This week: Veto override votes & Manchester's mayoral primary

Here's what's on the horizon for Granite State politics (plus a bit of perspective in the rear-view mirror).

By Steven Porter

Good morning! Happy Monday. And thanks for reading Granite Memo.

I have three items to share with you in today’s edition:

  1. It’s time to vote on veto overrides: State lawmakers will vote this week on whether to override the governor’s 55 vetoes. The outcome will frame the debate between Republicans and Democrats ahead of the 2020 election.

  2. Manchester will weigh in on mayoral primary: Residents of the state’s largest city will decide Tuesday which two candidates will advance to the general election this fall.

  3. Your #fitn fix: Republicans have committed to hold a 2020 presidential primary in New Hampshire, even as other states have cancelled theirs. Democrats, meanwhile, hosted their third televised debate.

Let me explain…

But first, some housekeeping: If you like anything about Granite Memo, please tell your friends, colleagues, family, and foes. Subscribing is easy and free. —Steven 

1. Veto Override Votes: Lawmakers to Revisit 55 Bills Sununu Killed This Year

Lawmakers will reconvene this week in Concord to vote again on each of the bills killed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s record-setting 55 vetoes thus far this year.

It’s unclear which measures, if any, the Democrats might salvage. Since they don’t have a two-thirds supermajority in either the House or the Senate, they would need support (or abstentions) from Republican colleagues to overpower Sununu’s red pen.

Democrats comprise 58% of each chamber. They hold 14 of the Senate’s 24 seats and 233 of the House’s 400 seats, after wresting legislative control from Republicans in the 2018 election and pressing forward this year with a more progressive agenda—which Sununu has cited as the reason for his numerous vetoes.

“I’m not out to set records,” Sununu told The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Kamp, “but the Democratic-led legislature has passed just so much extreme legislation.”

Even if lawmakers manage to override none of Sununu’s vetoes, their votes this week will frame the partisan debate ahead of the 2020 election. The governor will campaign to keep his job, with promises to continue blocking “extreme” bills, portraying himself as the adult in Concord. Democrats, meanwhile, will accuse him of opposing reasonable legislation that would help everyday people, casting him as the central impediment to their progress. In other words, Democrats may not need a legislative victory this week to turn Sununu’s vetoes into a winning issue electorally.

The vetoed bills, which are scheduled for override votes Wednesday and Thursday, address several major topics, as The Concord Monitor’s Ethan DeWitt reported:

  • Firearms: Sununu vetoed bills that would add a state background check requirement and three-day waiting period for firearms purchases, prohibit firearms on school grounds, and establish a way for judges to take guns away from people deemed to pose a credible threat to safety.

  • Elections: Sununu vetoed bills that would have allowed out-of-state college students to vote without registering their vehicles in the state, a move to protect measures the legislature had passed under Republican control. He also vetoed bills that would require more political groups to register with the secretary of state, allow voters to cast absentee ballots without a justification, and establish an independent commission to assist in redistricting after the 2020 Census.

  • Environment: Two of the environmental bills that Sununu vetoed—one to lift a “net metering” cap on the sale of renewable electricity at certain rates (H.B. 365) and another to subsidize biomass plants (H.B. 183)—have perhaps the best chance of being revived this week, as the Monitor reported. (While the business community has largely sided with Sununu, there are differing opinions on the details of some environmental measures, as the New Hampshire Business Review’s Bob Sanders reported. That could offer some justification for Republican lawmakers to break rank.)

  • Labor: Sununu vetoed a slew of labor legislation backed by Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is the only Democrat to declare his formal candidacy thus far for the 2020 gubernatorial primary. The measures would, among other things, require that workers’ compensation payments continue until the worker finds not only a new job but a new job with a similar pay rate. Sununu also vetoed a bill to establish a state minimum wage of $10 per hour in 2020, then $12 per hour in 2022.

Budget, etc.: After disagreement over business tax rates and spending levels, Sununu vetoed the budget in June, but negotiators missed the deadline to put a budget compromise on the calendar ahead of this week’s votes, as the Monitor reported. Lawmakers will either have to extend the short-term funding window or accept a budget deal as a late item, like they did in 2015.

The list of override votes includes a number of other smaller items as well.

2. Manchester’s Mayoral Primary: Voters to Weigh in *Tomorrow* Ahead of General Election This Fall

Manchester residents will vote Tuesday in the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary, with three names on the ballot: incumbent Mayor Joyce Craig, former state Rep. Victoria Sullivan, and city resident Glenn Ouellette.

The two who receive the most votes—likely Craig, a Democrat, and Sullivan, a Republican—will face off in the Nov. 5 general election. (Ouellette is a perennial candidate who secured just 138 votes when he ran in the 2017 primary.)

The big question, as votes are tallied, will be whether Sullivan has generated enough energy to mount a viable challenge to Craig’s reelection. They both spent their final weekend before the primary shoring up support among potential voters, making appearances at an annual Greek festival, and canvassing neighborhoods with help from campaign staffers and volunteers.

Craig was joined by state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, who is running for governor. Sullivan was joined by Eddie Edwards, a former chief of the New Hampshire State Division of Liquor Enforcement who ran for Congress in 2018.

Other Mayoral Races

Manchester is among three New Hampshire cities with a mayor-council form of government. The other two are Nashua and Keene.

All other cities (and several large towns) in New Hampshire have a council-manager form of government.

3. Your #FITN Fix:

Republicans Commit to N.H. Presidential Primary

Party leaders in four states—South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas—have moved to cancel their Republican presidential primaries, which would eliminate an opportunity for President Donald Trump’s challengers to embarrass him on his way to the 2020 general election.

But party leaders say a cancellation won’t happen in New Hampshire, as Steve Peoples, Hunter Woodall, and Meg Kinnard reported last week for the Associated Press:

  • New Hampshire GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek, who worked for the Trump campaign on the ground in the Granite State in 2016, told the AP he could “never conceive of the New Hampshire primary ever being canceled for any reason.”

  • The state’s national Republican committeeman, Steve Duprey, told the AP that New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary will never be canceled under any circumstances “whether there’s token opposition or a serious contest.”

At least three challengers have filed to run against Trump in the Republican primary: former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld; South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who also served as a U.S. Representative; and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.

In a joint op-ed published Friday by The Washington Post, Weld, Sanford, and Walsh criticized Trump and those in the GOP who would advocate for canceling primaries:

It would be a critical mistake to allow the Democratic Party to dominate the national conversation during primary and caucus season. Millions of voters looking for a conservative alternative to the status quo deserve a chance to hear alternate ideas aired on the national stage. Let us argue over the best way to maximize opportunities in our communities for everyday Americans while the Democrats debate the merits of government intervention. Let us spend the next six months attempting to draw new voters to our party instead of demanding fealty to a preordained choice. If we believe our party represents the best hope for the United States’ future, let us take our message to the public and prove we are right.

Sanford hasn’t ruled out the possibility of suing the GOP in his home state in hopes of forcing his name onto the primary ballot, as McClatchy’s Emma Dumain reported.

Democrats Host 3rd Debate as Field Stratifies

Ten candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination took the debate stage Thursday night for three hours in Houston, where they called for party unity and sparred over the differing details of their competing health care proposals.

Precisely what each candidate was aiming to accomplish depended on where they stood in the pack. The three leading the polls were largely competing among themselves, while the other seven on stage were looking to steal the spotlight, if only for a moment. (And don’t write off all nine contenders who didn’t qualify for this debate, at least not just yet.)

Here are some recaps worth your time:

Politico: ‘There Is No Longer a Front-Runner’

Politico Magazine asked 22 experts, insiders, activists and political professionals how the race shifted. The consensus: Julián Castro was too mean, and Andrew Yang was too gimmicky. A number of experts liked Kamala Harris’s direct engagement with Donald Trump, as well as Amy Klobuchar’s sharper elbows with the progressives in the field. And Beto O’Rourke’s coming for your AR-15, and several of our watchers said it’s about time.

Most of all, this seems to be a race where the rich get richer: Most of our experts seemed to think that Biden and Warren separated themselves further from the pack.

Danielle Kurtzleben for NPR: Democratic Debate Exposes Deep Divides Among Candidates Over Health Care

Polling shows that a public option is far more popular than single-payer health care. A July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 90% of Democrats, as well as 70% of all adults, support a public option. Meanwhile, 64% of Democrats (and 41% of all adults) support "Medicare for All."

That's less support, but still a majority of Democrats support Sanders' single-payer plan, some of them passionately.

Perhaps with that in mind, even candidates who support other plans refrained from attacking the proposal—or its author—too hard.

Suzanne Gamboa for NBC News: Julián Castro accused Joe Biden of 'forgetting.' Did he go too far?

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked Biden, making many viewers wonder whether he was questioning the former vice president's mental acuity. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?"

Following the debate, Biden's advisers hit hard on Castro's comments, saying he hadn’t learned the lessons of previous attacks on Biden—that they backfire. “It was a cheap shot and a question Castro should answer,” said Anita Dunn, a Biden adviser.

Eric Lach for The New Yorker: Where Was Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Democratic Debate?

His résumé boasts some of America’s most exclusive institutions—Harvard, McKinsey, a Rhodes scholarship—where people impress and learn to impress. But many of his opponents came through the same élite system. Elizabeth Warren taught at Harvard. Cory Booker was a Rhodes Scholar. So what distinguishes the South Bend, Indiana, mayor? Is he offering something real? Or are people just impressed because he’s smart?

Matt Stevens for The New York Times: Andrew Yang’s Debate Pledge: He’ll Give 10 People $1,000 a Month. Is That Legal?

[U]nlike earlier in his campaign, when Mr. Yang paid what he calls “freedom dividends” out of his own pocket to three families, his advisers said the money for the latest round of payments would be funded by campaign donations, raising questions about whether such a giveaway violates federal election law.

Campaign finance experts said that while federal rules prohibit campaigns from giving people anything of value as an incentive to vote, Mr. Yang would not be breaking the law in that area if he did not ask for people’s votes in return.

Michael Luo for The New Yorker: Did Beto O’Rourke Just Change the Democratic Conversation on Guns at the Debate?

“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke said, finishing to cheers and applause from the audience.

It was a stirring moment, in a campaign that has been short on them. It may prove too late to resuscitate O’Rourke’s struggling campaign. (Before the debate was over, his campaign was selling T-shirts online for thirty dollars emblazoned with his memorable line.) Yet its significance could outlast O’Rourke.

Days until #fitn presidential primary: 148

Days until 2020 general election: 414