On The Political Front: Stefany Shaheen Could Complicate N.H. Dems' Political Plans

Sep 21, 2015

Each Monday, NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers joins Morning Edition host Rick Ganley for On The Political Front​, a look at the latest news from the statehouse and the campaign trail, and a preview of the week ahead in politics. 

So Josh, it was a big weekend for Democrats in New Hampshire.

The party held its state convention at the Verizon center in Manchester. 4000 people showed up,  every Democrat running for president you’ve heard off, save for Jim Webb, was there to speak.  The national party chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz came to town as well -- and she got heckled by people in the crowd who think the DNC is being too stingy in its debate schedule. The DNC has sanctioned a total of 6, with just one in New Hampshire right before Christmas.

So apart from the speeches from the front-running democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, or maybe we should say Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who were both very warmly received, well-received, what stood out?

Well you are right, Clinton and Sanders were both went over well, and I saw no signs of any intra-party friction between their loyalists. That sort of thing can on occasion flare up at these sorts of gatherings. But the most interesting thing for me at the convention was assessing the remarks and actions of the people from New Hampshire who may be on the ballot in the big state races next year.

Like Governor Hassan? She’s said she’d be making her plans for 2016 known after the budget was resolved. Did she tip her hand at all this weekend?

No, the Governor  made no explicit allusion to her 2016 plans – whether will she challenge Republican Kelly Ayotte in a Senate run, or will she seek a third term as Governor - but a lot of Democrats I talked to at the convention definitely think she’s running for the Senate seat at this point. That could be wishful thinking. Hassan is without doubt the party’s best chance against Kelly Ayotte.

Now several people who are eyeing Hassan’s current job also spoke. And while she didn’t speak, Carol Shea-Porter announced that she will take another run at the Congressional seat she held for three terms.

Yes, so at least one domino has fallen. And with Shea-Porter running again, Executive Councilor Chis Pappas of Manchester, who has been considering running for congress in the First District all but certainly won’t. Pappas, who addressed the convention, is also seen by many Democrats as a plausible gubernatorial candidate if Hassan moves on.

The same goes for another sitting Councilor, Colin Van Ostern, of Concord. He also spoke in Manchester, and has been pretty plain in word and deed about wanting to run for governor if Hassan doesn’t. Van Ostern has already won the public backing of Annie Kuster, who once employed him as a campaign manager. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee – also known as BoldProgressives.org – emailed its New Hampshire members and supporters a survey centered on Van Ostern. Mark Connolly, the former state securities regulator, also got a turn at the podium Saturday. He could also run if Hassan doesn’t.

Now all those names have been out there for a while, but another name was added to the mix late last week, and it's one people have probably heard before: Shaheen.

Yes, that would be Stefany Shaheen,  Portsmouth city councilor. She’s the  daughter of US Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Billy Shaheen, a member the DNC member. I have to say this - the Stefany Shaheen for Governor idea took a lot of people, including me, by surprise. My understanding is that EMILY's List, the political action committee dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women, reached out to Stefany Shaheen and basically asked her to consider running if Hassan goes for the Senate, and Shaheen has told reporters she is thinking about it.

  So we don’t yet know how serious this is, but it’s no doubt affecting the calculations of other Democrats looking at running?

If you were running in a Democratic primary for governor here, the prospect of facing anyone named Shaheen would complicate things. It would make your race more expensive and put lots of party loyalists with fealty to the Shaheen family in binds, and people like Van Ostern and Pappas do have histories with the Shaheen family. 

Josh Rogers is NHPR's Senior Political reporter. You can find him on Twitter @joshrogersNHPR
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Van Ostern actually moved to the state to work as Jeanne Shaheen’s 2002 campaign spokesman and never left. But I will say many Democrats I talked to over the weekend about the specter of a Stefany Shaheen run were fairly skeptical, particularly, I might add, when talking not for attribution.  Some cited her thin political resume, which consists of a single term as a Portsmouth city councilor, others say she’s a bit of a self-promoter, and some said flatly that they find the dynastic aspect this off putting, which is what a lot of people say about political dynasties.

With Chris Sununu running on the GOP side, maybe we end up with another Shaheen V. Sununu statewide race?

It would be the third time for the families. But next November is still away off.