Groups plan to protest on health care
Two fiscally conservative groups plan to protest all three Democratic members of the New Hampshire delegation next week as their leaders claim they’ve all avoided holding town hall meetings on the Affordable Care Act.
Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire and Cornerstone Action confirmed they would picket outside the Nashua offices of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswoman Annie Kuster on Tuesday morning at 11 and 11:30, respectively.
They vowed to follow that up with a protest of U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, also D-N.H., at her Manchester office at noon Wednesday.
“New Hampshire has a long tradition of town hall meetings between elected representatives and their constituents. However, Sen. Shaheen, Rep. Shea-Porter and Rep. Kuster have decided that in order to avoid the backlash liberals felt in response to passing Obamacare in 2010, that they will avoid their constituents on the issue altogether in 2013,’’ said Derek Dufresne, spokesman for Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire.
Ashley Pratte, executive director of Cornerstone, said televised forums on WMUR-TV where all three Democrats have or are scheduled to appear and take questions are no substitute for free-wheeling exchanges that New Hampshire voters expect.
“It is a shame that Sen. Shaheen, Rep. Shea-Porter, and Rep. Kuster are not making themselves readily available to the public out of fear of tough questions regarding the unpopular subject of Obamacare. New Hampshire families deserve better,” Pratte said.
By contrast, the Citizens group praised Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., for hosting town hall events last spring to receive comment and criticism of the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic Party Communications Director Harrell Kirstein said Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire is a national attack group, and its criticism is baseless.
“CSNH should change their name to Citizens Scamming New Hampshire, because their petty attacks are have no basis in reality and are the desperate flailing of a shadowy national group trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Granite State voters,” Kirstein said. “New Hampshire Democrats have or are scheduled to hold a televised town hall with WMUR this summer for all to see; meanwhile Kelly Ayotte spent the spring dodging tough questions about her tea party record from voters upset that has put ideology before common sense.”
Shaheen’s office referred questions to party officials and declined comment.
Kuster is the only one of four New Hampshire Democrats holding major office who has yet to appear in a WMUR forum, but Communications Director Rob Friedlander said she is working out details for it to occur in coming weeks.
“Rep. Kuster looks forward to holding events and discussing important issues with Granite Staters all across the 2nd District, just as she has since taking office,” Friedlander said in a statement.
“A Shea-Porter spokesman said health care reform got plenty of attention during the July 29 WMUR event in Portsmouth where Shea-Porter took questions.
“Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s most recent town hall was last week and access to affordable health care was a major focus. It was open to the public and the video footage is still online at WMUR.com,” Communications Director Ben Wakana said in a statement. “I’d encourage them to watch.”
Democratic critics countered that supporters at Ayotte’s town hall events tried to prevent questions critical of Ayotte for her vote against expanded criminal background checks before firearm purchases at gun shows or private sales.
“Its impossible to claim Kelly Ayotte’s stunt events from this spring were town halls and keep a straight face. They certainly didn’t look like any town hall events Granite State voters are used to seeing,” Kirstein said.
CSNH officials called for more than just the WMUR forums Wednesday but they took an active part in one of the three held so far and tweeted from inside the hall at a second.
The Telegraph confirmed that Brian Szudka, of Londonderry, identifying himself as a staffer with CSNH asked Gov. Maggie Hassan a question on gun-owner rights during the WMUR event last April at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
CSNH supporters sent out several critical tweets during the forum with Shaheen though it was only later broadcast on WMUR.
Shaheen voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 while Kuster and Shea-Porter have opposed the House GOP’s repeated efforts this year to repeal it.
Ayotte has supported repeal efforts.
For months, independent polls have consistently shown more oppose than support the national health care law, which as of next Jan. 1, requires all Americansto purchase coverage or pay a penalty.