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The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, John DiStaso column

12.09.12 | The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester)

Dec. 07–FRIDAY, DEC. 7, UPDATE: NHGOP FEE ‘WAIVED.’ So much for that $25 fee for Republican State Committee members.

After outrage in some quarters of the rank-and-file, the GOP’s executive committee on Thursday night voted to waive, though not rescind, the fee for 2013 and leave it up to the new state committee and executive committee elected in January to decide how to approach it in the future.

The vote of the 33-member executive committee was hardly unanimous.

In fact, said Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey, only 19 of the 33 members participated in the conference call meeting and the vote to waive the fee, he said, was 11-8.

Party chairman Wayne MacDonald, who is leaving his post as of the Jan. 26 state committee meeting, made it clear the executive committee “did not rescind the $25, but we did waive it for the 2013 meeting, and the vote also contained a provision that a plan be devised to explore implementing it for 2014.

“This is something the full state committee could intervene into on Jan. 26 or the next executive committee meeting could address in February or thereafter in time for the 2014 annual meeting,” MacDonald said.

Duprey proposed the fee last week in an attempt to boost the party’s finances and make it clear to state committee members that their post entails fund-raising responsibilities as well as grassroots activities.

But he voted in favor of waiving the fee on Thursday night, he said, because a message was sent.

“I hope the next chairman proposes a realistic budget, and once that is adopted, everyone participates in fund-raising,” Duprey said.

“This, at least, was the first time we’ve had a discussion where we made it clear that serving on the state committee is not an honorary position, it’s a working position,” said Duprey.

“I wanted to have that discussion before people sought the positions on the state committee,” he said. “They all now know that if they are chosen for the state committee, they will have to shoulder their share in fund-raising as well as grassroots activities.”

FRIDAY, DEC. 7, UPDATE: SMITH BACKS HEMINGWAY. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith has endorsed Andrew Hemingway for state Republican chairman, citing his experience and commitment to his convictions.

Smith, who lives in Florida, returned to New Hampshire about a year ago and a senior advisor on Newt Gingrich’s New Hampshire presidential campaign. Hemingway was the state director for Gingrich.

During that time, Smith wrote the Status, “I saw Andrew’s ability to lead, to build an organization and to incorporate technology into every facet of the campaign.

“After the devastating loss of Nov. 6, I am more convinced than ever that the GOP needs new blood to shake up the old white-haired establishment,” Smith wrote.

“Andrew has the experience and the strength the stand for his convictions and to lead our party to victory. New Hampshire needs him and this country needs him.”

Hemingway, a Bristol resident, is opposed by Jennifer Horn of Nashua in a race to succeed Wayne MacDonald as NHGOP chairman.

The 506-member state committee will chose a new chairman at its Jan. 26 annual meeting at Bedford High School.

The Smith endorsement drew criticism from Horn supporter Jamie Burnett, a long-time Republican strategist.

“So, let me get this straight,” Burnett emailed us. “Andrew Hemingway and (former NHGOP chair) Jack Kimball condemned Jennifer Horn’s candidacy for Republican Party Chair, more or less, because she earned the early support of established Republicans, like Sen. Ayotte, Reps. Bass and Guinta, Senate President Peter Bragdon, Republican Leader Gene Chandler, and former Speaker Bill O’Brien. And then today, Hemingway rolls out his first public endorsement and it’s a U.S. Senator who hasn’t lived in New Hampshire for a decade, left the Republican Party in the late ’90s, and endorsed John Kerry for president in 2004. That’s nice.”

Hemingway responded that he “never condemned Jennifer Horn’s candidacy, ever. I’m excited to see her running. I’ve said and believe that she plays a vital role in the party as a very effective spokesman.”

He also said he did not “roll out” Smith’s endorsement. He said Smith offered it, unsolicited, and then sent an email specifically to be passed on to the Granite Status.

(The full Dec. 6 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, DEC. 6: NEW CHIEF OF STAFF. U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kuster today will formally announce that she has tapped a veteran strategist as her chief of staff in Abby Curran, former Northeast political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Kuster says Curran “has years of experience managing smart, efficient organizations in the Northeast and across the country.”

Curran has managed successful and unsuccessful races in New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana. She served briefly as campaign manager for Iowa Gov. Chet Culver’s unsuccessful reelection bid in 2010.

Curran’s prowess was clear in the November election as Democrats, while not regaining control of the House, dominated in the Northeast and picked up two seats in New Hampshire in Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.

Earlier this week, Kuster announced Sean Downey will be her district director.

Downey was political director for Organizing for America-New Hampshire, the grassroots arm of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and was a senior advisor with Gov. John Lynch’s 2010 reelection effort.

Downey also worked in New Hampshire for former presidential hopefuls Chris Dodd and Evan Bayh and was finance director for the state Senate Democratic Caucus PAC.

He was also executive director of the New Jersey Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, Shea-Porter has re-hired Olga Clough of Dover as constituent services director.

Clough is the rare staffer who has worked for both parties. Before serving Shea-Porter (2007 to 2011), she held the same job for Republican U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley and was a caseworker for former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith from 1999 to 2003.

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MORE SUPPORT FOR HORN. NHGOP chairman candidate Jennifer Horn says she has received the endorsement of veteran anti-tax advocate Tom Thomson, former U.S. Rep. Chuck Douglas and nearly 40 other elected officials, activists and members of the Republican State Committee.

Horn says the endorsements “show growing support for my effort to reinvigorate the NHGOP.”

Also on board are Corey Lewandowski, state director of Americans for Prosperity; Verity Swayne, chairman of the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women; Grafton County GOP Chairman Bruce Perlo, state Sens. Jim Luther of Hollis, Chuck Morse of Salem and David Boutin of Hooksett and former Sen. Tom DeBlois of Manchester.

Her list also includes nine more New Hampshire House members, two Nashua aldermen and, most importantly, 10 more voting state committee members, including nine from Sullivan County.

We understand Horn has the backing of two additional members of the 20-member Sullivan County GOP Committee who have preferred not to go public, which means she has the backing of the majority of that county’s committee.

The full list can be viewed on Horn’s Facebook page.

There will be 506 voting members of the state committee when county and city caucuses are finished on Dec. 15. The state committee will elect a new chairman to succeed the outgoing Wayne MacDonald on Jan. 26.

Horn opponent Andrew Hemingway tells us he spoke to the Republican caucus of the House at the State House Wednesday and came away with “a tremendous amount of support.”

He said that after announcing only four days ago, he has “almost as many supporters as she does.”

Hemingway does not expect to publicize his backers, preferring to focus on voting members rather than big names (although there may be a few of those on the way).

Hemingway on Monday began a series of Facebook town halls to answer questions about his plans should he be elected chairman.

He said that if he becomes chairman, he would continue the practice and try to get other party leaders involved in such forums as well.

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A NEW PROPOSAL. Hemingway says former state party chairs should have a continued active and formal role in party affairs.

He has proposed adding the position of chairman-emeritus as a voting member of the 33-member executive committee.

“The idea would be to connect the generational gaps that exist during transitions of one chairman to the next and create some continuity and stability within the organization,” Hemingway said.

“The immediate past chairman would stay on the executive committee and have a vote and be a mentor.”

Hemingway said outgoing Chairman MacDonald “is a great example of someone who has institutional knowledge that would be invaluable to the new chairman and someone who should be given a position of respect in the party.”

GETTING AROUND THE STATE. There have been no rumblings from Mt. John E. Sununu about a possible Senate run, yet, and if he is true to form, there won’t be for quite a while.

But speculation among Republicans at the moment is that he’s probably not going to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

We find it interesting that just last week, Jeb Bradley told fellow state senate Republicans the caucus needs to remain united and deliver a consistent message statewide. He told them they should not be surprised if they find him, the current state Senate Majority Leader, in their district on occasion delivering the GOP message.

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NEW HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF. Ryan Mahoney left his post as executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party on Tuesday and, we’ve learned, will soon be named chief of staff for returning New Hampshire House Speaker Terie Norelli.

Mahoney was named party executive director in March of this year and previously was the field director for the party and the Committee to Elect House Democrats.

Sean Doyle is currently the NHDP deputy executive director.

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JOHN HENRY RESURFACES. At the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy dinner on Tuesday night, former Gov. John H. Sununu, an often controversial advisor to Mitt Romney’s campaign, gave his first public reaction to Romney’s loss.

The Concord Monitor reported Sununu said Obama won “not because of message,” but because the party unified and “aggressively got out the base of their base that’s dependent, to a great extent economically, on government policy and government programs.”

It echoed Romney’s post-election message that Obama won because he promised “gifts” to his base.

The other former Republican governors on hand, Craig Benson and Steve Merrill, agreed with Sununu.

Democratic National Committeewoman Kathy Sullivan said the trio “continued to embarrass our state” and “displayed the collective lack of self-awareness that helped the Republicans lose in 2012, in addition to insulting the voters of New Hampshire and the country at large.”

Sullivan said Sununu, as White House chief of staff for George H.W. Bush, displayed “government dependency” himself by “taking government limos and planes from Washington to go to stamp auctions and dentist appointments in Boston and New York.”

WHAT FRANK’S UP TO. Outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta hasn’t granted any interviews to in-state media since losing to Shea-Porter, but he did talk about his plans recently with Washington-based Roll Call.

Guinta said he hasn’t ruled out running for the U.S. Senate against Shaheen.

Guinta told Roll Call he will “see how things develop and keep options open.

“I’m certainly going to take some time in 2013 to assess and make a determination at some point if I would run.”

He called Shaheen “a good senator” and “a good person.”

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COLIN’S LISTENING TOUR. District 2 Executive Councilor-elect Colin Van Ostern will begin a “listening tour” of the district next week with stops in Cheshire, Merrimack and Strafford counties.

He will be at the Keene City Hall on Friday, Dec. 14, Concord City Hall on Dec. 17 and Dover City Hall on Dec. 20.

The hours are 8 a.m. to 12 noon by appointment and from 1 to 4 p.m. for “drop-in.”

Van Ostern tells us he just launched a new online form to receive feedback from Granite Staters.

“My campaign was a grassroots effort and that’s how I intended to serve in Concord as well,” he said.

Van Ostern said he will visit more communities in his district next year.

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John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at jdistaso@unionleader.com. Twitter: @jdistaso.

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