What they did on their summer vacations

Shaheen, Hodes get an A for openness

September 19, 2009

Paul Hodes is hiding from constituents, we heard shouted over the August recess. Carol Shea-Porter isn't holding town halls. Judd Gregg announced his only at the last minute. So what were New Hampshire's members of Congress actually doing over break?

The Monitor asked each member for a full schedule of his or her public events over the recess. Here's what we discovered.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen attended 15 public events. She discussed health care reform and took questions from staff and patients at health centers in Colebrook, Keene, Manchester and Newmarket. She met with doctors and researchers at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Spine Center. She participated in panel discussions in Portsmouth and in Portland, Maine, on the financial challenges of small business, which included health care issues. She attended President Obama's town hall meeting. In non-health care events, she participated in the North Country Moose Festival, spoke at a National Guard deployment ceremony, attended Labor Day events in Manchester and Milford, talked about tourism in Meredith and met with staff at the Umbagog Wildlife Refuge.

U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes attended 11 public events. These included one day in which he attended health care forums in Salem, Tilton, Franklin and Nashua, which were open to members and guests of the facilities where he was speaking. He also held a health care forum with the Tilton Rotary, conducted a telephone town hall meet

ing on health care with the AARP and took questions on health care in an open forum at a "clean economy expo" in Concord. He also attended Obama's town hall meeting.

In non-health care events, Hodes hosted a senior issues roundtable, toured projects funded by the stimulus act, toured a child advocacy center and participated in a press conference relating to domestic violence. At the end of August, Hodes also spent significant time with his family, due to his father-in-law's illness and death, said spokesman Mark Bergman.

Sen. Judd Gregg's office declined to release a detailed schedule. According to spokeswoman Laena Fallon, Gregg held the first public health forum of the New Hampshire delegation, which took place at the Salem Senior Center. He also spoke about health care to the Portsmouth Rotary. Otherwise, Fallon said, Gregg "participated in health care forums, attended constituent meetings and met with local businesses in New Hampshire," in addition to participating in press events.

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's office declined to release a detailed schedule. Shea-Porter held two open health care forums, in Manchester and Portsmouth. Otherwise, spokesman Jamie Radice said she "has three offices and staff and maintained her congressional work, along with her outreach, town halls, tele-town halls, radio shows, and television interviews."

Conclusion: We still don't know who wins the health care forum debate. But perhaps more important, Shaheen and Hodes get an A for transparency in public office. Gregg and Shea-Porter don't.

Mahoney's in

The U.S. Senate race for the seat being vacated by Gregg is beginning to take shape.

This week, Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney confirmed that he is "seriously considering" a run, after encouragement from business leaders and conservative activists. Mahoney said he will decide by the end of the year.

"I couldn't sit on the sideline and watch the spending, borrowing and runaway growth in government spending in Washington," Mahoney told the Monitor.

(One of Mahoney's potential Republican rivals, Ovide Lamontagne, has also said he will also make a decision by the end of the year.)

Mahoney, 43, lives in Portsmouth his wife Kirsten and their baby son. Mahoney is president of Millyard Communications, which publishes Business New Hampshire Magazine and produces the Made in New Hampshire Try It and Buy It Expo. Since January 2007, he has been a member of the RNC, where he fought to keep New Hampshire's primary first.

Mahoney said he will represent the principles of "lower government spending, limited government and more personal freedom."

Mahoney has also been named as a possible candidate for governor, and he did not shut the door entirely on moving over to that race. "I'm equally frustrated by the spending and fiscal irresponsibility in Concord as I am with the same dynamics in Washington, but I am focused on running for the U.S. Senate," he said.

Mahoney has not yet filed with the FEC or hired staff.

"If I do decide to get into this race, my campaign would be a grassroots, New Hampshire-focused neighbor-to-neighbor campaign," Mahoney said. "I think Republican grassroots activists deserve the opportunity to choose candidates without the interference of elites in Washington."

Former attorney general Kelly Ayotte has drawn fire for getting fundraising support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (The NRSC has not made an official endorsement.)

In related news, New Hampshire native Neva Foley joined Ayotte's campaign as operations director this week, becoming Ayotte's third full-time campaign staff member. Most recently, Foley worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Foley worked with the state Republicans in 2004, helping both President Bush and Republicans across the state. She worked for the Republican National Committee and was deputy political director for John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008.

As the primary race coalesces, the Washington Post blog The Fix on Friday ranked the New Hampshire Senate seat No. 1 in its list of seats most likely to change parties. Analyst Chris Cillizza wrote, "As Republicans head toward what looks likely to be a confrontational, ideological primary, Rep. Paul Hodes has the Democratic nomination to himself."

New polling

Both sides of the aisle are touting a new Rasmussen poll of 500 likely New Hampshire voters.

On the Republican side, the poll put Ayotte ahead of Hodes in the U.S. Senate race, 46 to 38 percent. Of the respondents, 22 percent had a "very favorable" opinion of Ayotte, while 6 percent viewed her "very unfavorably." Hodes was ranked very favorably by 19 percent and very unfavorably by 23 percent. The margin of error was 4.5 percentage points.

Democrats note that the same poll had good news for Gov. John Lynch: 64 percent approve of the job he's doing as governor and 34 percent disapprove. That makes Lynch more popular than Obama. Exactly half the respondents approved of Obama's performance.

One other interesting note: On health care, New Hampshire citizens were slightly more supportive of Obama's health care plan than voters nationwide. But still, 47 percent said the cost of health care would go up under the plan and only 28 percent believed the quality of health care would improve.

Split allegiances

One interesting divide among supporters in the U.S. Senate race: Concord attorney Susan Duprey, who is Lamontagne's law partner, is co-hosting Lamontagne's birthday party this week. Her husband, developer Steve Duprey, hosted a fundraiser for Ayotte last week and will serve as her finance chair.

"Anybody who knows both Susan and me knows we're different people, and we sometimes in races go different ways," Steve Duprey said.

House races

In the 2nd District U.S. House race, Republican Charlie Bass told Roll Call that he is leaning toward running for his former House seat, which Hodes is vacating to run for Senate. Bass would likely face a Republican primary against Jennifer Horn, the Republican nominee in 2006.

On the Democratic side, Katrina Swett of Bow told NHPoliticalReport that she anticipates setting up an exploratory committee next month to consider a run for Hodes's seat. She would likely run against Ann McLane Kuster and state Rep. John DeJoie.

Kuster just brought on Colin Van Ostern as her campaign manager. Van Ostern was most recently the coordinated campaign director for the state Democrats.

New job

Gregg will take the Senate Banking Committee seat vacated by former Florida senator Mel Martinez, if he is ratified by the Republican conference.

Last year, Gregg helped negotiate the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which gave federal money to help troubled financial institutions. He was nominated to be Obama's commerce secretary but withdrew from consideration.

More new jobs

State Democrats have made a new hire. Derek Richer will become the party's second press secretary and eighth staff member. Richer formerly worked for Penn Schoen, the political consulting firm that worked for Bill Clinton's re-election campaign.

In addition, Joanne Dowdell of Portsmouth, secretary of the state party, was confirmed as a member of the Democratic National Committee.

Cash flow

The Committee to Elect House Democrats will hold a $100-a-head fundraiser Tuesday. State Democratic Party Executive Director Mike Brunelle said it will be the Democrats' first event since they moved into their new building at 105 N. State St. this summer.

Federal money

New Hampshire could soon be getting an influx of federal money. According to Shaheen and Gregg, a defense appropriation bill that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee includes $64 million for work being done by New Hampshire companies.

The two local allocations include $4 million for the New Hampshire National Guard in Concord for a "full cycle deployment program" to help guardsmen, reservists and their families; and $3 million for Nanocomp Technologies in Concord to establish a manufacturing production facility for carbon nanotube materials, which will improve military electronic systems.

In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Hampshire will receive $1.5 million over three years for Connect, a suicide-prevention training program that provides support services across the state.

And the Senate approved $1 million to expand broadband service in the North Country.

War and yoga

Even yoga is controversial these days.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Raymond selectmen denied a resident's request to organize a "yoga for peace" event at the town common.

"What kind of crowd is this going to gather?" asked Selectman Jack Barnes. "This is a peace group, we are at war, and I wonder if this is going to bring a crowd of people into town on both sides of the issues and whether we need police down there."

Police for yoga?

By:  Shira Schoenberg
Source: Concord Monitor