Out-of-State Contributions, Politician Visits Are the Norm in the NH Senate Race

Both the New Hampshire Republican and Democratic parties held their Unity Breakfasts this week, but one of them stood out for its headliner act.

The NHGOP had former presidential candidate Chris Christie as their main speaker on Wednesday after the primaries, which immediately led to criticism from the Democrats, who didn’t want a big name out-of-stater at their event.

“We’ve never had the need to bring someone from out of state for New Hampshire Democrats to unite,” said NHDP Chairman Raymond Buckley to WMUR. “It’s telling that the NHGOP is so desperate that they’re welcoming the nation’s most unpopular governor.”

The Donald Trump campaign helped arrange Christie’s visit. Christie is now head of Trump’s transition team and it was his first time returning to the Granite State since he finished sixth in the primary with only 7 percent of the votes. He dropped out of the race the day after the NH primary and a couple weeks later, he endorsed Trump — one of the first presidential candidates to do so.

“Part of what Republicans are thinking [of bringing Christie back] is that they want to show unity and there has been some divisions in some of the primaries,” said Joseph Bafumi, professor of government at Dartmouth College. “Bringing in someone who can appeal to Main Street Republicans and was a big endorser of Trump after he dropped out, so they can bring in the new people that Trump is bringing into the political process, might be a good way to show unity for them.”

This isn’t the first time that an out-of-state politician has come to New Hampshire to stump for someone else and it certainly won’t be the last. And while there have been a lot of out-of-state Republicans coming to stump for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Gov. Maggie Hassan, some of the gubernatorial candidates and Trump, Democrats have also had their fair share of out-of-staters.

“I think each side is going to do what they can to attack each other and try to make the other look negative in any sense,” Bafumi said. “I suspect that his [Christie’s] visit isn’t going to be a huge boost for Republicans and it’s not going to hurt much either because of Democratic attacks. It’s mostly going to be ignored.”

For the New Hampshire Senate race, one of the most-watched races in the country filled with a lot of outside spending and negative attack ads, each candidate has tried to pin each other to their out-of-state guests and ultimately, to the nominee at the top of their ticket.

Bafumi said when an outside politician comes to stump for them, it is usually a positive event.

“It gives them additional and free media coverage and the free media coverage is often in a positive light,” he said. “It’s a photo opportunity of an event that has supporters and it’s usually more of a story about the event or competition, and that’s usually much more favorable.”

Recently, Ayotte brought U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to the state for a couple of days of campaigning. They had several events, but two of them were held at a barn or farm center.

“By bringing in someone from out of state, a candidate can also be associating themselves with something they stand for,” Bafumi said. “Ayotte and Ernst visited a farm and talked about the things that Ernst would have expertise on. They are able to highlight issues that are strengths of the person who comes to visit and make them [the candidate] look strong as well.”

But, the NHDP used the visit as an attempt to slam Ayotte for missing several of her Homeland Security hearings. When Ernst was running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, she repeatedly criticized her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley, for missing hearings on Capitol Hill.

“Senator Ernst and I do not agree on much, but I’m heartened that she agrees with me on the importance of attending congressional hearings–like the Homeland Security hearings Kelly Ayotte has so frequently skipped,” Buckley said in a statement. “In the homestretch of this election, the New Hampshire Democratic Party intends to make sure that all voters know Kelly Ayotte’s real record of failing to fight for the people of the Granite State in Washington.”

Bafumi said he doesn’t think the attacks hurt or help a candidate that much in the voter’s eye.

“Voters don’t mind [out-of-state stumping] in any sense and I think it can work as a public relations move,” he said. “It’s more problematic when candidates seem to get a lot of money from out-of-state candidates though.”

Out-of-state contributions could put a sour taste in voter’s mouths. That’s something Hassan has been attacked for in the past. The day after she filed her papers to run for Senate, she traveled out of state for three fundraisers in New York, something the Ayotte campaign continues to point out.

Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., started fundraising for Hassan in 2015, asking her supporters to help in the race, and Hollywood director and producer JJ Abrams in California gave money to Hassan.

Hassan isn’t the only one benefitting from out-of-state contributions. Ayotte is as well, and in fact, she has received more money from people not in New Hampshire.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ayotte leads Hassan for in-state contributions, 23 percent to 19 percent of their total haul, or $2.3 million to $1.2 million. But Ayotte also has the most contributions from out of the state, even though her percentage is higher, 77 percent to Hassan’s 81 percent, or $7.8 million to $5.5 million, respectively.

These numbers aren’t that surprising in a tight race like this. In the 2014 midterm elections between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown, Shaheen had 75 percent come from out-of-state donors and Brown had 87 percent.

A lot of Joint Fundraising Committees for various Senate candidate have also raised funds for Ayotte and Hassan. Some of Ayotte’s include Winning Women 2016 and the Ayotte-Portman-Thune Committee. Hassan has Bring Back Sense to the Senate 2016 and the Silicon Valley Victory 2016 group.

The number of out-of-state politicians is expected to continue and increase as the general election in November draws closer. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is headlining the Strafford County GOP’s Barbecue and Beer Bash on Saturday for Trump, and Christie said he would be coming back to the Granite State to campaign for Trump and Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Sununu.

Warren is expected to return to New Hampshire on Sept. 24 to campaign for Hillary Clinton. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., appeared at a Labor Day breakfast hosted by the NH AFL-CIO and an organizing rally for Clinton and down-ticket Democrats. Although Sanders has not campaigned with Hassan yet this election cycle, he did mention his endorsement of the governor in his speech.

“I think the bigger name folks are going to garner more publicity and media attention,” Bafumi said. “Warren is known for her bashing of Wall Street, and so people can associate Hassan and her being together on that. It’s harder for someone like Ernst, who some people know, and communicate that Ayotte and her have the same strengths. Those bigger name folks can be more effective, but I also don’t think mentioning someone in a speech is also going to do a lot for them.”

Author: Kyle Plantz

Kyle Plantz is a reporter with NH Journal.

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