Flotsam & Jetsam

Leading and readingWhile it’s perfectly understandable from a political perspective, there was something slightly disconcerting about former AG Kelly Ayotte’s Aug. 11 debut address as a U.S. Senate candidate.Speaking to a gathering of Belknap County Republicans, Ayotte unabashedly touted as one of her main qualifications to be a U.S. senator her role in pushing to seek the death penalty last year for the killer of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.She said her determination in pursuing the death penalty came after meeting with the officer’s parents.“That’s why I made the decision that I would personally try that case and ask for the strongest penalties available under our law — and that’s the leadership you will see from me,” she said, adding as something of a non sequitur: “I’m going to roll up my sleeves, and I will read the bills.”Red tape alertIt might shed some light on the health-care debate when you consider the perspective that our senior U.S. senator appears to have on the whole medical process.Speaking at an Aug. 20 forum in Salem, he told his audience of about 100 seniors why he doesn’t support a government-run health insurance option – a so-called public plan.“As a practical matter, a government plan puts a bureaucrat between you and your doctor,” said Gregg.Either the health insurance that members of Congress have must be really, really, really good or the senator’s never had to go to a doctor.Meet marketCertainly no elected official should be expected to put him or herself in danger simply trying to reach out to constituents on even the most hotly contested issue. But when it comes to both of the state’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives, going MIA doesn’t quite seem like a workable strategy.As the dog days of August wore on, and television snippets of increasingly rabid – and scary — anti-health reform protesters grew more frequent, Republicans nevertheless kept turning up the heat on both Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter for failing to appear in person at any forums about health care.To be sure, Shea-Porter took part in a telephone “town hall” put together by AARP-NH and insisted that at some point she would meet with constituents face-to-face. But with daily, sometimes even hourly, attacks from various GOP organizations – and you could put the Union Leader in that category – who tried to paint the congressperson as someone unwilling or even afraid to meet the public in person, you could argue the damage has been done. And while getting that genie back in the bottle ASAP may be a heck of a difficult maneuver, Shea-Porter did just announce plans to host up-close-and-personal town hall meetings on Aug. 29.As for Hodes, his situation isn’t quite the same, and in some ways it’s more problematic.While Hodes apparently had no town hall forums of his own scheduled in August – there is an live appearance scheduled for the Tilton Rotary Club – the congressman and U.S. Senate candidate did have scheduled an appearance at an Aug. 24 event for Blue Hampshire, the online progressive Web site. Not surprisingly to anyone with a pulse, the GOP glommed onto that fact as quickly as it could. Adding frosting on the cake for Republicans was the planned appearance at the same event of Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos.F&J TOTE BOARDJohn DeJoie: The Democratic state rep and firefighter forms an official campaign committee for a 2nd C.D. run.Jeanne Shaheen: The senator forms A New Direction PAC, a leadership political action committee, already laying the groundwork for re-election in 2014.Peter Leishman: To the chagrin of Pan Am Systems, the Executive Council grants a 10-year lease on state-owned track to the Democratic state rep’s Milford & Bennington Railroad.David Fink: The president of Pan Am Systems is not assuaged after the attorney general rejects his conflict-of-interest complaint over a state rail lease.John E. Sununu: The former U.S. senator resigns from the congressional TARP oversight panel.Judd Gregg: The senator, while acknowledging relationships with Manchester mayoral candidates Bobby Stephen and Ted Gatsas, endorses and contributes to Gatsas’ campaign.It’s been making the rounds…• That’s quite an alliance of right-wing and left-wing bloggers going after Kelly Ayotte.• Despite the best efforts of proponents, it’s looking less and less likely that New Hampshire’s going to get a piece of the rail-related federal stimulus pie.• Pan Am Systems’ refusal to talk about possible passenger service on its rail lines certainly doesn’t help matters.• With money and organization, Anne McLane Kuster has jumped out ahead ofany other Dem candidate in the 2nd C.D. race.• What’s the first thing the state Republican Party does when it finds itself with $172,000 in its account? Spend it – by hiring a fifth full-time staffer.• Why are Democrats so sure of Frank Guinta’s eventual campaign ineffectiveness?• Now that he’s supposedly not running for anything, what the heck is Fred Tausch doing?