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Primary Source: Big Donors in the Upper Valley

  • John P. Gregg

Published: 9/1/2016 12:04:33 AM
Modified: 9/1/2016 12:04:35 AM

Liberal activists have long had to reconcile how David Koch, one of the industrialist Koch Brothers, is both a mega conservative donor and a major philanthropist, having served as a trustee of both WGBH, the public television station in Boston, and WNET in New York.

In fact, the Upper Valley has its own conservative donors who have given to cultural causes. Case in point, according to recent Federal Election Commission records, are Ray and Cynthia Barrette, the Hanover residents whose name adorns Northern Stage’s new Barrette Center for the Arts in downtown White River Junction.

Ray Barrette, the CEO of White Mountains Insurance Group in Hanover, gave at least $2,700 to the presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in late April, according to FEC reports. That followed a $2,700 donation to Jeb Bush in 2015, and almost $34,000 to the Republican National Committee in January.

All told, Barrette has donated some $400,000 to Republican candidates and causes in the past 15 years, according to the FEC records. (Emails seeking comment sent to Barrette’s office were not returned on Wednesday).

Cynthia Barrette has a similar track record, having given $2,700 to Ohio Gov. John Kasich in February and at least that much to Cruz in April. She also sent $250 to the Stop Hillary PAC in March, and cumulatively has donated some $240,000 to GOP candidates and causes in the past 16 years.

As for the Republican of the hour, Donald Trump, his Upper Valley supporters include Norwich resident Mark Schleicher, according to the FEC records. Schleicher, who is also a hotel developer, donated $2,700 to Trump’s campaign in early July, the FEC online report indicates. (Phone messages left for Schleicher — who with his wife, Paula, recently helped the High Horses therapeutic riding program buy a farm in Sharon — were not returned.)

Other Trump donors include William Coyle, a manufacturing executive in Hanover who gave $2,700; Jean Liepold, of Grantham, $500; and Subaru of Claremont’s Peter Mans, also $500.

On the Democratic side, donors to Hillary Clinton include Tillman Gerngross, the CEO of Adimab, who gave $2,700; Barbara Couch, president of Hypertherm’s HOPE Foundation, also $2,700; and Dartmouth College Provost Carolyn Dever, who gave the Clinton campaign $2,700 early on, in April 2015.

Needing Some Name ID

Less than two weeks from New Hampshire’s Sept. 13 primary, most of the seven major gubernatorial candidates, especially the Democrats, are little known by the public, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released this week by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Some 15 percent of likely general election voters have a favorable opinion of Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord; 14 percent are favorable toward former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand; and 13 percent feel favorably toward former New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Director Mark Connolly, D-New Castle.

What that translates to is at least 70 percent of poll respondents said they don’t know enough about any of the candidates to express an opinion.

On the Republican side, 34 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, the Newfields resident who is a son and brother of a former governor and U.S. senator, respectively. Only 32 percent said they don’t know enough about him to express an opinion.

Some 27 percent of voters have a favorable opinion on Republican Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, with 43 percent in the dark about him. State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, is viewed favorably by only 16 percent of likely voters, and state Rep. Frank Edelblut, R-Wilton, by 7 percent of same.

That means some 69 percent of voters don’t know much about Forrester, 79 percent about Edelblut, according to the poll.

The numbers are even more dismal for the seven Republicans in a primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., for the 2nd Congressional district seat that includes the Upper Valley.

House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, R-Hudson, poll best in the GOP field, but only 10 percent of voters said they knew enough to have a favorable opinion of either.

With televised debates starting this week, all those numbers could soon improve.

Debate Talk

If you live in Vermont, prepare for even more debates. Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott and his Democratic rival, Sue Minter, are talking about 10 debates in the next 10 weeks.

Meanwhile, Pomfret Republican Scott Milne is trying to get U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy to commit to more than the three debates Leahy has agreed to, including on Vermont Public Radio and Vermont Public Television, in their race for the U.S. Senate.

Milne wants at least one one-hour debate on each of Vermont’s four television outlets.


John Gregg can be reached at

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