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.

 

 

 

To Win a Case, You Have to Argue It First

Predictably, some Republicans declared before 11 p.m. on election night 2012 that the party simply must lay off those nasty divisive social issues. For thirty years, after every serious Republican setback, I’ve heard the same thing. What the complainers refuse to see is that the major GOP candidates DID lay off those issues this year. The Democrats didn’t.

I emerged yesterday from four months’ employment with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. They took a chance on me, an “undeclared” Republican-leaning voter, and put me to work.  I knew this was not a year to be on the sidelines. I accepted the fact that the message from both the presidential and gubernatorial Republican campaigns was going to be resolutely economic. At no point in my employment was there any confusion about that. The “social issues,” however compelling, were to be downplayed. In New Hampshire, the results are before us. Four days ago, New Hampshire voters chose Democrat Maggie Hassan to be the next governor, spurning Ovide Lamontagne. Democrats now hold a majority in the New Hampshire House. A recount is pending that will likely result in a Senate split right down the middle. [Note: the final tally is a 13-11 GOP majority.] Nationally, the president responsible for the HHS mandate has been re-elected.

Ironically, a Democratic gubernatorial nominee who opposes any regulation of abortion managed to persuade voters that the pro-life Republican nominee was too “extreme,” while the Republican declined to address that as he kept concentrating on jobs and the economy.

There’s a case to be made that Hassan is the one who is dangerously extreme: opposed to parental involvement in an adolescent girl’s decision to abort; in favor of unrestricted abortion at any stage of pregnancy; opposed to gathering morbidity and mortality information on post-abortive women. There’s also a case to be made, locally as well as nationally, for keeping contraception a private choice without compelling other people to pay for it. Extremism reposes in the Obamacare policy that calls contraception “preventive care.”

But first, a candidate has to want to make the case, and then learn to do so effectively to persuade uncommitted voters, just as pro-life voters need to make the case neighbor-to-neighbor. Dismissing these matters as irrelevant “distractions” leads to results like Tuesday’s. We apparently have to learn this anew every few years.

Someone remarked to me the other day that Hassan won because she came across during the campaign as another John Lynch: inoffensive, likable, unthreatening. Let’s see how likable she is when the new Democratic majority in Concord tries to repeal parental notification, which I believe they will do as early as possible next year. The Republicans have yet to choose a minority leader (Speaker O’Brien, while re-elected to his House seat, doesn’t want the job), who will decide if and how a repeal effort should be handled. Not as a distraction, I trust.

Putting Blog on Hiatus

After the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the president’s “Affordable” Care Act, it’s clear to me that  there is special urgency to effective political action over the next few months. I thank God I live in a country and a culture where peaceful activism can still make a difference. I am taking a few months off from Leaven for the Loaf and from my work in Concord so I can devote full time to campaign work leading up to November’s elections.

Pro-life ministry is essential in all spheres at all times, as I’ve learned over and over again. God bless all of those whose work is much more direct and effective than mine. Keep it up. I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I embark on this particular enterprise. I am leaving some marvelous co-workers as I look ahead to joining a new team.

Much is at stake in the political arena this year, and not just in Washington. If you meet solid candidates in your local races, help them in any way you can. Most New Hampshire elections are run on a shoestring, and a little bit of assistance will go a long way. We saw this year in Concord what a difference a few votes can make.

An idle thought comes to me: who do I want to see in the White House when we March for Life in Washington next January, on the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade? Not a tough call.

I will miss writing, and I’ll be blogging again after Election Day, or sooner if my new team throws me out. I’ll keep up the wholly apolitical Granite State Walker blog, although I doubt I’ll have much time for any hikes about which to post. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to re-connecting with you in a few months.

The Rest of the Veto Day 2012: Partial-Birth Ban is Law, Fetal Homicide Falls Just Short

The House’s override of the HB 1679 veto (partial-birth) augured well for the day. The Senate followed suit a little later, on an 18-5 straight-party-line vote. The bill is due to go into effect next January 1, although I have a sneaking suspicion that someone will try to enjoin it.

This is an enormous victory. I’ve spent enough time in the trenches to know one when I see one.

Fetal homicide, HB 217, fell short on a vote of 201-126. A majority in the House, to be sure, but not quite the two-thirds needed to send it to the Senate. Reps. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) and Warren Groen (R-Rochester) argued for the bill today on the House floor. Governor Lynch got spanked today, with several of his vetoes being overturned, so he may be particularly gratified that he managed to make this one stick.

Dominick Emmons and his mother got no justice today. I told their story in an earlier post.

The death of Dominick Emmons led to the Lamy case in which the state supreme court called on the legislature to clean up the state laws regarding the death of a fetus. Most of the legislators were willing to do that, despite Governor Lynch’s veto. The override vote was complicated when RESOLVE, a national support group for families dealing with infertility, teamed up with NARAL to hand out anti-HB217 flyers to legislators this morning.

Huh?

You read that right. After the bill had its Senate hearing but before the original Senate vote, abortion advocates went to work looking for allies. The usual suspects – PPNNE, NARAL – found a threat to Roe v. Wade where none existed, and they managed to whip up fear that a fetal homicide law would stop in vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproduction. That WOULD NOT HAPPEN under HB 217, for the simple reason that the bill includes language exempting from prosecution anyone acting with a woman’s consent – even a lab tech discarding surplus embryos (children)  from IVF.

I wonder if some of the pro-life women struggling with infertility know that RESOLVE has made common cause with abortion advocates to fight fetal homicide laws. Next time, sponsors will need to keep that in mind as they build the coalition that will get this legislation over the top next time it’s introduced.

Raise your glass and toast the reps who refused to fall for the fear factor – especially Kathy Souza, who has been promoting fetal homicide legislation for a couple of decades now, since long before she was a state rep. Manchester ward 4 can be proud of her.