"On the Political Front" is our weekly check-in with NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers.
Let’s begin with a controversy that broke over the weekend. It has to do with state Republican Party, delegates to the Republican National Convention, and Donald Trump. What’s going on?
Well, there are several interpretations. What is undeniable is that Saturday night, an email went out from New Hampshire GOP executive director Ross Berry to the state delegation to the RNC convention. That email was notice that there would be a vote by email to choose leaders, including delegates to the rules and platform committees. The email from the party included a proposed slate of candidates with no Donald Trump supporters, and this is the main thing that has Trump supporters agitated.
Even after Trump won the Republican primary here easily?
Yes, Trump got 35 percent of the vote on February 9. John Kasich got 15 percent. After that, it was a clump, with Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio all between 12 and 10 percent. And under New Hampshire’s rules, any candidate who gets to 10 percent gets delegates. So even though Trump won pretty big, he earned less than half of the state’s delegates -- 11 of 23. But given that, you’d expect Trump’s delegates to get some prominent assignments – and they may yet -- but that’s not what is being proposed.
You say proposed, by whom?
That’s not entirely clear at this point but Jennifer Horn is party chair. And she’s the focus of much of the anger from Trump supporters, who are questioning not simply the makeup of the proposed slate, which includes prominent backers of John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and no Trump supporters, but also the process. Any delegate who doesn’t like the proposed slate is supposed to vote for each position individually, which almost certainly advantages the proposed slate. The Trump delegates also question the vote by email, and the timing. The email went out Saturday and voting is slated to close Monday at noon.
The Trump campaign has been at odds with Jennifer Horn before.
Yes. Back in December, Horn called Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country “un-American.” Several top local Trump supporters called for Horn’s resignation. Don’t be surprised to hear more of the same if Trump’s delegates don’t end up with some assignments at the convention.
Let’s move to the statehouse, where there a bit of tension over money, but not because there’s a shortage.
Yes, a refreshing change from tension due to shortfalls. And according to both Gov. Maggie Hassan and Senate President Chuck Morse, it’s plausible that with strong revenues – biz taxes in particular, and the arrival of multi-million dollar windfall from a state’s lawsuit with Exxon Mobil over MTBE – the New Hampshire rainy day fund could be in the neighborhood of $150 million by next year.
That’s quite a change from recent history.
It is, and the fact that the state is more flush than expected has reopened a bunch of budget questions, and some resentments over business tax cuts. Recall Hassan’s many claims that the cuts to the business enterprise and business profits taxes would, as she put it, “blow a big hole” in future state budgets. That doesn’t seem to be happening, and while all are glad about that, I think GOP budget writers are feeling, again, that the governor may end up the political beneficiary for what they see as mostly their work. What the governor wants to do right now is spend more immediately on some programs proposed by lawmakers to deal with opioid issues. She wrote as much in letter to GOP leaders last week, in which she also talked about making good on school aid promises and pumping more case into retiree health insurance. The letter, despite its even tone – it included a few let’s work togethers – left top Republicans feeling a bit raw.
Because they don’t want to do these things or for some other reason?
Morse told me pretty much all of the issues Hassan highlighted are getting attention from lawmakers already. He also said he considered Hassan’s request “grandstanding.” The letter, which was sent to the press and leaders at the same time, was issued on a day when the governor was out of state, and that was a point Morse brought up more than once in our brief chat on the subject.
So, should we expect agreement on these issues before session’s end?
I’ll put it this way: Probably more agreement than will be acknowledged. There are some shared priorities and available money. But the political backdrop of all this – the governor’s senate run, the run for governor by senate finance chair Jeanie Forrester, among other things – only heightens the obstacles that tend to make election-year politics hard.