New NHGOP comms director helped show that buffer zone is unnecessary

The New Hampshire Republican Party promoted a few people today. Michael Zona is the new communications director. I knew I’d heard his name before, but I couldn’t place him until suddenly it popped into my head: he was The Chicken! Not just any chicken, either. Last year, he accidentally highlighted the absolute non-necessity for a Granite State buffer zone law.

When Jeanne Shaheen was running for re-election last year, someone in a chicken costume kept following her at public events. The idea, as I recall, was to draw attention to Shaheen’s reluctance to hold town halls. Reporter John DiStaso captured a good picture of the Senator and her shadow at a Londonderry parade, just before the guy in the chicken suit – Mr. Zona, as it happened – was arrested for disorderly conduct

I wrote about the incident at the time, noting how the town of Londonderry appropriately responded to someone trying to keep a woman from going about her business.

Here’s a summary: On the mean streets of Londonderry over the weekend, a man attempted to interfere with two women who were going about their business. He was trying to contact them with an important message. They didn’t want to hear it. He persisted. He was warned to cease and desist. Being a young idealist, he kept on keepin’ on. Finally the cops saw him yelling at the women. That did it: he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Police used existing law to deal with the situation. Perfect. No need to “buffer” the First Amendment to protect those women.

The women were Governor Hassan and Senator Shaheen. They were walking in a parade, not walking into an abortion facility. They were entitled to safety, as are clients and workers at abortion facilities. The man arrested for disorderly conduct was wearing a chicken suit (you can’t make this up), not carrying a “choose life” sign. The Londonderry police didn’t need a special law to be passed in the name of “safety and balance” in order to do their job. Chicken Man was cited for disorderly conduct, and the parade went on without further incident.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against Mr. Zona. Even so, on the day of the parade, police were able to protect the Senator by using statutes that existed long before anyone knew about buffer zones.

Notes from the NHGOP convention

After the dust settled at Saturday’s 2014 New Hampshire Republican convention, there was still one political party in New Hampshire with a platform that recognizes and respects the right to life of every human being. That outcome was worth waiting for.

My information comes from what I heard even after the proceedings were closed to me, and from what delegates (most of whom requested anonymity) told me after the convention.

The day’s big story wasn’t the story I expected. The interviews I conducted early in the day were rendered beside-the-point by the outcome of the platform votes.

Keeping the press out is pointless. I was with the press contingent, and we were welcomed for the pep-rally portion of the program. Once policy discussion began, we were barred, although “guests” were welcome to stay. Political parties are more-or-less private entities that can grant or deny access to any party function, and hooray for that. Even so, the venue’s walls were thin and the hallway worked pretty well for me as a monitoring station. Also, Twitter and smartphones are here to stay. Four hundred politically-active individuals were in that room, and they all know how to hit “send.”

Personhood has hit the big time. The NHGOP platform already had pro-life language under the “Family” section. It’s now stronger than ever, and the haters-at-large are already attacking the plank – but that’s a topic for another day. The delegates adopted this: “Support the pre-born child’s fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections.” More: “Support a Life at Conception Act guaranteeing the protections of Life and Personhood to the pre-born under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Wow. Abortion advocates like Mmes. Hassan and Shaheen are already in overdrive about the “anti-woman” platform – by the way, has anyone asked them about their support for sex-selection abortion, as long as we’re getting into “anti-woman” stuff? – and Scott Brown has reaffirmed that he’s pro-choice, whatever that means.

The timing of the convention is interesting. To an independent voter like me (or as I sometimes call myself, a recovering Republican), one Saturday is as good as another. I have to wonder how the candidates in the convention hall felt about that. Two hundred or so delegates were in the hall when the convention was gavelled to order on September 20, and a couple of hundred more were credentialed by the time the platform discussion begana few hours later. That makes over 400 people who weren’t out knocking on doors on a good-weather Saturday six weeks before the election.

Teach your kids parliamentary procedure. A couple of decades ago, I attended state GOP conventions as a delegate – three times, if memory serves. One thing hasn’t changed since my delegate days: contention over rules and parliamentary procedure. A lot of good people were angry at how the convention was conducted (and a number of them vented on Facebook afterward). Anger over the rules nearly triggered a mass walkout, until cooler heads prevailed (to outstanding effect).

Delegates heard from four candidates and one sitting U.S. Senator, none of whom addressed the right to life or the “war on women” lie. It was left to keynote speaker Carly Fiorina to bring up “war on women.” She could give lessons to some of the GOP candidates. The overriding message: jobsandtheeconomyjobsandtheeconomyjobsandtheeconomy. Ah, yes, that’ll keep the fearmongers at bay. Worked so well in 2012 … but I’m repeating myself. By the way, I was in an alcove in the back of the room as each speaker was introduced, and I can tell you who got a wholehearted all-the-way-to-the-back-row standing ovation: Marilinda Garcia, running against Ann Kuster in CD2. I can tell you who didn’t: everyone else.

The platform still affirms one-man-one-woman marriage. I would have bet heavily on adoption of an amendment redefining marriage. Didn’t happen. There was a vote on that, and it wasn’t close.

The people who were angriest about the rules-and-parliamentary brouhaha did not walk out. This may have played into the outcome of the vote on the pro-life plank. I’m confident it played heavily into the marriage vote. A walkout would have left a room full of legacy Republicans – fine people, good neighbors, jobsandtheeconomy. Before the platform vote, one pro-life delegate who’s a veteran of NHGOP conventions sought me out while he was working to persuade disaffected delegates to stay. “No way am I going to walk out. I worked too hard to get here,” he told me. An hour later, the wisdom of his decision was evident. He later emailed me: “Many people helped make these votes possible. I think there were also some miracles from God!” Another email, this one from a first-time delegate: “It is amazing how social conservatives were mobilized to sign up to run as delegates for the convention. I was contacted by two different people asking me to run.”

Q & A with some of the delegates and guests before the convention: Jane Cormier, outgoing state rep and recent state senate candidate: What’s the most important thing you think can be accomplished today? “I would like to be able to see that we haven’t ended up with a totally different thrust to the platform. Time will tell.” State senate candidate Kathy Rago was thinking along the same lines. “I hope we can keep the platform from being watered down today.”

I had a longer chat with Skip Murphy of Granite Grok. What’s going on with the GOP in New Hampshire? “I’m not sure anymore, to be perfectly honest with you. I don’t know what it stands for. I know what the platform stands for. I know what they campaigned on. But then when you look at the talk versus the walk, some of the legislation – especially some of the votes last session [in Concord] – I don’t know what the Republican party stands for.” Any suggestions for GOP voter outreach? “They’d better be real careful, because I think when they reach over they’re going to topple over as well. I look at it this way: in 2010-2012, the Democrats demonized the Tea Party, those newly-active folks who found out that politics matters. They came out in overwhelming numbers, first-time newbies, and they were scorned for being newbies, but they had strength of character and exuberance to get involved. Democrats demonized them, seeing them as the existential terror they really were to the Democrat agenda. Unfortunately during this campaign season, we’ve seen Republicans turn on them as well, so a lot of them are going to stay home.”

After the convention,  I got a Facebook communication from a longtime pro-life education activist in Manchester who was a first-time delegate. After a morning of pep-rally speeches and an afternoon of getting down the the nitty-gritty of platform adoption, this was how one newbie reviewed the festivities.

“My first trip to the NH Republican State Convention is over. What a day! Met so many interesting people from across the state. I was amazed that folks were willing to drive over 2 hours to attend. The speeches by the candidates were uninspiring. Money, money, more about money. Republicans want it to go one place, Democrats want it to go somewhere else. But when we got down to business, I realized that Money doesn’t win elections or votes. What gets people excited and what animates them and gets them involved are the Social Issues. Wasn’t a single battle about money when it came to the Platform. We fought to defend the rights of the preborn – and won. We fought to support traditional Marriage between one Man and one Woman – and won. So Scott Brown, Walt Havenstein, and the Party Establishment should take note – NH Republicans will turn out the vote for the babies and traditional family values. Exactly why should we turn out in November for the wishy-washy prattle of Brown or Havenstein? Those boys should pledge to put aside their ‘personal beliefs’ and support the Platform and vote accordingly. Maybe then they will be worth voting for in November. If not, I see a huge loss for both. It was invigorating to be around so many like minded people. Today’s Platform win was a win for the Family, which is always a win for the Children, our Future.”