In Monied Burb Nashua, NH, It's All Politics

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By Graham Brookie and Jack Doherty

Nashua’s economy may be lagging, but the Granite State’s second largest city certainly isn’t short in political theatre. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary has candidates making the trek to Nashua and convincing voters they’re the one for the job.  The actual date of the primary has not been set. As the Nevada GOP caucuses were set for Jan. 14th, the Union Leader predicted New Hampshire’s primary would fall naturally on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Bill Gardner, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, says it could be as early as December. Gardner explained that since New Hampshire law dictates that the state must have must have its primary a week before any other state he would have to wait to when other states – including South Carolina and Iowa – set their set their election calendars. In 2008 the New Hampshire primary was held on January 8th.

With every campaign striving for attention, some candidates are turning to unorthodox ideas to help spread their message. Congressman Ron Paul showed up at his campaign’s “leap for liberty” – which was half campaign rally and half skydiving expedition.  Event hosts Erica and Michael Layton said the event would be focused on convincing undecided voters rather than seek fundraising. The Laytons said that they liked Paul because he sticks to his principals and pays no attention to the political winds. Rep. Paul was not among the skydiving.

Former Senator Rick Santorum visited Nashua and attacked the media and several of his rivals for the nomination. He mocked the claims of Mitt Romney and Herman Cain that they were not “career politicians,” arguing that if they won previous elections they contested that they would be viewed as career politicians. Referring to himself as an “authentic conservative”, Santorum blasted the media for trying to anoint candidates before voters had their say. Santorum saved his harshest criticisms for Texas Governor Rick Perry. The former Pennsylvania Senator criticized Perry’s mandatory vaccine for HPV and his history as a Democrat – who supported Al Gore in 1988 and called Hillary Clinton’s 1993 Health Care Reform efforts “commendable”.

Sarah Palin announced Wednesday night that she would not seek the GOP nomination in 2012. On Labor Day, Palin held a rally in Manchester with at least 500 enthusiastic supporters encouraging her to run. However, the Union Leader noted many GOP strategists thought the story was not particularly relevant in Nashua because of New Hampshire’s comparatively moderate GOP electorate.

In Nashua, not all politics is national. Local elections include an uncontested mayoral race, six candidates running for three alderman-at-large seats and five uncontested school board seats. As the only contested race, the contest for alderman-at-large seats is where the action is. One of the most high-profile candidates is former mayor and alderman, Jim Donchess. The key issues Donchess is focusing on are lowering crime rates – particularly in the downtown neighborhoods known as the Tree streets – and making sure no cuts to local education, the fire department and the local law enforcement.

One hot button local issue is Nashua’s budget – which includes $37 million (CUT dollar) bond issue that is paying for renovations on Broad Street Parkway and Millyard Technology Park and the city’s 200 million dollar acquisition of a Pennichuck Corporation utility company. Donchess expressed concern for both budget issues with skepticism that either would help residents economically.

Another local election features aldermen in nearby Manchester. The current Ward 12 Alderman, Patrick Arnold, is challenged by salesman Mark Nazdan – who jumped into the race when he saw Arnold was unopposed. The Union Leader, a noted and important conservative voice in the state, published an endorsement of Nazdan – citing a need for change and Nazdan’s promise to spend taxpayer dollars with care.

But even local politics aren’t all local in Nashua, especially coming into an election year. One bridge between Nashua’s local politics and its prized position in national politics are coveted local political endorsements of GOP presidential primary candidates. Keeping a running tab of endorsements from the colorful array of those currently or formerly important in New Hampshire’s Republican politics can be dizzying – which is why the Union Leader’s John DiStaso keeps a running tally. There are 400 state representatives in New Hampshire. Rick Perry announced that later he would make another announcement of his new 27 member New Hampshire steering committee, while Mitt Romney picked up former Reagan advisor and veteran advisor, Jerry Carmen.

The opinion pages of the Nashua Telegram look more like a GOP presidential primary voters’ discussion forum.  Gene Schneider thinks that Jon Huntsman is the best man for the job, Ann Krupp believes in Mitt Romney and David Sherman likes everyone except for Rick Perry.  The Nashua twitterati as always has different opinions on the GOP field. @semperfisy wants a Romney/Cain ticket while @theproxy likes Cain at the top of the ticket. @unhappygrammy likes that Rick Perry thinks that ADD and ADHD are made-up disorders. @nhrebill is confident in Ron Paul’s ability to beat Barack Obama because Paul has the truth. The news that Sarah Palin would not run made @RobertCParker think that something must have happened to change her mind. @RevsFan89 joked that Republicans were already blaming Obama for the loss of (Steve) Jobs.