Gizzi on Politics

Granite State Update

After recent years out in the political wilderness and losses of the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat, both of their state’s U.S. House seats and both houses of the state legislature, New Hampshire Republicans appear on the comeback trail this year.

The party has recruited a first-rate conservative contender against liberal Democratic Gov. John Lynch in John Stephens, former state commissioner of health and human services.  In addition, there are four Republicans vying in the September 8th primary for nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.).  

In the 1st District (Manchester), Republicans appear to be coalescing around Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta as their standard-bearer against far-left Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 4%).  

The GOP picture is so clear in the 2nd District (Nashua), where two-term Rep. Paul Hodes is stepping down to run for the Senate.  In fact, the primary is shaping up as a classic clash between the moderate-to-liberal “establishment” and the newer, conservative “tea party” movement.

The “establishment” candidate is clearly former Rep. (1994-2006) Charles Bass, long an enemy of Granite State conservatives.  In fact, in his final terms before losing to Hodes in ’06, Bass (lifetime ACU rating: 73%) opposed in primaries by candidates from the right. 

In his comeback bid, Bass’s leading opponent is popular radio talk show host Jennifer Horn, who ran as an unabashed conservative against Hodes in ’08 and drew 43% of the vote.  From her years interviewing state and national politicians on WSMN-Radio (Nashua), her wide circle of friends, and tireless door-to-door campaigning, the mother of five is considered the leading conservative hopeful against Bass, son of former Rep. (1956-62) Perkins “Small Mouth” Bass (R.-N.H.).  

“The issues are clear in this race,” Horn campaign manager David Chesley told me, “[Bass] is pro-abortion, for earmarks, and cap and trade and Jennifer is on the opposite side.”  He also pointed out that Horn has been drawing a heroine’s welcome at the increasing number of “tea parties” and at a Nashua event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity that drew 300 people.

But there is some concern on the right that a third contender and Horn’s fellow conservative, former State Rep. Bob Giuda, could possibly divide the anti-Bass vote in the primary.

The winner of the primary will face one of two Democrats with substantial leftist pedigrees:  Katrina Swett, wife of former Rep. (1990-94) Dick Swett (D.-N.H.) and daughter of the late Rep. (1981-2007) Tom Lantos (D.-CA), and attorney Ann McLane Kuster, daughter of the late State Sen. Susan B. McLane and grand-daughter of former Concord Mayor Malcolm McLane (both of whom sought the governorship).  

Short Takes

The Newest Congressman:  Although it did not get as much attention as statewide primaries in Nevada or California June 8th, the special election in Georgia’s 9th District made solid conservative Tom Graves the newest member of Congress.  With Rep. Nathan Deal resigning his seat to run full-time for the Republican nomination for governor of the Peach State, a run-off between two Republicans was held that was a clear cut victory between the “establishment” and the outsiders.  The outsiders won with former State Rep. Graves drawing 55% of the vote with the backing of the Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, and many tea party organizations.  He defeated the “establishment” favorite, former State Sen. Lee Hawkins, who had the endorsement of Rep. John Linder (R.-GA).  

California Dreaming:  One of the problems in turning out news the morning after votes are cast is that sometimes the full story is not yet available.  Last week, I cited the enactment by California voters of Proposition 14, which ends the closed primary system and instead creates an open primary in which all candidates for state and federal office (including nearly one-eighth of the U.S. House) appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters regardless of party compete in a November run-off.  At the time, I thought the margin of victory for “14” was 3-to-2.  Final results put the margin at 54.2% to 45.8% and, as nationally syndicated columnist George Will noted, “8.9% of eligible voters did [vote].”  Will also pointed out that proponents of the initiative outspent opponents by a margin of 20-to-1 and of the almost $4.6 million spent promoting the measure, “$2 million came from [liberal GOP] Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political committee. . . The percentage of Californians who today approve of Schwarzenegger is a number beginning with 2.  But now California has adopted a candidate selection process that is intended to nominated candidates like him.”  

Stutzman’s Second Chance:  Less than one month after he lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senator from Indiana, conservative State Sen. Marlin Stutzman got that “second chance” defeated politicians savor.  With the stunning admission by eight-term Republican Rep. Mark Souder that he had had an extramarital affair with a former staffer and his resulting resignation, Republicans in the 3rd District (Fort Wayne) had to pick a new nominee.  At a special caucus last week, the 34-year-old Stutzman won the Republican standard over fourteen opponents and on the second ballot.

In the four-man Senate primary in May, Stutzman placed second behind former Sen. (1989-98) Dan Coats.  In the primary campaign, he won the backing of many nationally-known conservatives, including Mike Huckabee, radio commentator Mark Levin, American Conservative Union national chairman David Keene, and the political action committee of Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.).  In the 3rd District race, he now faces Democrat Thomas Hayhurst, a wealthy physician who drew 46% of the vote against Souder in ’08.

A Savage Attack:  In gearing up what is sure to be a fall campaign for the Senate against Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth, Indiana’s Coats (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 90%) has tapped one of the Hoosier State’s most respected and feared (by Democrats) campaign managers.  Cam Savage, who ran Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ re-election campaign two years ago, will now quarterback Coats’ comeback bid.  Before working for Daniels, Savage did political chores for former Rep. (2004-06) Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) and this year, oversaw conservative Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s landslide win in a crowded U.S. House primary in Indiana’s 4th District.    

Daly News: 
Conservative Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich) recently tapped veteran conservative activist Jack Daly as his press secretary.  Along with wife Kay, Daly was a key mobilizer for conservative campaigns and causes in North Carolina and was the near-successful Republican nominee for state auditor in 2000.  Before signing on with McCotter, Daly was on the legal team for the Republican minority on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  

The “Grandson”Clause:  When I reported last month on the election of Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason James Carter to the Georgia state senate, I observed that the 34-year-old Carter was the first grandson of a president to win office himself since Republican Robert Taft, Jr., grandson of President William Howard Taft, won a seat in the Ohio state legislature in 1954.  Longtime reader Peter Gemma gently noted to me that this observation was “technically inaccurate.”  The last grandson of a President to win office was indeed a Taft, but not the one I mentioned.  Seth Taft, also a grandson of President Taft and first cousin to Robert, Jr., won a seat on the Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Commission in 1970.  Three years after losing a close race for mayor of Cleveland to Democrat Carl Stokes, liberal GOPer Seth Taft became the first Republican on the Cuyahoga County Commission in 20 years—amazingly, by nearly carrying Cleveland’s black wards with the support of Mayor Stokes and his brother, Rep. Louis Stokes.