In all reality, from a Democratic perspective, the last two years could have been worse, maybe much worse.
Yes, Democrats will try to paint Republicans, and particularly House Republicans, as extreme, out of touch with the mainstream of Republican voters. They are already trying to do that. And maybe that approach will work, but the reality is that with 3-to-1 majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Republicans could have done more — they could have been more extreme.
They could have repealed the state’s same-sex marriage law. They could have made even deeper cuts to the state budget. They could have essentially eliminated the state Council on the Arts. They could have repealed the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They could have passed right-to-work legislation. They tried to do all those things, but they didn’t actually happen.
This isn’t to say Republicans did nothing or did too little to appease their base. They also certainly did enough to energize and anger the Democratic base. But really, things could be worse from the Democrats’ perspective. The changes could have been more sweeping.
In some cases Republicans provided Democrats with political cover, particularly if Democrats win back seats in the House and Senate. Republicans made some moves that will free up Democrats to focus on other things that might be more important to them.
Republicans tackled the state’s retirement system. Most agree some kind of reform was needed and the state Senate tackled that — though not everyone, particularly state workers, likes what they did. But the Democratic base was never going to be able to tackle that type of reform in a big way given its support among unions. The GOP addressed it — again this isn’t saying the reform legislation is without criticism, since both sides can argue it went too far or not far enough — but now Democrats don’t have to deal with it, at least for the time being.
The Legislature passed a series of pro-business legislation. Democrats certainly aren’t trying to be anti-business, but it’s not playing to the progressive base to make a series of changes to help businesses, when they could be addressing other areas. Democrats would rather be talking about tax equity and providing services to those in need. So once again, Democrats don’t have to worry about business taxes, since Republicans already did.
And of course, the state passed a dramatically pared down state budget last year. Had Democrats been in control of the Legislature, they likely never would have cut the budget to that extent. They probably would have used more optimistic revenue projections, even if it meant coming up short over the course of the budget. Democrats did push for more optimistic revenue projections during the budgeting process. The GOP certainly doesn’t appreciate that approach, likely blaming it for why the state faced such massive deficits the last two budget cycles. But again, cutting back the budget now gives lawmakers a chance to look at the services that were lost and see where the need is greatest. That provides an opportunity for both parties to address needs, but it was the GOP that did the heavy lifting.
And there is more for the GOP to point to. Democrats aren’t going to thank GOP leadership for all their work at the end of the session, but there are some things Republicans dealt with — that needed to be dealt with — that Democrats probably did not want to deal with. Now that’s not to say Democrats do not want to tackle serious problems, but each party’s base has its own core issues. Budgets and fiscal issues scream GOP, while services for the state’s neediest residents scream Democrat.
Maybe Democrats will thank Republicans for giving them some things to point to in the coming election. The GOP tinkered with legislation that would have impacted women’s rights, particularly with regard to abortion. The House pushed a gay marriage repeal bill. The House also pushed a repeal of RGGI. Just talking about these items gets Democrats riled up, even if they didn’t come to fruition.
New Hampshire in play
It has become clear that New Hampshire matters big-time in the presidential election this year. Vice President Joe Biden seems to visit the state on a fairly regular basis now.
Republican likely nominee Mitt Romney was back in New Hampshire this past Friday, June 15, at the Scamman farm in Stratham, the same place he made his announcement that he was formally running for president. Romney made a visit to New Hampshire a few weeks back as well.
President Barack Obama is slated to make another visit to the Granite State next week, according to reports. The Obama campaign opened up a new campaign office in Exeter last week.
It is clear candidates believe New Hampshire’s electoral votes will matter in November.
Candidates seem to be announcing endorsements left and right these days.
Gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith announced the support of Bill Zeliff last week. Zeliff ran against Smith’s primary competition, Ovide Lamontagne, in races for governor and congress in the 1990s.
Lamontagne countered with the endorsement of Bill Binnie, a former U.S. Senate candidate, businessman and former finance chairman of the state GOP.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas recently announced he would endorse Chuck Rolecek, the Hanover Street Chophouse owner, in his bid for Executive Council in District 4. Rolecek is running against Bob Burns and Tom DeBlois in the GOP primary. Chris Pappas is running on the Democratic side. Ray Wieczorek, the longtime Manchester politician, is retiring from his seat on the council, leaving an open race in District 4.