I know, I know, the headline is grammatically incorrect. The adjective's comparative and superlative components are worse and worst, but I'm channeling my LeRoy Brown, baddest man in the whole damn town, here.
John Lynch was occasionally criticized, ever so gently of course, for not wading into issues up front, using up some of his considerable capital to try to influence votes.
After this week, John Lynch is looking more and more like the font of political wisdom. No wonder he broke the record of being elected four times in a row.
This week provided us with a great indication that Maggie Hassan is not likely to be a four timer. I'm not about to write her political obituary, be I will again revert to poor grammar to say that this was not merely a bad week, but it got badder as the week went on and wound up being the baddest week of all for the first term Democrat who still has never visited a casino although she seems to think (as I, a frequent casino visitor, also do) that they are just fine for society.
By noon Wednesday, long before the House vote on gambling, insiders knew bad news was in the offing for the governor. Despite her 15 minutes impassioned plea to the Democratic caucus to win one for the Gipper (in this case, for Maggie herself), to do what many of them were philosophically opposed to doing (vote for the Senate gambling bill), it was obvious the bill was going down. Talk in the hallways of the State House was that the governor's people knew they didn't have the votes to overturn the inexpedient to legislate motion and keep the debate alive. Of course, they would never be honest enough to say this publicly; in fact, they kept the spin machine in motion by insisting they were within five votes. In doing that, they managed to keep a lot of Democrats on board, Democrats who now regret the way they voted (but I'm getting ahead of myself...I would reserve that for the worst category here).
To me, there was never any doubt that the vote against gambling would never be close. That level of confidence was only bolstered when I asked one of the truly undecided (in my count) if he had made up his mind. Democrat Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, of Concord, by this time had heard the governor's 15 minute plea. His response to me was that he would be voting with the majority, in other words, against gambling, against his governor.
Bad news, but hardly surprising news. Steve Shurteff is both a smart and responsible legislator. He would have bent over backwards to support his governor and vote for the gambling bill had it not been clearly a terrible bill. I repeat, it was a terrible, terrible bill, so bad that a vote against it was a no brainer. Only someone whose brain was washed in the corner office could abandon his or her common sense and vote for such a bill (but again we're getting ahead to the wost category).
The vote to kill the gambling bill was about as expected, at least by me, 199-164 with more than two out of three Republicans voting against the bill (107-52). I was somewhat surprised that Democrats, for the first time in the history of gambling votes, actually cast a majority for the bill 92-112. But wait, that's not quite true.
Normally the first vote on a given bill is the most indicative of sentiments of Representatives. However in this case, I am confident the second vote, the vote against reconsideration, in other words the vote to kill the bill a second and final time, was the vote most reflective of legislative support.
That's where it was even worse for the governor. The margin went form 35 to 60 votes, which by sheerest coincidence is the exact final count I had written down (150-210 were my final numbers). The vote was 212-152, and on this vote, by a margin of one vote (102-103), the Governor did not even manage to carry Democrats. Republicans were 49-110 on this vote.
I'm not going to name names here (several reps preferred being coy), but more than I expected voted against ITL but never ever would have voted to pass the bill. I have at least a dozen names (maybe 20), thus add 24 to the 35 total for a margin of 59 (at least) in sentiment against this bill. We will never know for sure, but the 60 vote margin on ITL serves as a fairly good proxy.
Without going into a long lesson on the history of substitute motions, I can't truly explain how House leadership did the proper thing by bringing forward the ITL motion first. It was stunning how some who have been around for so long would try to convince their colleagues that in this one particular instance, we should abandon all rules and precedent by allowing a substitute motion at the outset. If we did this for every bill with an ITL motion, the House would be nothing more than pure chaos That's saying something when you consider the source; I tend to be a maverick or outsider, but even this maverick realizes that we can only function when our rules are followed not abandoned at random.
For people like Steve Spratt and Peter Leishman to mislead their less veteran colleagues by criticizing House rules, House precedent, House leadership...well that's the saddest thing about Wednedday's vote. Spratt's words were so wrong-headed he was forced to apologize at the end of the day, long after the damage had been done!
I've put together a list of 10 legislative winners and losers, five media winners and losers, and five special interest winners and losers which I will courageously post here soon, but here's a sample. Terie Norelli and Mary Jane Wallner are among the winners; Leishman and Spratt are among the winners.
Leishman, by the way, was insisting to me moments before the vote that it would be within ten votes "one way or the other". Gun to my head prediction (as in--if you're wrong, you forfeit your life), that's not going to happen I told my friend from Peterborough.
Baddest (The Worst)
As if the vote and reconsideration weren't bad and badder enough, the worst was yet to come.
In the aftermath, Maggie Hassan displayed every bit as much of a tin ear as she had in counting votes and cajoling Democrats into doing something they really didn't want to do.
Asked point blank by the media whether she was about to give up on her gambling fixation (my words, not theirs), the governor refused to say no. The refused to close the door on bringing back something House members, by at least a 60 vote margin, said they clearly would not accept.
Her language even left some thinking that she would veto a budget if it does not contain funding for her programs, funding which would only be possible if she reverts to spitball rather than hardball to get gambling back on the table.
First term governors not so good at hardball should not resort to spitball.
The governor clearly is not as politically stupid as she appeared to be in her public comments chastising the House for voting against a terrible, terrible gambling bill; if she were that stupid, it would be easy to start writing her political obituary, but she can't be that stupid.
Since this all centered on gambling, allow me to close with two gambling analogies, ones the non-casino-visiting governor most likely will not understand.
What the governor did, extending so much political capital on a terrible plan which, media fantasies notwithstanding, never really had a chance of passing--was to resemble a Texas hold 'em player or a black jack player--
--a Texas Hold 'em player who, with testosterone flowing, decides to go all in on a ten high--or
--a black jack player who doubles down on seven with the dealer showing a ten card.
No sane Texas hold 'em player or black jack player would do such a thing, but then again no sane politician would play this hand like Maggie Hassan did in here bad, badder, baddest week of them all.
Truth in blogging--Peter Leishman truly is a friend; Steve Spratt most assuredly is NOT!
Democrat Peter Leishman made the motion, passed overwhelming by the Hillsborough County delegation, to ask department heads to come in with plans for a 98 percent plan. That request thanks to delegation chair--yes that would be Steve Spratt--never was forwarded to commissioners. In other words, Steve Spratt's first act as chair was to act illegally. No wonder he felt justified in espousing illegalities on the House floor.
Inquiring minds want to know if Mssr. Spratt will be satisfied in trying to drive the Hillsborough County budget up just 10 percent next week or if he will shoot for his big tax and spending stars of 15 percent!