By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
CONCORD — Filing for a second term representing New Hampshire on Capitol Hill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Monday stood by her support for the Affordable Care Act, but also noted that President Barack Obama “is not on the ballot” in New Hampshire.
Shaheen, accompanied by her husband, Bill, and their three daughters – Stefany, Stacey and Molly – walked into the Secretary of State’s Office shortly after 11 a.m. Monday and filed the necessary paperwork making her an official candidate for reelection. A large crowd of supporters lined the second floor State House hallway and stood in front of the building, chanting her name, and, “Six more years!”
A group of Republican protesters also appeared, carrying signs supporting Republican Senate candidates as well as signs trying to tie Democrat Shaheen to Obama.
The state Republican Party released a video criticizing her support for what it called “a national energy tax” through her votes for a carbon tax in 2013 and her participation with other freshman Democrats in a 2010 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The letter called for “a comprehensive solution” to the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels “that includes making polluters pay through a price on greenhouse gas emissions.”
After winning her first term in the Senate at least partially on the strength of Obama’s strong victory in the Granite State, Shaheen now finds herself with what appears at this juncture to be a more difficult challenge – running in a midterm election in the second term of a President whose popularity, by all objective measures, has fallen considerably in recent years.
And Shaheen, also by objective measures, has voted with Obama 99 percent of the time.
“I vote with the President when I agree with him and vote against him when I disagree with him,” said Shaheen. She noted she was one of nine Democratic senators who opposed the bank bailout bill.
Although she was not in the Senate when the original Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bill passed in the fall of 2008, she did vote in favor of a resolution that would have blocked the disbursement of the second half of the TARP funds, a total of $350 billion, in January 2009. The effort to block the funds failed and the funds were released.
She said she also disagrees with Obama on the imposition of an internet sales tax and military base closures.
“No one is right 99 percent of the time,” Shaheen said.
She also indicated that Obama’s popularity – or lack thereof – will not affect her chances.
“I think people are going to make their decisions based on whose name is on the ballot,” she said. “President Obama is not on the ballot. This is about who is going to best represent the voters of New Hampshire in Washington.
“I’m going to be down in Washington fighting for New Hampshire every single day, and we haven’t heard that from our opponents,” she said.
“I think people in New Hampshire want a senator who’s going to work for them, every day of the week – twenty-four, seven – who’s going to do what we need to do to insure that people in this state have good jobs, to make sure that people have access to quality health care” and to “protect our environment” and “invest in our infrastructure.”
She noted the opening of the Berlin federal prison and the construction of the Jobs Corps Center in Manchester occurred on her watch, saying she wants to “make sure everything we do is focused on New Hampshire.”
While stressing what she views as local accomplishments, Shaheen also did not shy away from her support for the ACA. She said she will “absolutely” campaign on the law.
“I have spent my whole career – whether it was in the state Senate, as governor, and now in the United States Senate, working to make sure people in New Hampshire and throughout this country have access to quality, affordable health care.
“And the Affordable Care Act is doing that for thousands of people,” Shaheen said.
She noted that more than 40,000 Granite Staters “have enrolled…one of the highest enrollment percentages in the country.
“Now, are there things that need to be fixed about this law? Sure. I said that from the very beginning and I’ve been working on it,” she said. “But the critics want to repeal it and they don’t have anything to replace it with.”
Shaheen said critics “want to take us back to a time when health insurance companies decided whether people got health care or not.” She also praised the Medicaid expansion bill passed into law during the current session.
Republicans pounded on what they called the “Shaheen national energy tax.”
“If elected to a second term, Senator Shaheen will stop at nothing to raise energy prices for New Hampshire families and small businesses,” said NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn. “With gas prices soaring and the summer tourism season upon us, New Hampshire simply cannot afford Senator Shaheen’s new national tax on energy that will kill jobs.”
The GOP cited an analysis released several years ago by the National Association of Manufacturers that a carbon tax could significantly hike the price of gasoline, electricity rates and a loss of “worker income equivalent to “7,000 to 10,000 jobs in 2013 and 10,000 by 2023.”
The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, continued to focus on the questions surrounding Brown’s involvement with Global Digital Solutions, Inc., a Florida firm from which Brown resigned his role as an advisor and gave up his stock last week after he filed for the Senate.
“There are very serious questions surrounding Scott Brown’s role in this shady company and those questions get more serious by the day as new information about wrongdoing continues to emerge,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Julie McClain. “If Scott Brown has nothing to hide, he should come forward, answering these serious questions, and release his personal financial disclosure form.” Brown has sought and received an extension on the release of the form until August, although he is free to file it and make it public before then.
Shaheen, 67, has been involved in Democratic politics at least since 1980, when she ran President Jimmy Carter’s New Hampshire primary campaign. She also worked on the campaign of Gary Hart when he won the primary ion 1984.
She was a state senator in the early 1990s before being elected governor in 1996, and she easily won reelection in 1998 and 2000.
She lost to John E. Sununu in her first U.S. Senate bid in 2002, and then, after a stint as Director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, defeated Sununu in a rematch in 2008.
“It never gets old,” she said of running again for office. “This is democracy. This is what the United States is all about.”
Shortly after Shaheen’s filing, GOP candidate for the Senate Scott Brown said:
“I look forward to debating the issues with Senator Shaheen. While we have our differences, I respect her as a person and as a public servant. I also agree with her that no one is right 99 percent of the time, as she said today in reference to President Obama. One of the important questions for people to consider in this race is who is more likely to tell the President when he’s wrong – me, or Senator Shaheen, who votes with him 99 percent of the time.”