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John Gregg: Looking For Votes

There’s now less than six weeks to go before New Hampshire’s March 11 Town Meeting Day and the special election to fill the vacant District 1 Executive Council seat of the late Ray Burton.

In campaign spending reports filed Wednesday, Hanover Democrat Mike Cryans, who was unopposed in last week’s primary, reported almost $60,000 in his campaign war chest, including $1,000 contributions from Friends of Maggie Hassan and the New Hampshire Educators Political Action Committee.

Wakefield Republican Joe Kenney, who handily won a three-way primary, reported almost $34,000 cash on hand, having spent almost $22,000 in the primary and loaned himself $10,000. Among his donors was former gubernatorial candidate John Stephen, who pitched in $250.

The district has about 264,000 residents, and includes Grafton and Coos counties, Claremont, Croydon, Plainfield, New London, Cornish, Grantham, Newport, Springfield, Sunapee and several cities and towns in the Lakes Region, including Laconia, Meredith, Moultonborough and Wolfeboro.

Cryans is a Littleton native and Grafton County commissioner, but his home county’s population of 89,000 is only about one-third of the district. More to the point, the operative words as to who wins may be “Town Meeting voter.”

Even against the hugely popular Burton, Democratic opponents in recent elections would rack up big margins in Lebanon and Hanover and run competitively in Plymouth. But many of those loyal Democratic voters — especially college students — are unlikely to be turning out on Town Meeting Day. Still, Cryans said the race is winnable.

“I don’t see it as an impossible task,” Cryans said. “I view it as the challenge for the Cryans campaign to do the best job I can to encourage people to get out and vote.”

Plus he noted, it’s been a challenge this winter. “Who would have ever thought you would be campaigning when it’s 25 below zero?” he said.

Democrats this week were making hay of the fact that the Executive Council on Wednesday voted 4-0 to award $737,588 to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to provide family planning and other women’s health services at several health centers, including Claremont and West Lebanon. That reversed a 2011 vote where three Republicans then on the Executive Council opposed such a measure.

Cryans this week said he would have voted for the Planned Parenthood contract, because it provides funding for mammograms and other screenings.

“Anything that can improve women’s health care, I think is essential,” he said.

Kenney, on the other hand, ducked a call from the Concord Monitor on Tuesday — a spokeswoman instead highlighted his “14-year pro-life record” in the Legislature, though the Planned Parenthood contract doesn’t pay for abortions.

And on Wednesday, the former state senator returned an email from the Valley News seeking an interview with the query: “John, What do you need? Joe,” but never returned a follow-up email.

Maybe Kenney was busy. But, hey, Burton always returned calls and took tough questions.

Rumble in Hanover

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., two radicals from opposite sides are slated to debate at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium.

Dinesh D’Souza, a 1983 Dartmouth graduate and former editor of the conservative Dartmouth Review, is squaring off against Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground and a retired professor from Chicago. The debate is being called, “What’s So Great About America?”

D’Souza, as you may recall, was indicted in New York last week for allegedly making illegal contributions in someone else’s name to a fellow Dartmouth conservative who was running for U.S. Senate.

Briefly Noted

∎ Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin put the focus on opiate addiction in his State of the State speech, moving the conversation away from continuing questions about the still incomplete universal broadband rollout and troubles with the Vermont health exchange.

But as Shumlin now pitches a move to single-payer health care, here’s a pointed observation from Darcie Johnston, head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom. “... The big story here is that we couldn’t do the easy part at all successfully, which was the exchange. So now we’re moving onto the hard part with no safety net underneath us. It’s a tough, tough road economically, and I don’t see how we get there,” she told Vermont Public Radio recently.

∎ Steve Norton, the executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, will speak on Thursday, Feb. 13 at Grantham Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. on “The Affordable Care Act, Critical Issues and Opportunities for New Hampshire.” The event is being sponsored by Grantham County Democrats, but is being dubbed as “nonpartisan” and open to all.