The Hippo


Sep 20, 2019








O’Brien on marriage
Clinton endorses Hassan; Liquor Commission confused


It’s been a big political week in New Hampshire: President Bill Clinton, missing wine and perhaps a renewed effort to repeal same-sex marriage. Let’s start there.

House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, who has had record Republican majorities to work with for the last two years, said during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio last week that he would work to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law if he is re-elected in the fall.

It’s not surprising that O’Brien wishes to repeal the law, but it’s interesting that the issue is coming up now. O’Brien never pushed hard for repeal, at least publicly. He wasn’t really leading the charge on the issue.

Yes, there were some obstacles, namely Gov. John Lynch, who probably would have vetoed a repeal bill. Garnering enough support to override the veto would have been difficult; the libertarian nature of New Hampshire Republicans probably would have made it difficult for O’Brien to get the votes. That libertarian streak isn’t likely to change next session, though Republican majorities will probably be smaller.

It was easy to push the issue off during the first session in 2011. The focus pretty much had to be the state budget, and taking on same-sex marriage repeal at that time wouldn’t have gone over well with a lot of folks who elected Republicans to deal with fiscal issues, not social issues.

When the issue came up again earlier this year, groups that support the state’s same-sex marriage law were ready. Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, a bipartisan group that formed late last year, quickly grew with the help of high-powered and high-profile support. The repeal bill was squashed by the House.

Then came last week. O’Brien, on NHPR’s The Exchange, spoke about how weakened families would lead to more government spending. He said one of the things that makes families strong is the traditional definition of marriage. He said he’d push for repeal next session.

Standing Up for New Hampshire Families fired back.

“O’Brien’s continued attacks on gay and lesbian families are downright disgusting, and out of step with the people of New Hampshire,” said Craig Stowell, a Republican and co-chairman of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families. “This year’s vote demonstrated what repeated statewide polls have shown — the widespread popularity of our marriage law.” Stowell pointed out that the repeal effort failed by a vote of 211-116 in the House, including 119 Republicans who voted against repeal.

The issue isn’t going away. Someone is certainly going to submit a bill to repeal the law, probably next session. Perhaps O’Brien is hoping that the governor will be a Republican and therefore not an obstacle to repeal. But most analysts expect Republicans to have lesser majorities after the coming election.

A presidential boost

President Bill Clinton has always had a good relationship with New Hampshire. Maggie Hassan was hoping to play off Clinton’s relationship with New Hampshire voters. The former president endorsed Hassan, who is running against Jackie Cilley in the Democratic primary for governor, during a campaign event in Nashua last week.

Hassan was seen as sort of the presumptive favorite in the Democratic primary, and an endorsement from Clinton certainly helps her cause. It also suggests that Hassan legitimately needed the support. Cilley, who is seen as the more progressive of the two, has been a tough opponent.

Clinton’s support gives Hassan a nice bump in the primary and certainly helps her if she ultimately wins the primary. The Clintons have a strong network of support in the Granite State.

Both Cilley and Hassan have to be pleased that recently shifted the governor’s race from “lean Republican” to tossup. Many assumed Ovide Lamontagne would just run away with the election. That hasn’t happened. He appears to be in strong position, but pundits seem to believe the general election could go either way at this point. Visit for the complete rankings of gubernatorial races.

The case of the missing wine

The saga of the missing wine in Portsmouth looked, at the end of last week, like it was brewing into an actual “thing.”

It’s a little, or a lot, unclear what’s going on, but apparently $100,000 worth of fine wine showed up at a liquor warehouse in Portsmouth unannounced, and then all of a sudden it was gone.

That’s strange enough on its own, but the back and forth from officials has been interesting as well. No one can say they didn’t have anything to do with it fast enough. Former commissioner Mark Bodi, who recently resigned, told the Union Leader unequivocally that his resignation had nothing to do with the missing wine.

Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica has said the matter was brought up to the Rockingham County District Attorney, Jim Reams, whose office conducted an inconclusive investigation. Reams is saying that’s not true, according to reports. Now the Attorney General’s office is investigating and, apparently and reportedly, there is also the possibility this is just an accounting error.

Members of the Executive Council are angry they weren’t made aware of the issue. Lynch apparently knew nothing about it. The matter was reportedly turned over to the Attorney General’s office in June. It’s difficult to know whether there will be political fallout on this one. 


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