Primary Source: Shaheen, despite narrow victories in the past, may have edge

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/24/2019 10:14:53 PM
Modified: 7/24/2019 10:14:48 PM

The lineup is taking shape for the 2020 U.S. Senate election in purple New Hampshire. Given the small size of the state and affordable media market — plus some close elections in the past — unseating U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., seems to be a Republican goal.

The Washington Post recently rated the seat “competitive,” but could it really flip hands?

The 72-year-old Shaheen has been active in New Hampshire politics for decades, served three terms as governor and recently reported $2.9 million cash on hand. But the two-term senator also has never won big in a U.S. Senate race.

In fact, she lost a 2002 bid for an open seat to Republican John E. Sununu, brother of the current governor, then defeated him in 2008 with 52% of the vote. She held onto the seat in 2014, winning under 52% against carpetbagger Scott Brown.

Political analyst Dean Spiliotes, a professor at Southern New Hampshire University, said he thinks defeating Shaheen in 2020 will be “challenging” for whoever wins the Republican primary.

“She’s raised a lot of money, she’s very popular with Democrats, and it’s likely to be a high-turnout year for them, and she’s also relatively popular with independents,” Spiliotes said.

Republican candidates are trying to corral the Trump base. Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien released a list of current and former conservative lawmakers in his camp, including state Rep. Al Baldasaro, the Trump ally from Londonderry who in 2016 said Hillary Clinton should be “shot in a firing squad for treason.”

Also on the GOP ballot is retired Army Gen. Donald Bolduc, who grew up in Laconia. Meanwhile, Bryant “Corky” Messner, a former Army Ranger who founded a law firm in Denver and has a home in Wolfeboro, recently established an exploratory committee.

’Desist’ at Dartmouth?

An odd thing happened at a public lecture by a member of Congress on Monday at Dartmouth. The event, which was sponsored by Dartmouth’s Jewish Studies Program and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, was headlined, “Religious Authoritarianism, Political Correctness and the Puritan Style in American Politics.”

And the speaker was U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and longtime constitutional law professor who chairs a House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

But even though it was a public event, Dartmouth Professor Susannah Heschel told the audience of about 175 that the press was not invited. “Anyone taking notes for the purpose of a press story please desist,” she said at the outset.

Asked later about the unusual restriction on press coverage of a public event on a college campus, Heschel said via email, “We have many events at Dartmouth College, some open to the press and some not. We respect the wishes of our guests when they request that the event be conducted without press coverage, as happens occasionally.”

Raskin himself, in a phone interview Tuesday, said he thought he was going to be speaking to a class and had asked for no press coverage because he hadn’t had a chance to finalize his lecture due to a one-week delay in the Mueller hearing.

“I was basically there to talk about an academic subject,” said Raskin, who was not paid for the appearance and said he had not wanted to be quoted on a “preliminary” version of a paper he is writing.

In an email exchange on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said, “Speakers on the private Dartmouth campus have the right to stipulate the ways in which their intellectual property may be reproduced and disseminated,” but also acknowledged the press would have been free to cover the event.

“Dartmouth respects the right of anyone who attends a public event to report on that event. No one would be asked to leave a public Dartmouth event for taking notes or declaring their intention to report on the proceedings,” she said in a separate email.

OK. Glad we got that out in the open. For the record, according to two people who attended the talk, including a diligent notetaker who ignored Heschel’s admonition, Raskin said Democrats and progressives have to be wary of being seen as lecturing the rest of the country.

“There is a Puritanical style to American politics ... that we’ve got to overcome,” Raskin said. “We have to watch the neo-Puritanical tendencies that we’ve got.”

Raskin, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, has worked with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on such issues as affordable housing and is a fan. But he said, politically, she might be a stronger candidate if she were still from Oklahoma, where she grew up, as opposed to Massachusetts. The Bay State, he noted, is often perceived as “a place that judges the rest of the country.”

Birding news

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is running against President Donald Trump in the Republican primary, was the first candidate to take up Grantham resident Sheridan Brown on a “Primary Feathers” bird walk to promote conservation. They were joined by about 10 others on Sunday at the Randolph (N.H.) Community Forest in the White Mountains. Weld talked knowledgeably about his “life list” of birds to see, Brown said.

“His curiosity and interest in nature was evident, checking out mushrooms, butterflies and even deer scat,” Brown said. Sounds like the Weld I used to write speeches for, decades ago. He used to do turkey calls when speaking to sportsmen’s clubs in central Massachusetts.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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