One more selection: House GOP leader

SOURCE: The Concord Monitor
By Lauren R. Dorgan
Posted: Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

It's big-tent vs. purity, three old hands vs. one new face. In any event, no one expects the vote for a Republican House leader to be quick and easy tomorrow night.

The candidates: former speaker and 13-termer Gene Chandler of Bartlett, nine-termer Sherm Packard of Londonderry, six-termer Fran Wendelboe of New Hampton and first-termer John Reagan of Deerfield.

"It's extremely fluid, particularly given the personalities in the race," Wendelboe said.

The candidates were working the phones and tabulating spreadsheets through the weekend. Like any political race, much of the decision will be about getting out your base. Chandler said he'd sent out a letter and told supporters that "if they needed a ride, I have people that would pick people up," he said.

There's also the theory that the way to a voter's heart is through his stomach. Wendelboe hosted a luncheon for new mem-

bers on Thursday and will host a light supper for all Republicans tomorrow night.

"I feel very optimistic, very positive. I have gotten to know many of the new members in the last couple of days," she said. "I went out of my way to make myself available to them during their orientation."

Packard, who has garnered the endorsement of de facto current leader David Hess (who's been leading the caucus since the death of Mike Whalley) said he wants to lead all Republicans.

"Well, you know, I believe that we need to include all members of the Republican Party in our caucus. I believe that everyone should have a voice, and I believe in being inclusive not exclusive," Packard said. "I know one of my rivals is a little bit maybe more exclusive than I am."

Packard declined to name names, but he didn't deny that he was talking about Wendelboe, who has founded a group called the Reagan Network to help and encourage conservatives. Her Reagan Network colleague, Sam Pimm, worked the campaign to "primary" Liz Hager of Concord and a half-dozen other party-bucking Republicans, like Cynthia Dokmo of Amherst. At that time, Wendelboe told me: "If you have a Republican who votes like a Democrat, that then harms the party image."

Wendelboe said she surely is very conservative but said she would go out of her way to bring moderates into her leadership team.

"You can't ignore people with other opinions," she said.

She said that her grassroots elections work and her experience on the House Finance Committee is just what the party needs in this time of electoral doldrums for it and budget woes for the state.

Chandler cited his work with the House Republican caucus, which helped Republicans across the state.

"I have never ever in a primary or in other time worked against another Republican," he said. "I have never participated in it, nor will I. . . . I haven't met the person yet who should have judgment over what's a good Republican and what's a bad one."

Chandler has been widely popular among Republicans, as seen in his former election to leadership. But old ethical troubles may dog him.

In 2005, the House censured Chandler for years of failing to report $64,000 raised to pay his personal expenses at "Old-Fashioned Corn Roast" fundraisers.

Chandler, who also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the poor filings, said he doesn't know how much those troubles are weighing on Republicans' minds. "I paid dearly for it," he said. "So we just have to move on."

Shaheen in the Senate

U.S. Sen.-elect Jeanne Shaheen has hired her first four staffers, all of them from New Hampshire and all of them veterans of Shaheen's gubernatorial administration or campaign.

Longtime Shaheen consigliere Judy Reardon will serve as Shaheen's counsel.

Maura Keefe, who advised both of Shaheen's Senate campaigns and has worked on Capitol Hill, will serve as chief of staff.

Mike Vlacich will become state director, leaving behind his post as director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development.

Jessie Lyons, who advised Shaheen's 2008 campaign, will be deputy chief of staff.

Shaheen recently attended a three-day orientation and praised the Democratic Caucus's decision to keep Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. Reardon said Shaheen also ran into outgoing Sen. John E. Sununu (who congratulated her) and met with senior Sen. Judd Gregg.

The last thing

Sununu stood on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday to object to an auto industry bill offered by Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who responded harshly. "Boy, am I sorry that is the last act of John Sununu in the Senate," she said, according to the New York Times.

Sununu returned to the floor to prove her wrong. "Well, it won't be the last thing I do," Sununu said. "If nothing else, the last thing I will do is to explain why her legislation was such a terrible idea to the people of New Hampshire who elected me and to the American people whom I think I have an obligation to serve in making sure that their interests are protected, that their wallets are protected, and that we act with a commitment to fiscal responsibility."

Hair

I've heard more buzz this week than I ever expected about Sununu's hair.

According to the Washington Times, he briefly sported a "relatively full goatee" and a nearly-bald head in the Senate last week. (The goatee, the Times said, didn't even last the day.)

In 2005, Sununu shaved his head as a show of solidarity with Arlen Specter, who was undergoing chemotherapy. On the Senate floor this week, Sununu explained his close-trim this way: "The haircut that I now sport is an echo of that summer a couple of years ago when I cut my hair, or cut all of my hair, in tribute to the sacrifice and the celebration of the final chemotherapy treatment of Sen. Specter.

"He underwent another round of chemo this past summer. In the middle of the campaign, I did not think it was appropriate to shave my head. So the day after the election, two weeks ago, I thought there was some pent-up demand in my own heart to remember those tough weeks for Arlen Specter. So I was happy to go out and shave my head again. That is why it looks a little bit different than it might have during the campaign."

Likes them both

It was odd for former Republican executive councilor Peter Spaulding of Hopkinton to see John H. Sununu (that is, the elder) ripping into Democratic Gov. John Lynch as the "worst governor" in New Hampshire history. Spaulding said he likes them both.

"Of all the governors that I served with on the council, the two that I thought were the best were John Sununu and John Lynch," Spaulding said.

While many governors kick problems down the road, Sununu, Spaulding said, "never saw a problem he didn't think he could solve." Lynch, he said, "has been a very bipartisan governor, working with both sides."

Tobin redux

There was a lot of action in the ol' Jim Tobin phone-jamming case around the election.

Update your date books: The former RNC honcho's trial in Maine on charges of lying to the FBI is now scheduled to start Feb. 2.

Arguments in the original telephone-harassment case were made Nov. 3. No ruling yet out of the appeals court in Boston.

Not Republican enough

Warren Rudman made a cameo in the Dan Rather lawsuit against CBS.

According to a New York Times report, documents subpoenaed in the suit paint a picture of CBS executives bent on making peace with Republicans, so much so that they let GOP operatives scope out the panel charged with looking into the controversial 60 Minutes segment about President Bush's service record.

Rudman was floated as a potential member of the panel, the Times reported, but shot down, according to notes by CBS vice president Linda Mason, because he didn't seem able "mollify the right."

One for Sununu

Those Facebookers who want Sununu to run for RNC chairman got a boost from an unlikely spot this week: The Economist.

The Economist's "Lexington" column was generally down on the state of the GOP in a piece called "Ship of Fools," bemoaning what he/she/it saw as so anti-intellectual that it fits the bill of the "stupid party."

"One of the most encouraging signs is the support for giving the chairmanship of the Republican Party to John Sununu, a sensible and clever man who has the added advantage of coming from the Northeast," the column noted.

I don't think British journalists get a vote in the race, but their take is interesting.

Nothing for granted

Filed with the FEC on Tuesday: Jeanne Shaheen for Senate 2014.

Democratic Party

Dave Scannell, we barely knew ye.

After serving as executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party since March, Scannell announced he was exiting last week.

In his place walks Mike Brunelle, an outgoing state representative from Manchester and current political director of the party.

I'm wondering: At 24 years old, is he the youngest Democratic Party executive director since John Lynch?

Off the air

Arnie Arnesen's Chowder in the Morning radio show has been cancelled.

It could have been worse, Arnesen wrote in an e-mail to fans. "At least the plug wasn't pulled before the election. . . . That would have killed me," she said.