July 8, 2009

STAYING RED (via The Other Brother):

NH's Ayotte Is A Worry For Democrats (Jennifer Skalka, July 7, 2009, Hotline)

NH AG Kelly Ayotte's entry into the NH Senate contest as the GOP establishment's candidate of choice has the potential to resuscitate the state's languid Republican Party, according to activists of both parties.

Ayotte, 40, announced today that she would leave the AG's office to explore a run for Sen. Judd Gregg's seat, and by all accounts, a bid is a forgone conclusion. Sources tell On Call that Ayotte was wooed by Gregg's longtime coterie of advisors, including his former chief of staff, Joel Maoila.

"I think she's a very, very able person, and we're going to see whether she's a good candidate," said GOP lawyer Tom Rath, a former state AG . "I think it's exciting. I think it's not business as usual for us. Business as usual for us wasn't going so good." [...]

Hodes' statewide favorable rating was 32%, his unfavorable review 23%, with 8% of voters neutral and 37% responding that they didn't know enough to say. Ayotte, who has served two governors of different parties as AG, rates favorably at 45%. Her unfavorables were at 8%, with 7% neutral and 40% who said they didn't know enough about her to weigh in.

So Hodes has a net positive rating of 9 points, while Ayotte's net favorables are 38 points.

"Hodes doesn't look that well in his numbers," said Andy Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center. "Here's a guy who's been a two-term congressman. His statewide favorability isn't what it should be."

Ayotte Resigns, Plans Senate Run (WMUR, July 7, 2009)
A New Hampshire native and Penn State University graduate with a Villanova Law Degree, Ayotte was with a private firm for a short time before joining the Attorney General's Office in 1998.

The state's first female attorney general, Ayotte has served in the post for five years. In perhaps her most high-profile case, Ayotte oversaw the death penalty case against Michael Addison in the shooting death of Manchester Officer Michael Briggs.

"That is an experience that will be with me forever," Ayotte said.

She served as lead prosecutor in the murder case of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop, a case that gained national attention.

She has not run a major campaign before, but there had been word that she was being highly recruited for the race.

Ayotte Case Could Dramatically Weaken Roe (Jennifer Dalven, 11/22/05, WOMENSENEWS)
An abortion case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 30 from the State of New Hampshire could vastly reshape and curtail women's right to choose, according to legal reproductive rights advocates.

The key question before the Supreme Court is whether anti-abortion laws passed by states may be challenged in court as unconstitutional before they take effect. Bringing these challenges, as currently happens, prevents many restrictions passed by anti-abortion legislatures from interfering with a woman's right to choose, whether bans on abortion procedures, spousal notification and others.

By changing the legal standard for when an abortion restriction can be challenged in court, anti-abortion laws could quickly entangle women across the country, without directly overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that held that states could not criminalize abortion in all circumstances.

"This is an incredibly important case. Depending on how the court rules, this could be a really critical moment for the pro-choice movement," said Jennifer Dalven, deputy director of the New York-based Reproductive Freedom Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents a doctor and three clinics challenging abortion restrictions passed in New Hampshire.

The case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, lies far below the radar of the general public and even many pro-choice activists. Those who are aware of it think of it as a case about parental notification on abortion. But its implications, said Dalven, go far beyond.

"Women seeking abortions would be forced to fight court battles while they are facing emergency medical needs," said Nancy Northup, president of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, author of a friend-of-the-court brief on this point on behalf of 30 health, research and women's organizations.

Ayotte's high-profile, high-pressure cases (KATHRYN MARCHOCKI, 7/08/09, New Hampshire Union Leader)
Current and former prosecutors said Ayotte's legacy extends far beyond the public sphere of the courtroom to her behind-the-scenes work in promoting cooperation among law enforcement agencies.

"One way she made a significant contribution was much less conspicuous. The last several years have seen unprecedented contact and cooperation between the AG's office and its federal counterpart," said U.S. District Judge Joseph N. Laplante, a former state and federal prosecutor.

He credited Ayotte for her work in promoting initiatives to crack down on crystal methamphetamine production, child cyber crime and in pursuing New England Organized Crime Drug Task Force investigations and prosecutions.

"That kind of effective collaboration doesn't happen on its own; it takes an openness at the top, a lack of �turf consciousness,' and just plain keeping in touch," Laplante said.

Others said Ayotte's role in helping pass tougher child protection laws and improving child protection programs also stand among her achievements.

"She has been a wonderful example of courage in some very difficult cases, of which Addison is one," Sullivan County Attorney Marc B. Hathaway said.

Ayotte also will be known for defending the state's parental notification law on abortions for minors before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court sent the case, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, back to the appeals level for a second review of the Legislature's intent. Lawmakers repealed the law before that could happen. Throughout the case, Ayotte refused to discuss her views on abortion.

U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Ayotte has made significant contributions to the state while at the Attorney General's Office.

"Kelly was appointed first by a Republican governor and then reappointed by a Democratic governor, a bipartisan testament to her credentials and effectiveness in the office. Kelly's steadfast commitment to promoting law enforcement efforts and ensuring the safety of everyone has helped to keep New Hampshire a great place to live and raise a family. " Gregg said in a statement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 8, 2009 5:27 AM
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