Among N.H. Republicans, Mixed Reviews After Turbulent Week in Washington

May 19, 2017

One of President Trump’s top advisors, Kellyanne Conway drew a crowd at the New Hampshire Republican party’s spring fundraiser in Nashua Thursday evening.

Such party fundraisers tend to be feel-good, social affairs – a little music, some cocktails and appetizers, a chance to catch up with friends. Thursday’s closed-door gala in Nashua had an added angle going for it: It fell in the middle of a rollercoaster week of news  for the Trump administration.

The latest major headline: A special counsel would steer the investigation into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Local Republicans mingling outside the Nashua Radisson tended to fall into two camps on that matter.

There were those, like Bill Beauregard, from Keene, who thought the newly launched investigation was just the latest example of Trump’s detractors being unable to accept the results of the election.

“I think it’s unfortunate. I think it distracts from what the president wants to get accomplished,” Beauregard said. "I think it’s a waste of time, quite honestly."

But others, like Hudson Rep. Kimberly Rice, were hopeful that an independent investigation would end up being for the best in the long run.

“I think if that makes everyone feel better, so be it,” Rice said. “I think if this did happen, he needs to take ownership of it. But let someone come in and do the investigation they need to do, and figure out the truth.”

Leah Wolczko, of Goffstown, felt similarly.

“We hear nothing but Russia, Russia, Russia – Russia did it, Russia did it,” Wolczko said. “It’s taking all of the oxygen out of the room.”

Now that someone’s been appointed to look more closely at that matter, she hopes that’ll leave room for attention on more important policy issues.

“Let’s work on a good health care bill. Let’s get the tax code simplified. And let’s do all those things that everyone seems to say they know needs to be done, no matter what side of the aisle they’re on,” Wolczko said. “But they can’t seem to get past this broken record groove thing about Russia, Russia, Russia."

Aside from a shared sense of approval for how the Trump administration's first few months in office had proceeded, investigations aside, there was another unifying factor among the event’s guests: admiration for the keynote speaker.

“I admire her,” Rice said, of Conway. “I think she’s a strong, independent Republican woman. And there needs to be more of us out there.”

Longtime party activist Fran Wendelboe recalled meeting Conway decades ago as part of a leadership training course and was eager to hear from her again.

"I don’t know if she’ll remember me," Wendelboe said. "She’s become such a lofty person now.”

Wendelboe was disappointed others outside the event – including the media – would not get the chance to hear from Conway firsthand. (In a break with tradition, party officials had decided to close the fundraiser to reporters, a break with tradition – such events have typically been open to local media.)

"With our first in the nation primary it is very unusual. Because usually the name of the game is all the exposure you can get with the media," Wendelboe said.

“But we’ll have fun without you guys, " she added, with a laugh. "Sorry!"

Besides, she whispered on her way in the door: Someone would probably tell the rest of us about it later anyway.