Blog: Politics & Policy

Current Population Survey, © 2016 by Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson

New Hampshire lawmakers are again debating Right-to-Work laws, with bills currently moving through both the House and Senate. With Republican majorities in both chambers, and a newly-elected governor who favors Right-to-Work, the policy stands its best chance of passing in more than a decade.

But Right-to-Work isn’t exactly a kitchen-table kind of issue. If you aren’t in a union, or a large business owner, you may not know much about its history, what Right-to-Work does, or why it matters.

Cathy Merrill, Facebook

Traditionally, New Hampshire's poet laureate reads a poem at the inauguration of a new governor. This year, however, Gov. Chris Sununu chose someone with a different talent. 

Josh Rogers/NHPR

Even if you're a veteran of New Hampshire politics, chances are you've never heard this story before.

We certainly hadn’t - until last week, when Gov-elect Sununu spoke at a party celebrating the holidays, and the renovation of the Bridges House, New Hampshire’s governor’s residence.

Heading into November, New Hampshire Democrats talked a big game when it came to their hopes for retaking control of the state Senate.

But when the Republicans ended up maintaining the same 14-10 margin they’ve held for the past two years, Democrats placed at least part of the blame for their losses on gerrymandered district lines.

As it turns out, they might have a point.

2016 was a mixed bag for New Hampshire Republicans. The party’s top elected official, Senator Kelly Ayotte, lost her seat to Governor Hassan. But Chris Sununu’s win over fellow executive councilor Colin Van Ostern gave the GOP the Governor’s office for the first time in a dozen years.  

Kate Harper for NHPR

After a long, well-financed, neck-and-neck campaign, the race for United States Senate in New Hampshire could be headed for a recount.

Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan finished Election Day separated by 1,023 votes out of more than 738,420 cast, with Hassan holding the slight lead.

Despite the razor thin margin, the two-term governor rallied her supporters outside the State House Wednesday morning.

The race for control of the New Hampshire Senate is playing out across the state’s 24 Senate districts.

But, thanks in part to years of partisan gerrymandering, the majority of those districts are not terribly competitive, with either Democrats or Republicans all but guaranteed a victory.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

    

After suggesting that Democrats were abusing the state’s same-day voter registration rules by “busing” in out-of-state voters, Chris Sununu clarified that he does not believe voters are being literally bused across the New Hampshire border en masse to participate in the elections — but he does favor stronger residency requirements to prevent potential abuses at the polls.

Down in the polls, low on cash and deeply unpopular, Rep. Frank Guinta could use all the help he can get defending his 1st District Congressional seat.

But, adding insult to injury, the incumbent has been all but abandoned by the Republican party’s major lifeline for House candidates. 

Complaints about skewed public polls are nothing new. Recent election cycles have included many such accusations from candidates – especially when they’re running behind. In 2012, many Republicans held onto the idea that the polls were skewed against Mitt Romney, right up until Barack Obama won reelection.

Friends of Chris Sununu

If you’ve tuned into local news stations lately, you might’ve spotted Chris Sununu’s first TV ad of the general election.

A few seconds in, Sununu, the Republican nominee for governor, talks up his business experience at the helm of Waterville Valley Ski Resort, where he’s served as CEO since his family bought the resort in 2010.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

After a surprise strong showing in last month’s GOP gubernatorial primary, Frank Edelblut is back on the campaign trail, backing his former rival Chris Sununu.

And while he’s not commenting on his political ambitions, the move suggests Edelblut could have more elections in his future.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

This story has been updated with a response from the Trump campaign.

At his rally in Bedford last week, Donald Trump’s prescription for New Hampshire’s drug crisis — a wall at the southern border as a way to stop the flow of drugs into the country — earned plenty of cheers.

That proposal, and his assessment of the state’s drug issues more generally, went over less well with New Hampshire’s leading drug prevention advocacy organization, New Futures.

Chris Jenson

Kelly Ayotte’s reelection race was always going to be a steep uphill climb. She’s facing a relatively popular opponent in Gov. Maggie Hassan, an electorate looking for change, and the more Democrat-friendly New Hampshire voters who typically turn out in presidential years.

But as Ayotte struggles to reach escape velocity, the pull of Donald Trump’s unpopularity threatens to keep her earthbound. 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Following their first debate Monday, Hillary Clinton has a 7-point lead over Donald Trump in New Hampshire according to a poll released Friday by WBUR.

The poll conducted Sept. 27-29 found 42 percent of likely voters supporting the Democratic presidential nominee, and 35 percent backing her Republican opponent. Thirteen percent of voters said they support Libertarian Gary Johnson.

The poll surveyed 502 likely voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

NHPR

Back in January, former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu warned voters against “drinking the Trump Kool-Aid.”

On Tuesday, Sununu poured himself a glass and took a big sip.

Spending by outside political groups in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race reached $50 million this week, fueled by a recent barrage of negative ads sponsored by a super PAC supporting Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte.

Granite State Solutions has booked an estimated $11 million in TV ads on Boston stations through mid-October. All 2,800 of the 30-second spots, which are scheduled to run through mid-October, attack Ayotte's challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan. 

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Update, Sept. 7: You can find Republican Ted Gatsas' completed questionnaire here.

Taxes. The economy. Education spending. The opioid epidemic. New Hampshire's next governor faces a long list of policy challenges when he or she takes office in January. With the largest field of contenders in at least two decades, sorting through the gubernatorial candidates' positions on these and other issues is no easy task.

You might already be overwhelmed by the number of TV ads about this year's U.S. Senate race between Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan.  And if you're like a lot of people, you're confused about who's paying for all these 30-second commercials, and why.

Before you tune it out completely, here's a video guide to navigating the political advertising - and money - behind this important race.

 A substance-abuse treatment advocate who appeared in a political ad criticizing Gov. Maggie Hassan's handling of the state's drug crisis has resigned from the nonprofit she once led.

Melissa Crews stepped down from the board of HOPE for New Hampshire Recovery earlier this week, according to the Concord Monitor.

For political observers and journalists, there is something appealing about the idea of a bellwether town -- a place whose vote in an election consistently matches up with the statewide totals. Journalists can patrol the main streets of bellwethers for man-on-the-street interviews, confident they will feel shifts in the broader political winds.

But the data shows that true bellwethers are an endangered species in many parts of the country. 

Casey McDermott, NHPR

Each year since 2010, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has asked New Hampshire candidates to sign onto a “pledge” vowing to cut taxes and spending, as well as to oppose the Affordable Care Act.

And usually, the Republicans running for governor are quick to sign on. That's not the case this year.

As expected, the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan is on pace to become the most expensive political campaign in New Hampshire history. With more than three months to go before Election Day, the contest is already awash in cash: Total spending stands at $34 million.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Coming on the heels of last year's prolonged budget fight, with negotiations stretching months longer than usual, the 2016 session of the New Hampshire Legislature can't help but seem a bit sleepier. But, in fact, it was a busy few months for lawmakers.

Things kicked off early, actually, with a special session in November to address the state's opioid crisis. Lawmakers eventually worked through more than 1,000 bills, wrapping things up late last month. 

Allegra Boverman/NHPR

Back in February, New Hampshire handed Sen. Bernie Sanders his first victory in pursuit of the presidency. Four months later, with Hillary Clinton poised to earn the Democratic nomination, where does that leave the more than 151,000 Granite Staters who backed her opponent?

Well, it depends.

AP

Ronald Reagan clobbered Jimmy Carter in the 1980 New Hampshire presidential election. Four years later, he did the same to Walter Mondale. So resounding were those thumpings, Carter won just two towns in the state, Mondale five. 

Republican supremacy in the state did not start with Reagan, nor did it end with him. But Reagan’s two victories may represent the GOP high-water mark in New Hampshire presidential contests. The question now is: Has Republican support in the state bottomed out, or could it continue to fall in 2016? And what might Donald Trump, this year's unconventional GOP nominee, mean for this trend?

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

New Hampshire is taking a step toward setting up a more coordinated system to help children with behavioral health needs.

On Monday, the governor signed into law a bill calling for a top-to-bottom review of what behavioral health services are available to kids in New Hampshire, how they’re delivered (in schools, in the community and elsewhere), and how to make sure separate agencies are working together to get kids the care they need. 

C-SPAN

Followers of New Hampshire politics might’ve noticed a familiar face (and voice) at Donald Trump’s much-hyped press conference on Tuesday morning: Al Baldasaro, a state representative from Londonderry who Trump has referred to at varying times as “The King” and his “favorite vet.”

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte continues to stand by her statement that she’ll support -- but not endorse -- apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

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