(First in a series of profiles of New Hampshire 2014 state senate candidates.)
Jane Cormier’s neighbors elected her to the state legislature in 2012. She earned the Republican nomination for the seat the hard way, defeating an incumbent. She did it as a political newcomer, in a year when many GOP candidates were clobbered. Not a conventional candidate, by any measure. Proudly pro-life, too.
This was no “stealth” candidate. Jane Cormier was (and is) right up front about who she is and what she believes. “Being outspoken, telling the truth, has no ‘R’ or ‘D’ attached,” she said to me when we spoke recently.
In her first year in office, she sponsored a bill to strengthen informed consent requirements for women seeking abortion. I was at the hearing and at the floor vote when she defended her bill, saying “this is about knowledge and information.” She learned that knowledge and information about abortion were not things that some of her colleagues wanted to encourage. This year, she was among the most committed legislative opponents of the buffer zone bill. First in committee and then in the floor debate, she urged her colleagues not to rush to pass a bill when the Supreme Court’s decision on the similar Massachusetts law was pending. Cormier’s concerns were vindicated when the Court threw out the Massachusetts law.
The 2014 campaign brings a change of scene and a new challenge for her. Business and family commitments recently prompted the Cormier family to move from Alton to Hooksett, and Jane has decided to take on incumbent state senator David Boutin in this year’s GOP primary. No Democrat is running, so unless a serious write-in campaign springs up, the primary will determine the next senator.
So how is she getting to know her new district? “Door to door. We’re working ’em all right now.” A tall order, in a district that includes Hooksett, Dunbarton, Bow and Candia as well as wards 1, 2 and 12 Manchester. “A lot of calling. I know I’m the new guy coming in. I’m not going to be afraid to talk to the voters. That’s the only way I can get my message out. It’s going to be an interesting race.”
Why she’s running
Cormier and Boutin both got the buffer zone and fetal homicide votes right this year, so the primary isn’t going to be about that. So why is she not just running, but running against an incumbent in a district that’s new to her?
“It’s all about a message. Wake up. Things are seldom what they seem, and more so in politics. Unless we pay attention to what’s being said, and verify what’s being said, we’re going to get good ol’ boy politicians.”
“This is about integrity,” she continued. She talked about some of Boutin’s votes. “All the gun groups came to the table for constitutional carry. He had said he would support it, and he’s the guy that stopped it from happening. Here’s a man that signed the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers pledge, and then he voted for the gas tax, a 23% increase. He talks about being
fiscally sound, and then voted for Medicaid expansion, which is going to end up causing an income tax – there is no way you can get around it. And how can you support more Medicaid when you know the health outcomes are worse for its users than not having insurance? We give people sub-par insurance and then pat ourselves on the back for it. There’s nothing charitable about it.”
Why she’s Republican
What does it mean to her to be Republican? “The platform is common-sense, liberties-based. I believe in that.” She wonders if some GOP candidates lost sight of that in 2012. “If we had coalesced around our platform, we would be winning. I love that platform. I am a Republican because of that platform.” She believes the party platform is the key to a constructive Republican primary. “Engage these folks [primary opponents] on where they stand with the party platform, or what we’ll get is Democrat Lite.”
Is she a Free Stater? “I am a Republican. When I first heard that Free Stater thing, I didn’t even know what it meant.” She and her husband have been in New Hampshire for more than 30 years, long before the libertarian Free State movement began. “One Republican called me a Free Stater who wants to burn things down until there’s no government left.” She
shakes her head as she recalls the accusation. “I told him I am a Republican who loves the platform.” She wonders why any Republican would use words like “Free Stater” and “teabagger” to label the party’s conservative base. “Libertarians try to pass themselves off as grassroots conservatives. They are not.”
I asked her what “grassroots” means to her. “Listening. You’re working for them.” She fears that’s an endangered attitude in the New Hampshire Senate.
Not afraid to debate
Jane Cormier doesn’t mince words, and some of her fellow Republicans aren’t sure what to make of that. “If you are assertive, you are branded as a bomb-thrower. I’ve been called that more than a few times. I am someone who’s trying to get back to the Founding documents.”
“A fellow Republican told me I was [annoying people]. And I said to him, when do we push back? If we have a situation where it’s plain and simple, what is being said is wrong, is untruthful, we are not supposed to address it? And if it’s not me, who? And on the life issue, when do we push back? You shouldn’t be afraid to address it. It’s part of the platform.” She spoke several times
in our conversation about the need to “take the debate to the Democrats” on issues. She prefers not to play defense, politically. On the buffer zone, for example, she’s “Avoid discussing the buffer zone in Manchester? Not a chance. I’m not saying that you stand on a soapbox and proselytize. That’s not correct, either. However, if we are afraid to debate, we’ve got nothing. Pack up
and go home.”
She’s not afraid to take a debate to fellow Republicans, either, when circumstances so warrant. When fellow GOP state representative Frederick Rice recently published a letter endorsing Sen. Nancy Stiles over her primary opponent, Cormier found much to dispute. From Granite Grok, here is the text of Rep. Rice’s and Rep. Cormier’s respective letters.
“I needed to challenge it” [the Rice letter]. She did so by writing her own letter, pointing to specific votes from Sen. Stiles: support for the gas tax increase, co-sponsoring the now-on-hold buffer zone law, support for Common Core educational standards. She wrapped up with “If you want a Democrat, you can vote for a Democrat. But, Republicans should expect their public servants to vote with AT LEAST with the larger planks in the platform. Stiles does not.”
Isn’t she afraid her letter will be used against her politically? No, she told me. “That will give us another opportunity to have the debate.”
“Reaching across the aisle does not mean giving up the farm.”
I asked her what she’s proudest of from her term in the House. “That I would stand in my principles, no matter how much somebody pushed back. My principles do not move. Reaching across the aisle does not mean giving up the farm.
“My job is to fight for the race and let God do the rest.”
Belknap County Conservative Republicans have gotten together. They are not to be confused with the Belknap County Republican Committee, which is the county’s official Republican organization.
I’ve worked with people in each group, and I like ’em fine. My perspective is from slightly outside the lines. The state of New Hampshire considers me an undeclared voter. I’m actually pretty thoroughly declared, as if this blog hasn’t already made that clear. It’s just that “pro-life” isn’t a party. I happily work with and for GOP candidates, and I was employed by NHGOP during last year’s campaign. I was formally registered as a Republican last year for as long as it took to vote for Rick Santorum in the presidential primary, and then again from last fall’s primary until November 7. Early November 7.
While I worked for the NHGOP last year, I met now-Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) as she ran for office. Her district can be proud of her, and so can the New Hampshire Republican Party, for that matter. She showed her form early in the campaign. She co-sponsored an informed consent bill this session. She has co-founded the new conservative group. I met Alan Glassman, head of the county GOP, in 2010. He is unsparing of himself in party matters.
From the Laconia DailySun: “[Cormier] she said she has withdrawn her financial support from the county committee headed by Glassman. Glassman wondered how Cormier could claim not to be weakening the party while withholding financial support ‘all in the same breath.'”
This is why I’m independent. Much less drama, and no party to weaken.
Ronald Reagan comes to mind: “The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and ally, not a 20% traitor.” I suspect the new group agrees with the old one 80% of the time (but oh, that other 20% …). In any case, I say don’t waste time sniffing about where the other guy’s money is going. I suspect it’s to a Republican.
Papa Sununu (if I may be so irreverent) had two lines he pounded out in every speech during the 2010 campaign during which he was so effective as NHGOP chairman: “talk, talk, talk” and “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Truisms, perhaps, but no one has propounded them with more gusto lately. Campaigns are expensive: staff, office, media, more media. I have been a paid staffer myself. I am grateful to the party donors who made that possible. I gave good measure in return, and was proud to be on the team.
Here it comes, and this is where I’ll sound like an ingrate: BUT … I heartily believe that cash and volunteer work going to an individual candidate instead of a party is fine, particularly if one is concerned over a particular policy issue that is getting short shrift by party officials. That’s all the more reason to respect the Belknap conservatives, who still have enough faith in the Republican party to identify with it.
Cormier welcomes primaries. I love that. “Competition is good. It keeps things honest,” she says. It keeps things stronger, too, if it’s handled properly.
The New Hampshire House voted this morning to reject HB 483, Rep. Jane Cormier’s bill to establish informed consent requirements for abortion. The vote on the inexpedient-to-legislate motion was 229-121.
“Pro-choice means pro-information,” said Cormier to her colleagues before the vote. “Full information and disclosure are not ideological.”
In effect, a majority of House members just went on record saying they have no problem with a women not knowing in advance who will perform her abortion or prescribe her abortion-inducing drug. Rep. Sylvia Gale (D-Nashua) called this an “ideological obstacle” in her committee report and her floor speech. More obstacles, according to Gale and today’s House majority: information on childbirth risks, fetal development, and the type of abortion procedure recommended by the provider.
Rep. Peter Sullivan, a Democrat representing ward 3 in Manchester, had hoped this bill would somehow “bridge the divide” between people on different sides of the abortion debate, “but the more I read, the more uncomfortable I became.” He was particularly agitated by the bill’s definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.” That was too much for him. “Defining life as beginning at the moment of conception could throw our entire state into disarray.”
No boat-rocker, he.
The representatives who defended the bill on the House floor included Cormier, and Reps. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack). John Cebrowski (R-Bedford), Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead), and co-sponsor Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack). Opposing the bill in debate along with Gale and Sullivan was Rep. Constance Bouchard (D-Concord), leader of the House’s “Reproductive Rights Caucus.”
Today’s vote in the Democrat-majority House follows last year’s rejection of the Women’s Right to Know bill (HB 1659), another informed consent measure, in what was then a House with a strong Republican majority. Representatives informed me late last week that the Republican minority leadership team did not attempt to promote today’s bill within the Republican caucus.
Coming in two days: a hearing on HB 483, a bill to require that women seeking abortion have the facts they need in order to give informed consent. Thursday, February 14, House Judiciary Committee, room 208 of the Legislative Office Building. This is a half-hour after the pro-Roe resolution hearing right down the hall.
Jane Cormier is a Republican freshman state representative from Alton. She resolved when she was elected that she was not going to jump on board a long list of bills as co-sponsor, but instead was going to take her time and get her bearings as an elected official. She finally selected one thing to promote: informed consent for women seeking abortion in New Hampshire. She is joined on HB 483 by Rep. Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack).
I can hear the plaintive cries already from the usual suspects: “why do we have to deal with this again?”
Because New Hampshire hasn’t “dealt with it” yet, that’s why.
Cormier and Peterson propose that a woman get some information 24 hours before she obtains an abortion. Who’s going to perform the procedure, for instance. What kind of procedure or medication will be used, and the possible complications thereof. (Have you seen any TV ads lately for prescription drugs? You know, the ones with a soothing voice reciting the possible complications? If pill vendors have to disclose that information, why shouldn’t abortion providers?) Information on the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus. The medical risk of carrying to term. Information on alternatives to abortion, on financial resources available, on the legal responsibility of fathers.
The bill provides that all of this may be suspended if the physician certifies an emergency, and documents the emergency in the woman’s medical record.
Last year, when an informed consent bill came up, opponents were scandalized that anyone would try to tell doctors how to practice medicine. Opponents also said that women already know all this information.
Look again at Planned Parenthood’s new slogans & campaigns: Care, No Matter What. We can’t guess what it’s like “in her shoes” when a woman seeks abortion.
If we can’t guess what it’s like in her shoes, how can we guess what a woman does or doesn’t know when she presents with a crisis pregnancy? How is it “care” to try to block her from having one day to consider potential complications? How is it “care” to try to block her from knowing in advance who is going to be responsible for inducing the termination of pregnancy?
Cormier and Peterson believe women are smart enough to evaluate the risks and benefits of a procedure. In contrast, opponents of the bill have a very paternalistic view of women, believing that we should count on doctors to make our decisions for us.
Reaction against the doctor-knows best attitude helped lead to the founding of freestanding women’s clinics in the 1960s and 1970s. Conventional medicine was not meeting women’s needs. Ironically, many of these clinics evolved into abortion facilities. Now, their directors and staff routinely lobby to protect their institutional interests while fighting against informed consent requirements.
The freestanding clinics have become part of the conventional-medicine model that failed women decades ago. By opposing commonsense bills like this one, conventional medicine is failing women again.