Froma Harrop - Progressives don't need Washington all that much

The Republican takeover of the Senate majority really shouldn't matter much to progressives. Even when Democrats have the majority, precious little gets done in a body that lets a minority of members obstruct.
But never mind. A modern, future-oriented agenda has been advancing on the state level — as progressive governors rush into the vacuum of inaction left by Washington. And its supporters are not just Democrats but also independents and Republicans who respect mainstream science and regard the working poor as something more than cheap labor.
Thus, we see victories for universal health coverage, higher minimum wages, the fight against global warming, slowing the war on drugs, and gay marriage. And with little thanks to Capitol Hill.
Massachusetts has run a universal health care system for about eight years. Its plan was based on a conservative blueprint pushed through by a Republican governor, but when it surfaced as the model for the Affordable Care Act, the right disowned it.
Two important points: Massachusetts showed it could guarantee coverage while maintaining one of the nation's strongest economies. And even without Obamacare, other states would have followed its example.
Obamacare's biggest flaw is its complexity, largely the result of expensive giveaways to the medical industry. But now another progressive state, Vermont, is seeking a waiver to address that flaw with a modified single-payer plan. If Vermont's approach cuts the state's medical spending by 25 percent without hurting quality of care as a Harvard study predicts, other states will do likewise.
Cap and trade reduces emissions of planet-warming gases by creating a market for them. It was another conservative idea, but when Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency proposed such a system, the Republican Congress turned on it.
California shrugged and created its own. At least 10 states have since adopted their own cap-and-trade programs.
Sacramento has long been the capital of American environmental policy. In 2004, California set fuel economy standards higher than Washington's. Soon other states embraced them, and before you knew it, 40 percent of the U.S. car market was under the California rules.
That left automakers with two choices: Build all cars to the tighter specifications or challenge California's right to set them. They decided to challenge, running to the George W. Bush administration for relief, which they got.
But in 2008, California and 14 other states successfully sued the EPA for turning down California's request to set stricter emissions. Now when Washington talks about changing the fuel economy standards, the automakers want California at the table.
Hostility toward modern science and unwillingness to pay for it have slowed funding for U.S. research, but not in future-minded states. When Bush sharply restricted federal support of embryonic stem cell research on religious grounds, Californians voted to spend $3 billion of their own money on it. Connecticut and others responded with their programs, serving humankind and also building up cutting-edge industries employing thousands of their residents.
As Washington state and Colorado allow the sale of recreational marijuana, other states are sure to follow, as Oregon just did. The tax money will be welcome, of course, and so will be the savings from not having to arrest and imprison millions of nonviolent drug users.
Washington state has also led the charge for raising the minimum wage. That campaign is now spreading to other states. Lawmakers in D.C., meanwhile, remain dedicated to defending the depressed federal minimum.
Gay marriage. In the beginning, there was Massachusetts. Massachusetts proved to the rest of the country that the sky did not fall as a result of legal same-sex marriage. Now it's widespread.
Progressives, ask yourselves, "What good is flowing from Washington these days?" Almost nothing at all is flowing from Washington, so go around it and do your thing.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Bob Meade - A strategy built on a lie

When the president of this country tells us that the individual or individuals "did not build that business", we initially wonder who would have recommended that he make such an inane statement. We then hear Massachusetts Senator Warren repeatedly using similar words in an attempt to diminish the achievements of our nation's businesses as she attempts to convince people that more government control is the answer to our nation's problems. All we can do is shudder at the prospect that such a person is actually being touted as a presidential candidate. And, a few days ago, we watched and listened as the woman who would be queen, Hillary Clinton, blurted out the same words in a somewhat stumbling fashion. Three prominent leaders of the Democrat party all mouthing words that would bring a smile to Vladimir Lenin's face as he lay in his glass enclosed tomb in the Kremlin.

"You didn't build that" can no longer be considered as just left wing prattle from those who are simply unwilling to honestly acknowledge business's contribution in making ours the most developed, wealthy, innovative, charitable, and powerful nation in the world. You didn't build that becomes the front line strategy of the Democrat party . . . demonizing businesses and blaming them for all the ills that have been created by a government run amok. Divide and conquer appears to be the new Democrat party theme.

Capitalism rewards creativity and inventiveness and productivity. It is built on free and open competition in filling the many "market needs" of the general public. Those who have been able to successfully fill a market need have been rewarded with a demand for their products. Those demands have allowed individuals/companies to become profitable, to grow, and to provide more and more jobs. In large part, it is that free enterprise capitalism that has allowed this country to flourish. For any politician to try to demean or diminish business's contributions to this country is not only foul, it is a lie.

Henry Ford became successful because he filled a market need, and he found a way through his assembly line process to deliver his product better and cheaper than could his competition. He also created the eight hour work day and he initiated the concept of "let the worker buy what he can produce", and paid a daily wage that would allow that to happen. His concepts and his inventiveness changed our country for the better . . . for both the owners and the employees.

Thomas Edison filled a market need as he took us from gas lamps to electric lights. He changed the world. Bell Labs scientists John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley created the transistor which eliminated the need for vacuum tubes and ushered in the computer and cell phone revolutions by doing so. They changed the world. Two college drop-outs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, founded the Microsoft Corporation and created MS-DOS, the operating system that computer giant IBM corporation purchased the right-to-use. Their inventiveness and creativity ushered in the personal computer industry . . . they changed the world. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, started with but a single store in rural Arkansas, but with a desire to fill a market need for the masses by providing quality products and reasonable prices. He was able to expand in highly competitive environments because he understood the desires of the customers . . . and he delivered. From that single store, Sam Walton's company is now the largest corporation in the world, serving people across the globe. He changed the world.

Think for a moment of not only the contributions of those cited above to our way of life, think of the jobs-jobs-jobs that now exist because of their contributions. Then take a moment and think about the cost of your local government . . . the maintenance of all public property, buildings, roads, parks, etc. Add to that the cost of education, salaries and wages for teachers, books and supplies, audio visual equipment, staff, custodial services, busing cafeteria, etc. Add, too, the cost of maintaining a judicial system, police and fire services, municipal staff, etc. As you think about those costs, ask yourself who pays for them. Of course the answer is you. And where did you get the money to pay those taxes? From your job or from the retirement you built while you were on the job. You see, every penny that the government spends, at the city/town, state, and federal level, has its origins in some business enterprise.

Then take a moment and consider the money spent at the state level. The state didn't "make" that money . . . you did! And that money you paid had its origins in some business enterprise.

Take another moment (actually it may take a very, very long moment) and think about the Federal government and all that it spends. Every dollar spent on our military, our Federal prison system, every bloated and unaccountable bureaucratic department that has never met the goals for which they were established, the costs of maintaining all Federal lands and properties, the cost of our Judicial, Executive, and Legislative departments and all their support staffs, all those cost that exceed three trillion dollars a year were paid for by you. And that money you paid had its origins in some business enterprise.

Please, reject the strategy that's built on a lie.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

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James Pindell - Why it's better for Ayotte if Brown loses

Here is something that every smart New Hampshire Republican knows, but isn't saying: Kelly Ayotte doesn't really want Scott Brown to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this fall.

Ayotte may like Brown. Ayotte may have officiated his daughter's wedding this summer. But if running for major office in a swing state like New Hampshire is really a matter of survival and preserving options then in no way is it in the best political interest for Ayotte to somehow have Brown become her Senate colleague.

There are four reasons why.

The first reason is that if Brown somehow wins then it is also likely Republicans will gain control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years. All three major national election forecasts say that if Brown wins then this means other Republicans will win in other states. This is what Republicans say they want, of course, but this is bad news for Ayotte's re-election two years later.

Politically, when a candidate is running in a tough re-election race, it is safer to be from the minority party. As one can see from Shaheen's re-election this year, being in the majority means constantly being put on the defensive for procedural moves and failings of what did or didn't get done. Being in the minority means that candidates can deflect blame and she they weren't in charge. More importantly, it means if in the minority Ayotte will have an easier time breaking with her party on votes and appearing non-partisan. One of the reasons why Shaheen voted with President Barack Obama 99 percent of the time last year is that Democrats have a narrow majority and needed for her every vote.

The second reason is that heading into her re-election, Ayotte will want to show she is bipartisan and what better way to do that than by working side-by-side with the same state's senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen? The pair have found it politically convenient to sponsor bills, attend events and send out statements together as a way of them both displaying their bipartisan credibility. If it were Ayotte and Brown doing those things together it would do little more than display Republican power in the state.

Third, if Brown wins he instantly becomes the most interesting person in New Hampshire politics. That title is currently held by Ayotte. Being interesting, however it is defined, is very important in politics because it gets you free media coverage, bigger audiences and can help you raise more money. All of that translates into having more power. Locally, Brown could take over the state Republican Party. Nationally, Brown would be much more high-profile and his bipartisan nature of voting would make him much more powerful in shaping legislation than Ayotte, who typically votes with her party.

Fourth, Ayotte's ambitions aren't just about being a New Hampshire senator for life. She is often talked about as vice presidential material. In fact, a recent report had her in New York at a major Republican fundraiser where she was presented to some of the nation's top GOP donors that way as they also heard from potential presidential candidates.

If Republicans do win the U.S. Senate majority in all likelihood it will be just by a few seats. To keep the majority in 2016, Republicans will need Ayotte to run for re-election because she is their best chance of keeping the New Hampshire seat. This could be reason enough for a future Republican presidential nominee not to pick her as their running mate.

To be sure, Ayotte helped recruit Brown into the race against Shaheen. She has appeared in television ads for him and has spoken at rallies. But on election night, if Ayotte drives home to Nashua and hears that Brown lost, well, it wouldn't be the worst news either.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at scoop and on WMUR-TV.)

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Mayor Ed Engler - Proposed City Charter Amendment would eliminate unnecessary primary elections

When Laconia voters arrive at their ward polling stations on Tuesday, Nov. 4 they will be handed two ballots. The first (white-paper) ballot will be the expected state election sheet that will include races for governor down through county offices. The second (colored-paper) ballot, perhaps unexpected, will cover several municipal issues.

At the top of the municipal election ballot for voters in Wards 4 and 5 will be (uncontested) elections for school board members. Following, will be a series of 7 "yes" or "no" questions relating to the possible adoption of amendments to the City Charter having to do with voting and elections. Municipal ballots given to voters in the other 4 wards will contain only the seven proposed amendments to the City Charter.

Two of the proposed amendments — numbers 4 and 6— represent substantial changes to our city election procedures and are at the heart of what voters are being asked to consider this year. The other 5 are what could be fairly described as "housekeeping" amendments — primarily things needed to bring charter provisions back in alignment with changes to state law.

Amendment 4 deals with the municipal primary election process. At present, elections for mayor and City Council are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in odd numbered years. A primary election for the purpose of narrowing the field in each race to 2 candidates is held on the second Tuesday in the prior September. The filing period for people who want their names on the ballot is 10 days in early June.

In recent years, instances where 2 or more candidates have filed for any given office have been rare and voter interest in and turnout for the primary elections has been dismal, at best. Turnout since 1997 has averaged 9 percent and the last two primary elections attracted just 3 percent and 6 percent of registered voters to the polls. It costs taxpayers upwards of $10,000 (citywide) to conduct each one of these primary elections, even though there often are not enough candidates on the ballot to actually eliminate anyone.

After the 2013 election, City Clerk Mary Reynolds suggested following the lead of Manchester and Keene — the other two New Hampshire cities to hold municipal primary elections. In those cities, the clerk has the authority to declare a primary election unnecessary if less than 3 people request a place on the ballot. City Council studied the issue and agreed with Mrs. Reynolds that voters should be given the opportunity to amend the charter.

Adoption of Amendment 4, simply put, will do away with September primary elections in any ward in which less than 3 candidates file for a place on the ballot. Similarly, there will be no citywide primary election for mayor if there are fewer than 3 candidates. If 2 or fewer candidates file, we will proceed directly to the November general election.

If a primary election is held in any given ward, or for mayor, there will continue to be a place on the ballot for write-ins. (More on that in a minute.)

Adoption of Amendment 4 will also move the 10-day-long candidate filing period from early June to early August. Why? Because it is reasoned that we don't really need 6-month long campaigns for city office. Having the filing period end roughly a month before primary election day seems quite adequate.

Amendment 6 stipulates that any person receiving write-in votes in a necessary primary election must earn at least 35 of them in order to be declared one of the 2 candidates to have gained a spot on the general election ballot. When City Council originally considered this amendment, the threshold was determined to be a minimum of 15 votes but the Attorney General's Office, which reviews the legality of all ballot measures, recommended the number be changed to 35 and the council concurred. Why the recommendation? Consistency, I guess, because the law having to do with state primary elections (RSA 659:88) dictates that a write-in candidate cannot be consider the winner of a contest for governor right down to state representative or county sheriff unless he/she attracts 35 a minimum of 35 votes.

And why the 35 vote threshold? To give preference to candidates who have actually declared an interest in the position. As opposed to people who have not asked for anyone's vote but are the benefactors of a handful. We had a situation develop last fall where a gentleman's name had to be added to the general election ballot because only one person filed for the office of councilor in his ward and the gentleman received 3 write-in votes in the unnecessary primary.

It is important to note that the adoption of Amendments 4 and 6 will not in any way preclude the possibility of a successful, last-minute, write-in campaign for mayor or councilor. There will remain a spot on the general election ballots where voters may write-in the candidate of their choice.

Sample ballots are available at the clerk's office in City Hall and online at www, (Under "Departments" in the pulldown menu, select "City Clerk - Records" and then select "Elections". The phone number is 527-1265.

Please take the time to vote on Tuesday. The polls in our city are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

(Edward J. Engler is mayor of Laconia.)

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James Pindell - lt's not looking like a 'wave' election year

The last two midterm elections in New Hampshire broke records for the state's political parties. In 2006, Democrats had their most successful election since the 1870s. In the 2010 elections, Republicans had their biggest gains ever and that is saying something given the state's Republican history.

But in 2014, while the election environment is favorable to Republicans, political strategists in both parties seem to agree that it won't be a huge wave year in New Hampshire like the last two.

"This is not some campaign we Republicans can just run on autopilot and we'll win," said a senior staffer on a major Republican campaign in the state who didn't want to be named given the sensitivity of his position. "This is not a wave year and we'll just have to grind it out."

Recent polling numbers back up this thinking. New Hampshire has four major races on the ballot this fall: governor, U.S. Senate, and the state's two Congressional races. As it stands this weekend, Democrats are poised to win two if not three of those seats. That is hardly a wave for either party.

This was supposed to be better year for New Hampshire Republicans. Historically the president's party loses seats when it comes to midterm elections. Only twice in the last hundred years did the president's party actually gain seats in Washington.

Nationally Republicans are expected to add to their majority in the U.S. House and even take the majority in the U.S. Senate. This fact, only adds to the idea that New Hampshire Republicans might be an outlier.

There are three reasons why this is happening locally. First, New Hampshire is slowly becoming more of a Democratic state. While the state is considered a swing state, the fact remains that Democratic presidential candidates have won the state five out of the last six times, a Democrat has won the governor's race eight out of the last nine times and three of the four members of the state's Washington delegation are Democrats.

The second reason is that Republicans had a bit of a problem recruiting candidates. Both candidates for the two statewide campaigns had residency issues and got into the race late.

Third, in all of these four major races, Republicans are facing Democratic incumbents, who have name recognition and have had years of raising money for their campaign war chest.

All that said, Republicans still could pull out more wins than is currently expected. They have a lot of advantages built in this year. To begin with the latest WMUR Granite State Poll found that Republicans are eight points more likely to vote than Democrats. This is something that Democrats are trying to change with a visit from Bill Clinton last week and Hillary Clinton coming two days before the election.

Speaking to New Hampshire Democrats on Thursday night, Clinton said that this year won't be like Republican wave years like 1994 and 2010 if Democrats show up to the polls.

Also, Democratic President Barack Obama remains unpopular in the state, with just 38 percent of Granite Staters saying they approve the job he is doing.

This complicated nature of this election year means that both parties will continue to advertise heavily on television, and either call or knock on homes of likely voters.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at scoop and on WMUR-TV.)

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