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Illustration by Tony Luongo.




Recreational pot in New England?

Though a bill to legalize and tax marijuana in New Hampshire was killed last February, the state could be bordered by one or two states with legalized marijuana after this election. Ballot measures in Massachusetts and Maine would legalize and tax the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21+. 
In Massachusetts, eligible adults would be able to possess up to 1 ounce in public or 9 ounces under lock at home. It would be permissible to grow the plant outside for personal or commercial use as long as it’s not visible to the public. In Maine, a small amount would be legal to possess for personal use and people would be allowed to grow it. A proposed 10-percent tax on the plant is projected to bring in an additional $15 million in state revenue.
Recent polls show a majority in favor in both states. A WBUR poll on Oct. 19 showed a 15-point edge, with 55 percent of those in favor and 40 percent against. A late September UNH poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald found that 53 percent of Maine respondents favored legalization over 38 percent who opposed it.
Matt Simon, New England director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states in the region that can legalize pot via ballot measure.
“For that reason alone, those two states are most likely to serve as pioneers for legalization in the region,” Simon said.
A UNH poll in 2015 showed a majority of Granite Staters (54 percent) support legalization while 36 percent oppose it.
 
How to vote in NH
If you want to vote on Nov. 8, go to your town or city’s website or ask your town or city clerk to find your polling location. Arrive at the polls and, if you’re already registered to vote, you’ll only need a government issued photo ID, like a driver’s license. If you are not yet registered, New Hampshire has same-day registration. Just bring additional evidence, like a utility bill, showing your address if you moved recently and your address hasn’t been updated on your ID, and you will be able to register at the polling station right before voting. 
For more info, visit sos.nh.gov, where you can see sample ballots, figure out if you’re registered, find out who the electors are for each candidate and see a list of all the independent candidates.
 




Hassan vs. Ayotte: a fair fight?
A traditional NH battle over independents colored by outside influences

10/27/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 The matchup between Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been seen as one of the few swing-state races that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. And big money has followed suit; outside spending exceeds $70 million so far.

But what has been a close race for months between two popular candidates, with epic stakes and aggressive campaigning on both sides, has been fought otherwise as a traditional New Hampshire race, with both candidates trying to appeal to independent voters. 
In the end, however, it is likely the presidential race will determine its outcome. And, as with other state races, it’s not thanks to Democrats riding Hillary Clinton’s coattails so much as Republicans going down with a sinking Donald Trump ship (see graph on p. 15). That’s based on recent polls showing Hassan leading the race by about 8 points, though Ayotte may be able to take advantage of “ballot-splitters” willing to vote for Clinton at the top and Republicans down ticket.
 
Safe strategy
Ayotte and Hassan have been trying to out-bipartisan each other since this race began last fall — arguably before it began, since a Hassan candidacy was long-expected by insiders and Ayotte announced her re-election bid unusually early, in July 2015. 
“You have to work across the aisle if you want to get things done. And that's why I’ve done that because if you want to get results, you’ve got to work with other people and find the common ground so that we can solve our problems,” Ayotte said during her campaign launch event in a West Side Manchester function hall.
And this language has continued throughout the campaign. As recently as Oct. 22, the Ayotte campaign sent out a press release with the headline “ICYMI: Keene Sentinel: Kelly Highlights "Her Ability To Work Across The Aisle".”
Hassan has made similar overtures to independents by highlighting the work she’s done as governor to propose bipartisan legislation addressing the drug crisis. And to the chagrin of GOP legislators, she even points to the state budget compromise, following her budget veto, as an example of reaching across the aisle.
But in a year when Democrats were expected to do better in the state and, according to political analysts, a chunk of the Republican base is now seeming less likely to turn out to vote, Ayotte needs independents more than ever to win.
“She needs three groups of people to support her to get reelected,” Saint Anselm College political science professor Chris  Galdieri said.
Galdieri said Ayotte needs Trump supporters, moderate Republicans and crossover votes from independent and even Democratic voters.
And for much of this race, this strategy of aiming toward the middle of the electorate has seemed to work. From the beginning, Ayotte and Hassan were neck and neck in nearly every poll. Ayotte even pulled out a respectable 6-point lead in a Suffolk University poll in early October.
Political analyst Dean Spiliotes said that when you ignore the TV ads and just listen to the candidates, what you hear is very familiar to Granite Staters.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and we all kind of sense that it feels like a fairly traditional New Hampshire-style context where there’s a lot of focus on independent voters and talking about bipartisanship and working across the aisle and putting New Hampshire first even when it deviates from party considerations,” Spiliotes said.
Unlike Hassan, Ayotte faced a primary challenger, former state Sen. Jim Rubens, who was partly buoyed by a conservative faction that was frustrated with all her aisle-reaching. While Rubens didn’t give much chase, it showed the underlying risks of crossing elements of her base.
As the non-endorsement of Trump showed earlier this year, toeing a line that didn’t alienate Trump supporters was always a consideration. Trump did win the New Hampshire primary, after all. 
But the Republican candidate didn’t make it easy for Ayotte as each week seemed to bring with it some new comment or action that Trump supporters like Ayotte had to reckon with.
This came to a head during a debate between Ayotte and Hassan where Ayotte was asked if she would point to Trump as a good role model for children. Clearly struggling with the question, she settled on “absolutely” she would.
Later that night, she changed that answer by saying in a written statement that she misspoke and that neither nominee for president is a good role model. 
Days later, the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released. That was the last straw. 
Throwing out half measures, Ayotte announced on Oct. 8 that she would not vote for Trump, but would write in the name of Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.
The latest poll, taken Oct. 11 to 17, shows Hassan leading with 48 percent of voters, including undecided voters pressed to choose, against Ayotte’s 39 percent — though Ayotte still has the support of Trump voters. 
 
New reality
Over the course of the race, Hassan and Ayotte have traded barbs about women’s health care, abortion, outside spending, the drug crisis and foreign policy. 
Hassan had her own problems in this campaign. In January, she gave her first full-length interview with a national news organization, Politico, and it did not go well. In the article, the reporter noted that Hassan repeated 10 times some version of a sentence saying the race was between special interests and the people of New Hampshire.
To local reporters, Hassan’s scripted responses are old hat, but critics latched on to the awkward interview as an example of Hassan playing tee-ball in the big leagues. 
This came back to haunt her again in August when, in a CNN interview, she repeatedly avoided directly answering whether she thinks Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy. Instead of simply saying yes as some commentators have said would have been simpler, she complimented Clinton’s record, experience and commitment and hewed to a number of go-to talking points about her race.
Hassan’s campaign later sent a statement clarifying that she thinks Clinton is trustworthy, but the damage was done. Video of the exchange was used by Trump surrogates at New Hampshire rallies to fire up Republican Trump supporters.
But all of that is now a distant memory. A new TV ad this month from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce makes the case for re-electing Ayotte as a check on Clinton. “Just imagine,” the ad narrator says, “what [Hassan] would do unchecked in Washington with a new president.”
This last-ditch effort to pull out a victory for Ayotte might have a chance at working if Republican turnout isn’t going to be as low as experts predict it will be. One thing working in her favor is a recent analysis that shows New Hampshire has the highest share of registered voters (10 percent according to Bloomberg) who are likely willing to split their ballot between Clinton and Republicans down ticket. 
But Galdieri said cutting loose from a sinking ship this late in the game might be too little too late.
“They’ve cut loose from the ship but the ship might still drag their lifeboat along in its wake,” Galdieri said.
 
Red flags
There were early indicators that the presidential race, particularly the nomination of Trump, would weigh Ayotte down in this election.
And it was already going to be an uphill battle even without Trump at the top of the ticket.
“Kelly Ayotte … was in a tough position from Day 1, just because it’s a presidential election year in a state that tends to vote Democratic [in presidential years],” Galdieri said.
Ayotte, who is a close ally to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a presidential candidate early in the primary season, chose to stay on the sidelines during the primary.
Ayotte may have preferred the ultimate nomination of Graham — who was a longshot — or one of the establishment Republican candidates with more moderate positions on the issues like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Ohio Gov. John Kasich. 
When Trump became the nominee, Ayotte was pressed to weigh in. She had said for months that she would support the Republican nominee, whoever that would be. Then in May, she said she wouldn’t endorse Trump, but she would vote for him.
“Ayotte’s had a very tough time navigating having Trump as the nominee. She didn’t endorse anybody in the primary and then, once he became the nominee, she took this support-but-not-endorse position,” Galdieri said.
Then, Trump made disparaging remarks about a Gold Star family who spoke at the Democratic National Convention. In early August, Ayotte, who is married to a veteran, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and often champions veteran issues, didn’t let the comments go unanswered.
The day after Ayotte said she was “appalled” that Trump had the “gall” to compare his sacrifices to that of a family who lost a son in the Iraq war, Trump publicly criticized Ayotte for not endorsing him. 
“We need loyal people in this country,” Trump told the Washington Post at the time. “We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support, and I’m doing great in New Hampshire.” 
Three days later, in an effort to show more party unity, Trump offered his endorsements of Ayotte, Arizona Sen. John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan. 





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