(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.”