Cook On Concord: Biden stops in N.H.; Ballot Law Commission takes action

At yet another Politics ‘N Eggs breakfast sponsored by the New England Council and the Museum of New Hampshire Political History, Joseph Biden, Democratic senior senator from Delaware, spoke. Given that the room was packed on the Friday before Independence Day weekend, Biden obviously was taken by the political junkies present to be a heavyweight, serious contender for the Democratic nomination for president.

Some potential candidates play coy about running for president, but Biden was straightforward, indicating that it is his present intention to seek the nomination.

Biden, who was elected to the Senate when he was 29 — taking office after reaching the constitutionally required age of 30 — has served longer than all but four members of the U.S. Senate, but, as he proudly indicated, he’s younger than 44 of them!

Biden described his experience in dealing with foreign policy and homeland security issues. He contrasted his positions on the need for multilateral approaches to world problems with those of the Bush administration and its leaders.

Careful to describe them as “patriotic Americans who love their country … but are just plain wrong,” Biden set forth his prescriptions for peace in the world and his concerns about what America is creating with its present efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and attempts to strengthen domestic security.

An unabashed advocate of the war in Afghanistan, Biden made it plain that he was not afraid to use American power. However, contrasting that justified conflict with the war in Iraq, Biden indicated that what we are doing in Iraq not only lacks credible justification, but probably will create a result we do not intend, namely the creation of another Shiite Muslim state aligned with Iran.

On domestic security issues, the senator had startling observations about the efficacy of spending as the Bush administration has been doing it. He cited how little money it would take to keep subsidizing local police forces, inspect container ships and provide other security measures, relating that to the amount of money recently enacted tax cuts have taken from government coffers.

Regardless of party or philosophical persuasion, observers were impressed with Biden’s knowledge, experience and common sense. More than one observer commented upon leaving the breakfast that it would be refreshing to hire a president who had many years experience in the kind of issues presidents face. The foreign policies of New York, Texas, Iowa and other states whose governors have or may contemplate seeking the presidency is less important than the foreign policy of the country as a whole into which Biden has had input during his many years in the Senate.


Speaking of elections, the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission (of which this author is a member) had two interesting hearings at the end of June and beginning of July.

Sean Mahoney of Portsmouth came before the commission both on his own motion and in connection with a complaint filed by a Portsmouth acquaintance to determine whether he fit the requirement that candidates for the Executive Council have been domiciled in New Hampshire for seven years.

Mahoney, who has filed to run for the GOP nomination to the Executive Council seat being vacated by Ruth Griffin, was born in New Hampshire, raised in New Hampshire, continuously was a member of organizations in New Hampshire, made contributions to organizations in New Hampshire and has owned a home and lived here since 2001. However, for several years before that, he resided in Cambridge, Mass., while in college and in business.

I was in the majority when the Ballot Law Commission ended up voting 3-2 in favor of Mahoney. One of the main reasons for this was he had never voted in Massachusetts and never ceased to be a registered voter in New Hampshire. The closeness of the vote, however, was interesting, with two of the members voting the literal meaning of the words of the law and the other three seeking to discern intent. The vote probably was closer than Mahoney expected!

I also voted in the majority in another case, involving a petition brought by the state Democratic Party to restore Representative Jacalyn Cilley as a candidate in Senate District 6. Under New Hampshire law, political parties can designate candidates if none has filed during the filing period. In District 6, the Democrats named Cilley, who had already filed for re-election as a state representative.

The Ballot Law Commission hearing centered on what the word “nominate” means, the statute speaking in terms of filing as a candidate to be considered in the September primary, nomination at the primary to be a candidate in the general election, etc. However, the reference is not clear and an amendment to the law had been passed in 2003 which added further questions.

After a long hearing, the Ballot Law Commission on a 4-1 vote determined that, while somewhat inconsistent, the statutory intent and meaning was that after filing for office and being named by the Democratic Party, Representative Cilley had the right to select which office filing she would accept and in which primary she would run, and therefore restored her to the ballot as a candidate for state senate, reversing the action of Secretary of State William Gardner.

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

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