty of time for the Havenstein campaign to gain its footing. And it still has friends influential places, such as former Govs. Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, who despite rumors to the contrary, remain strong Havenstein supporters.
It’s also true that the governor’s race overall has been getting overshadowed in a big way by the U.S. Senate race. It will be up to Havenstein and company to start getting noticed if they want to win a tough primary and mount a strong challenge to the popular incumbent.
Republicans will be watching and hoping that this “tweak” — or re-focusing — will be what’s needed to ignite the fire that’s so far been lacking in “Walt for NH.”
THE GAMBLING ISSUE: LAMBERT VS. GARCIA . The Town of Salem, the issue of expanded gambling and the 2nd District U.S. House GOP primary will all be in focus on Monday as two news conferences are planned by proponents and opponents of casinos.
It was reported more than a week ago that a group of Salem state lawmakers who back a casino for their plan a news conference to endorse Gary Lambert for the U.S. House seat over their own Marilinda Garcia.
Lambert is a supporter of casinos and Garcia is one of only three state lawmakers from the town who opposes it. Her vote of course was vital in the 173-172 defeat of the gambling bill on April 30.
We’ve now learned that the group Casino Free NH is organizing a follow up news conference in Concord to come to Garcia’s defense.
Concord Republican Steve Duprey says he will be there, along with other members of the coalition.
As the Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire, Duprey is prohibited from endorsing in a primary and says there will be no endorsement of Garcia offered.
But after hearing of the Salem news conference, “I contacted the coalition and I think it’s incumbent on us, whether you’re a Democrat who may be backing Annie Kuster or me, to come out and publicly thank Marilinda for her willingness to stand tall in the face of extraordinary pressure.”
He said her position “is not only right for New Hampshire but right for Salem. It may not be popular right now but this would be bad for all of the state.
“Our only point will be that if you agree with her politically or not, that kind of independence and willingness to do sometimes unpopular things should be applauded.”
ON THE ROAD. Duprey, by the way, is a among the eight members of the Site Selection Committee of the Republican National Committee for the 2016 national convention. He’s about to join the other committee members on a two-week trip to the four finalist cities: Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver and Dallas.
THE O’BRIEN DECISION.THE SANBORN DECISION. State Rep. Bill O’Brien’s decision to run again for the House and to bid for a return to the Speaker’s post if the Republicans win the majority has Democrats in a kind of celebratory mood.
Viewing O’Brien as polarizing and radical, they had lost perhaps their top foil when he decided last summer not to seek reelection. Well, he’s back.
“Who is more excited at Bill O’Brien’s announcing NH house speaker race, Republican or Democratic candidates?” tweeted Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan.
“It’s ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ all in one!” tweeted the Brookline Democrats.
“Run Bill Run!” tweeted another Democratic activist.
O’Brien, however, is shrugging aside any criticism, saying, it is “the last gasp of a dying liberal philosophy.”
He also says he has the support of some GOP lawmakers who had been considering running for Speaker if he were not in the picture, including, he said, his former Deputy Speaker, Pam Tucker, and Rep. Carol McGuire.
But one legislator and ally of O’Brien has not ruled out running for Speaker, even if O’Brien does – Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford.
“The last several months a lot of people have been encouraging me to run for speaker,” Sanborn told Granite Reports. “Today (Friday, following the O’Brien announcement), my phone has been ringing off the hook and people have been kind enough to tell me that I have an ability to bring people together and that I have a positive vision for the Republican Party.”
But she said that at the moment she is focused on getting Republicans, including herself, elected to the House so that this discussion actually means something come December, when House leaders are chosen.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” Sanborn said. “It has really been nice to have so many people calling me.”
AND ABOUT PERRY… Sanborn was also in a group of 13 Granite State VIPs who traveled to Texas this week to speak with Gov. Rick Perry, who is thinking of running again for President in 2016.
Sanborn, who was Newt Gingrich’s state campaign chair in the 2012 presidential primary, said, “I’ll accept any invitation from a candidate who is interested in New Hampshire and takes us seriously and takes our first-in-the-nation status seriously. He is focused on economic development and my focus has been on how to create jobs.”
Sanborn said Perry did bring up that he “experienced some challenges” overcoming the stigma of his poor showing in 2012.
“He did mention that he had had back surgery shortly before running and that he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been.”
THE RUBENS ENDORSEMENT. There will be more to the Republican Liberty Caucus endorsement of U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rubens than a get-out-the-vote effort on his behalf in the GOP primary, although that alone will be helpful to the candidate.’
According to a statement we received Friday from RLCNH chairman Aaron Day (entitled, “Scott Brown in Trouble; Leading Pro-Liberty Group Endorses Jim Rubens”), Rubens is now qualified “to be eligible for receipt of RLC-USA PAC funds.”
That may mean something in this cycle. But then again, according to OpenSecret.org, the web site of the Center for Responsive Politics,” in the 2012 cycle, the Republican Liberty Federal Campaign Fund raised a grand total of $14,007 and spent $13,339. And so far in the current cycle it’s raised $12,689 and spent $11,647.
The endorsement by a liberty group such as the RLC of Rubens continues to have some Republicans scratching their heads.
Our story on the endorsement, elsewhere on NHJournal.com, aired out the differences between Rubens and the group on the source of climate change and on the financing of campaigns (Rubens is for campaign finance reform and a voluntary system of public financing).
It also noted that Rubens dropped his support for a carbon tax, believing it is a “non-starter” in Congress.
He would not specifically say at his Thursday press conference if the change was related to the RLC backing.
Rubens has not promoted cap-and-trade in the current campaign, but back in 2008 he argued in an opinion piece that “a well-designed cap-and-trade system has an important advantage over a carbon tax. The cap would set the pollution reduction target we need.”
Rubens in 2010 co-authored an opinion piece that defended then U.S. Senate candate Paul Hodes for supporting a bill promoting clean alternative energy.
In the piece, Rubens does say that he endorsed Hodes’ opponent, Kelly Ayotte (he was a town chair for her campaign, in fact), but he wrote that the attacks on Hodes by the pro-fossil fuel American Action Network were unfair.
Times change, candidates change, people change. And the evolution of Rubens is always an interesting topic of New Hampshire political discourse.
_ Businessman Fred Tausch is hosting a “Lobster Bake” meet-and-greet for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown Sunday at his Merrimack home. Also appearing will be Havenstein and 1st District U.S. House candidate Frank Guinta.
_ Rubens rolled out a long list of endorsements this week, headed by Tim Condon of Grafton, Richard Brothers of Sanbornton, Mike Rogers of Hollis, Phil Greazzo of Manchester, Rick Olson of Litchfield and State Reps. Joe Pitre of Farmington and Larry Rappaport of Colebrook.
_ GOP candidate for governor Andrew Hemingway had an interesting idea this week: “Rooms and Meals Tax-Free Holidays.” He calls for one weekend per quarter free of the rooms and meals tax across. “Each weekend would be determined to be the lowest revenue weekend according to an average of the past three years, as determined by the state,” he says.
_ Democratic Nashua Alderman Diane Sheehan is running for the District 5 Executive Council seat being vacated by Debora Pignatelli. She joins fellow Democrat and former state Rep. Jennifer Daler of Temple in an apparent primary race.
_ State Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley endorsed Brown for the Senate earlier this week. He made the announcement on Jack Heath’s talk show on radio station WGIR-AM.
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political columnist/reporter in New Hampshire. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column as news breaks. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)