On donating to parties, the 80% rule, and biting the hand that fed me

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From the Laconia Daily Sun: “[Cormier] she said she has withdrawn her financial support from the county committee headed by Glassman.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.

Math, Marches, & Minorities

The turkeys and pies will barely be cleared away before new legislators have their orientation days next week.  Legislative service (bill-drafting) requests are due December 7.  The 2013 session is in sight.

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I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming post, but the math doesn’t look good for New Hampshire’s parental notification law. Looking at the Senate alone, only nine of the seventeen senators who passed the law over Gov. Lynch’s veto are coming back. The two Republicans who opposed the bill, Sens. Odell and Stiles, were re-elected. Any repeal attempt will of course be grist for the campaign mill in 2014.

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The NHGOP will elect a new chair in two months. As an undeclared voter, this ought to be mere spectator sport for me. Instead, as a pro-life activist who has worked with terrific Republicans, I care very much about the outcome. No predictions or recommendations here,  just plenty of  interest and curiosity.

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The national March for Life will be on January 25, marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (Logistical concerns about proximity to the presidential inauguration date prompted a move from the actual anniversary date, January 22.) When I see information about buses to the March from New Hampshire, I’ll put it here in LfL. Information about New Hampshire’s own March, usually held the weekend before the national March, will be forthcoming as well.

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With the nomination of Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) to be Minority Leader, I’m guessing that New Hampshire’s House Republicans will not put a high priority on the life issues.  I expect the Democratic majority will, in a backward sort of way.

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One of the most delightful threads to read from my Facebook feed over the past couple of days has been the outpouring of congratulations to former Rep. D.J. Bettencourt of Salem and his wife Shannon on the birth of their first child, Ava. It’s simple, straightforward good news.

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Outgoing Speaker and recently re-elected Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon prevailed in a general-election recount requested by the woman who finished just behind him: Kary Jencks, former lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

With recounts finished, the state senate will have 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats. In the House, the tally is 179 Republicans, 221 Democrats. The Executive Council has two Republicans and three Democrats. Note that both of the Republicans (Ray Burton and Chris Sununu) have voted to keep taxpayer dollars flowing to PPNNE, and they will undoubtedly be joined by the three newcomers in any 2013-2014 PPNNE contract votes.

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So what’s the civility quotient going to be in the State House come January?

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There ought to be more integration between campaign life and “real” life. As it stands, I am just now finally back into a routine with my family after four months of using my house for six hours of sleep and one midnight snack every 24 hours. The family loves me anyway. I have much for which to be grateful. I wish the same for my readers.

 

 

What I Saw at the Party

If I had a buck for every election postmortem I’ve read in the last ten days, I could pay for my coffee for a month. Some of the columns have been written by Republicans whom I somehow didn’t come across as I worked for NHGOP  this year. The tone of Republicans-lost-because-they’re-too-whatever sounds a lot like the NH Democratic Party’s published response to the recent election of Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) as the new House Minority Leader. Both seem to have been prepared in advance and then phoned in.

My own ground-game experience from this campaign gave me a view not available to the armchair quarterbacks. I came late to the party, literally and figuratively, taking the job with NHGOP in early July after most of the Victory team was already in place. For the next four months, I spent seven days a week wearing out the tires on my car as I went to every county to meet voters on their own turf. Many were Republicans, since the obvious low-hanging fruit for the volunteer harvest was going to be among them. I also sought out voters not affiliated with the GOP.

Here’s what I heard:

#1: Discouragement suppressed more votes than any law ever will.

#2: Elections turn on local relationships.

#3: Social issues matter. 

#4: Conservative women rock. 

All I had to do to begin a conversation about the election was to put on some campaign gear. Even a small GOP button on my shirt was enough to draw attention from complete strangers. This was true in every town I visited.

A vendor at the Lancaster Fair (which is definitely worth the drive)  saw my button and asked me quietly, “Do you think we have a chance?” I answered him with a firm Yes. When I told him I was working with NHGOP, he turned his booth over to a co-worker for  few minutes so we could talk. This was a registered Republican with a small business. He wondered if it was worth his while to take the time off work to vote. He was the first of many business owners who were to say to me in the coming weeks,”This guy [Obama] is killing us.” This business owner’s disenchantment with federal policy had led to discouragement that burdened him every single day. I did all I could in ten short minutes to let him know that his vote & opinion mattered and that his business was worth defending. Did this man actually vote? I can only hope so. I asked if I could share his name and his story with the local NHGOP Victory field representative, and he declined, saying he was afraid of being boycotted if he came out for Romney. A sad fear, and he wasn’t the only business owner who shared that with me.

Discouragement kept more voters away from the voting booth, and therefore the GOP column, than did the platform or voter ID or anything else. Those people weren’t reflected in exit polls because they didn’t vote. What could have brought them on board?

Hearing more from people they know and respect, for one thing. Good relationships could have won some seats, not least by encouraging people to get to the polls. In New Hampshire, perhaps more so than in any other swing state, if someone hears about a candidate or issue from a neighbor or friend or acquaintance, the voter will give more credence to the neighbor than to an entire cascade of mailers and ads. No national campaign here will overcome a failure of local connections. Neighbor chatting with neighbor – or, as Gov. Sununu exhorts, “talk, talk, talk” – goes a long way towards muting ads. I met incredible advocates for Republican candidates (as I describe below), especially in the most populous counties, but there was and is room for expansion of the team.

I saw something repeatedly among the grassroots that may have been missed by observers at a distance. Whatever any national or state candidate thinks of social issues, a substantial bloc of the rank-and-file voters I met want them emphasized, not dropped. When these issues came up as people talked to me, I identified myself as a social conservative,  just to be fair. Then I shut up and listened.

Far and away, somewhat to my surprise, the most passionate voters were upset about New Hampshire’s re-definition of marriage. (Interestingly, most of these angry voters told me they’d have no problem with civil unions.) I heard from voters who could not understand why an overwhelmingly Republican House & Senate had such trouble with pro-woman bills as the ones about keeping track of abortion complications and prosecuting people for causing a woman to lose a wanted pregnancy.  I heard from  people perplexed by campaign strategies that were all about jobs to the exclusion of social concerns. Among people who raised these topics with me, perhaps one in five expressed a desire for the GOP to write off social conservatives.

I didn’t tell these voters what to say. They didn’t need anyone to do their thinking for them.

All my travel and listening had a point: building a coalition of women who supported Romney/Ryan and other Republican candidates. Eventually, over seven hundred of us united to work for these good people. Some of our candidates prevailed, and many others didn’t. Still, seven hundred of us found common ground where we might not have seen it before the campaign. Among these amazing women was a longtime Romney supporter facing a serious  illness, who recruited dozens of volunteers for one of the Victory offices. A young woman new to campaign work volunteered to be a county chair for the coalition, and with her enthusiasm built a powerhouse team in her area. Business owners took time off to go door-to-door. Mothers of small children traded babysitting time with each other to get a turn at the phones.  I, a pro-life social conservative (have you heard?), went door-to-door with a pro-choice woman whose husband’s business is being eaten up by federal regulations. (And we had fun, too.)

From the 30,000-foot level, all one can see is the debris left by the numbers on Election Night. Down where I stand, I see new relationships, new officeholders, new activists. All of that energy and talent is very promising. I hope it’s nurtured  and not taken for granted. Such women are the cure for discouragement.

My employment and the campaign now behind me, I have restored the “undeclared” voter registration with which I’m most comfortable.  I look forward to picking up a Republican ballot again soon. Jeanne Shaheen’s term will be up before you know it.

Others will have their own perspectives. I’ll give careful attention to the accounts and conclusions of those who were in the field with me. I’ll take everyone else’s musings with a grain of salt.

 

 

 

Friday Assortment: Run for Office, Wait for Vetoes, Watch the Court

If you want to run for state office as a member of a political party later this year, you have until 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, June 15) to file. The primary election will be held on September 11, and the general election follows on November 6. What’s your pleasure? State rep, maybe? Two bucks and a trip to your town clerk to fill out the paperwork will make you a candidate. Prospective delegates to the GOP state convention register with town clerks as well, with no filing fee. Other offices – state senate, executive council, county offices, governor, Congress – must file at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord.

A special note to my Republican readers: running to be a delegate to the state convention costs you nothing, and winning a seat requires nothing more than a couple of meetings. If the party platform matters to you, this is a job for you.

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Governor Lynch has begun plowing through the pile of bills on his desk, and he has found his veto pen. An education tax credit bill is the latest victim. The fetal homicide bill still awaits action. The House and Senate are scheduled to meet on June 27 to deal with vetoed bills.

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The current U.S. Supreme Court session will end in a couple of weeks, with a ruling expected on some aspects of the president’s health care plan. The unlikeliest outcome is that the plan will be struck down altogether. If that happy event comes to pass, the HHS mandate will be dead. The Court could find the plan constitutional in all aspects (perish the thought), or constitutional in part. In either of those situations, the lawsuits against the mandate will continue, challenging its inherent religious liberty violation.

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A “Fortnight for Religious Freedom” begins next Thursday, June 21, and ends on Independence Day, July 4. Organized by Catholics who have been moved to action by the mandate, the two-week observance is for anyone who’s ready to pray, study, and act to defend our First Amendment heritage.