Happy Easter, Wonkers! We hope you have all been inspired by the annual rites celebrating the rebirth of pagan fertility gods as distilled through Christian cultural hegemony. Or that you’ll at least chow down on half-priced chocolate bunnies tomorrow. Had we been thinking, we’d have saved last week’s piece on Russ Feingold’s attempt to win back his Senate seat for this week, so we could run it with a headline like “Behold the Risen Feingold!” Tempting though it was to simply re-up that story with a new hed, we’ll instead bring you a profile of the New Hampshire race for the Senate and hope the Democrats can resurrect their majority. You can imagine both candidates in Easter bonnets if that helps you feel festive.
Our plucky competitors this week are both veteran New Hampshire politicians: Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who’s seeking a second term in the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” (we chuckle every week we write that), and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who almost certainly could have won a third term as governor but decided to challenge Ayotte for 2016. (Trivia Fact: New Hampshire governors only have two-year terms. They don’t trust government there, do they?) Both candidates are well-liked in New Hampshire, with roughly similar favorability ratings (Ayotte 45 percent, Hassan 43 percent) in October 2015, when Hassan announced she’d take on Ayotte. Get ready for Big Spending in the coming months: Hassan was enthusiastically recruited by national Democrats, and Ayotte has the backing of the National Rifle Association and the Koch Brothers. Please feel free to boo and hiss theatrically; that support is a ready-made campaign issue for Hassan. Money? Oh, yes, there will be SO MUCH
MONEY FREE SPEECH in this race:
Each candidate raised $2 million in the last quarter of 2015 and people following the campaign expect the race will ratchet up after the February presidential primary … Already, $2 million in outside money has dropped in the state, more than during the entirety of Ayotte’s first campaign in 2010, and millions more is predicted by party strategists.
So who the heck are these people? Nationally, Ayotte has the higher profile, if only for her hawkish devotion to the militarist agenda of her bestest Senate Republican pals, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. How close are they in their belief that bombing the shit out of the Enemy is the best way to solve problems in the Middle East? They’re such great pals that they called themselves — at least for a time — the “Three Amigos,” although it was never clear which one was supposed to be Martin Short. Mostly Ayotte was a poor replacement for Joe Lieberman, and you always got the impression that McCain was on the verge of simply saying “Me, Lindsey, and Whatsername, Where’s The Girl?” The three were united in condemning the Obama administration over Benghazi, although the absolute worst thing they could pin on Team Obama was that five days after the attack, Susan Rice went on Sunday talk shows and said the attack had occurred during a protest against an anti-Muslim video, when in fact Benghazi was the one place in the Muslim world with no such protests. As we noted at the time, while that post-attack intelligence failure remains the greatest foreign policy disaster of the early 21st Century, all three senators also thought the Iraq War was based on adequate (but slightly flawed) intelligence.
In domestic policy, Ayotte co-sponsored an exciting April 2015 Republican version of an equal pay law for the ladies, which was very commendable and almost feministy, at least until you started looking at the details: unlike the Democrats’ Equal Pay Act, which Ayotte and her pals blocked three times, the Republican proposal pretty much said “equal pay is good” while stripping out any enforcement mechanisms or research on whether the law was actually resulting in equal pay. So by borrowing one element from the Democratic proposal, the Republican Ladies’ Auxiliary could claim it was offering a “bipartisan compromise” for equal pay, and why are those Democrats being so partisan by not supporting it? Ayotte played a similar game in the fall, praising working parents who do so much to put food on their families and encouraging them to take some “me time” to recharge their batteries, while voting against paid sick leave and continuing to oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act. You see, she likes parents having some “me time,” but only if their employers decide to let them have it — mandating it would only wreck the economy, as it has in all of the industrialized nations that have somehow managed to institute paid family leave without collapsing. Oh, yeah, and she also thinks it would be a good idea to raise taxes on immigrant families, because she is very pro-family unless your poor family includes anchor babies.
Not surprisingly, Ayotte also opposes the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, even as she put forward an “alternative” that would replace the free Obamacare slut pills with the option of letting women buy contraceptives with their own money, thus giving them a “choice.” The supposed “improvement” here is that many slut pills which currently require prescriptions would be made available over the counter, so FREEDOM. Naturally, the bill to decrease access to contraception was called the “Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act.” Kelly Ayotte may not be the greatest advocate for women’s issues out there, but in only six short years she’s mastered the art of Luntzing It Up. Which reminds us that Ayotte once posed with a giant dildo, for Science:
And now we get to the part where we explain why Maggie Hassan should be a U.S. Senator beyond “She’s not Kelly Ayotte,” as though that weren’t a perfectly good reason all in itself. For one thing, Hassan is already making an issue of Ayotte’s opposition to hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court:
“Her refusal to do her duty shows that she has failed a critical test for independence — and in New Hampshire we value our independence very strongly,” Hassan said in an interview. “People want their elected leaders to do their jobs.”
Here’s Hassan telling Andrea Mitchell that it would be awfully nice if Republicans, including Kelly Ayotte, would actually do the jobs they’re supposed to do:
Ayotte says she’s doing exactly what the Constitution demands, by doing nothing, because giving “advice and consent” to a judicial nominee can totally include “advising” the president to wait to fill a Supreme Court vacancy until he’s no longer in office. Oh look, there she is with the doublespeak again! But to prove that she’s all independent and stuff, Ayotte says she’s willing to at least meet with Garland, so she’s got that “Live Free or Die” independence down, doesn’t she?
Ayotte has accused Hassan of being slow to respond to New England’s opiate addition epidemic; Ayotte says she’s pushed to fund heroin addiction treatment, although for all we know that means she wants methadone to be available over the counter at addicts’ own expense. Hassan has actually signed emergency bills to address the problem, and also supports the continuation of Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire, since state Republicans designed the expansion to expire at the end of 2016. For her part, Ayotte has voted to repeal Medicaid expansion, but to include a “two-year transition period” to whatever non-replacement the Republicans come up with. Where Ayotte has voted to defund Planned Parenthood, Hassan has picked up an endorsement from the pro-choice EMILY’s List.
Hassan argues that despite her attempts to paint herself as a moderate, Ayotte takes many positions that are more in line with Ted Cruz:
“When I look at Sen. Ayotte’s voting record, she voted to cut Pell grants, (which are) so critical to middle class families, she’s (voted) to turn Medicare into a voucher system, (which is) so critical to our seniors, and she voted to defund Planned Parenthood at a time when women need access to affordable primary and preventative care.”
She noted women need access to Planned Parenthood “to plan their futures and support their families.”
Hassan fought unsuccessfully against state Republicans’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire, and hopes to use Ayotte’s record on issues affecting women against her in the Senate race
As of right now, Ayotte is polling slightly ahead of Hassan, but Hassan is likely to be boosted by a strong turnout for the Democratic presidential candidate, regardless of whether it’s the vagina-having Democrat or the Democrat who left uncombed hair all over the New Hampshire primary. We haven’t checked Hassan’s record on cute little birds, but we bet she’s pro-bird, while Ayotte would likely introduce legislation called the “Cute Little Bird Protection Act” that would pave over some forests.
If you find yourself with a few extra dollars that you’d like to throw at Maggie Hassan and improve Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate, you could do that at her ActBlue campaign page, right here. You can also help Yr Wonkette continue its Senate-race-a-week coverage with a donation here, because did we mention we love you?