Random political thoughts on this and that

Recently, a regular reader of this column approached me and told me I had been much too nice and much of the pith had been missing. While I had not noticed that, a few political observations in August occurred to me, in no particular order:

• In July, The Economist magazine’s cover read, “America At Its Best” featuring pictures of Barack Obama and John McCain. The article that accompanied the cover described the two candidates as serious, intelligent and worthy, and expressed the hope that the campaign they would wage for the presidency would reflect those values.

Then came the ads. While it is true that there are no shortage of differences between John McCain and Barack Obama, the recent flurry of energy-related and other ads seem to be picking mightily at nits. While Obama has reversed positions slightly and admitted that under appropriate circumstances some offshore oil drilling might be appropriate, McCain and Obama continuously accuse the other of “failing to have passed legislation” on a number of subjects, including energy. Indeed, each of them acts as if he could actually do something about energy prices before next winter.

Something is missing here! Neither of these men ever has been president, each has been one percent of the United States Senate and therefore could not “pass” anything, and neither will be president until January 20, 2009, right in the middle of the winter. If you think about the rhetoric in these ads, it is somewhat silly.

• Speaking of silly, McCain’s ad about Obama as the “biggest celebrity in the world” has received a lot of attention and free publicity but appropriately focused on one of McCain’s largest issues, that of Obama’s apparent lack of experience. While the humor might have been lost on some, it seemed to be pretty effective, at least in getting attention.

• The best response to McCain was the tongue-in-cheek “political ad” posted on the Internet by Paris Hilton. While I do not know much about Paris Hilton except a vague recollection of a controversial video from some time ago, watching her energy ad did point to the fact that anyone can come up with a cogent ad and her energy policy stated in it, while superficial, at least showed that someone is thinking about issues.

• Locally, while you might not know it, there is a state primary election coming up on Sept. 9. Nevertheless, voters will have to make many important decisions on primary day, including picking Republican candidates in both congressional districts to run against the Democratic incumbents. In several state Senate districts and at least one Executive Council district, there are primaries and, as noted in a prior column, no shortage of candidates running for the New Hampshire House. While Republican Joe Kenney is unopposed in the Republican primary, Gov. John Lynch does have an opponent.

The danger in a lack of focus and a lack in the number of contested races is that turnout will be low. That can lead to startling results and, in New Hampshire history, sometimes has.

• Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an event for one of the candidates in the District 5 Executive Council race. In that race, two-term incumbent Debora Pignatelli of Nashua, a former state senator, is seeking to retain her seat. Pignatelli is personable, experienced, serious and well-liked, especially in her home city of Nashua and Democratic strongholds in the district, notably Keene.

Stephen Stepanek, a state representative from Amherst, former business owner, selectman and businessman with an economics background, is running on the Republican ticket. His campaign strength is that as a businessman with experience on the House Finance Committee as well as local governmental finance committees, he will bring a business eye to the council.

As in any race, each candidate will be appealing to the voters in party strongholds and hoping for support in other areas. How successful either will be will be a key element in victory.

Voters in the 5th District as well as all of the other council districts, should examine the candidates carefully. Those in the Fifth District are lucky to have a choice between two high-quality and diligent, serious candidates.

Let us hope the voters show the same qualities in making their choices. nhbr

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association.