Shea-Porter in Denver to Protect N.H. Primary

Posted August 27, 2008 at 7:52pm

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) could either take Denver or leave it.

But unlike many of her vulnerable freshmen counterparts across the country, Shea-Porter was out in full force with the Granite State delegation this week in the Mile High City.

Representing a district that has a tradition of voting Republican, Shea-Porter’s high profile this week could be controversial with two months to go until Election Day. What’s more, her unique grass-roots campaign in 2006 and independence from the national party stands in contrast to a national party event like the Democratic National Convention.

Shea-Porter was elected in an upset over then-Rep. Jeb Bradley (R), though her Democratic primary victory came over a candidate who had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Both Bradley and former state Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen are running for the GOP nod on Sept. 9 to take on Shea-Porter in November.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Wednesday that the committee encouraged challengers and those in tough races to stay home this week and campaign.

“Our advice to people was if you have a race … be where your constituents are,” Van Hollen said. “Your constituents are not in Denver. They’re back home.”

However, Van Hollen said he could make an exception for some challenger candidates “if there’s a specific reason for them to be there and the primary one might be to meet more people to help with fundraising. And if it also helps you lift your profile by coming here.”

Van Hollen said that while he expected many incumbents to attend the convention given their superdelegate status, it’s up to individual Members to decide whether to come. He said he gave no specific guidance to Shea-Porter as to whether she should travel to Denver.

While other vulnerable “Frontline” Members like Reps. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.) and Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) are staying away from this week’s festivities — Carney is on military reserve duty this month — Shea-Porter said there was never any question that she would attend the convention.

In an interview Tuesday morning, she cited protecting the New Hampshire primary’s first-in-the-nation status and her role as a national co-chairwoman for Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign as reasons for being in Denver this week instead of campaigning. Shea-Porter endorsed Obama last December.

“I understand why [Republicans are] staying home from their convention,” she said. “But for me, this is the New Hampshire primary state and we have an important role to play.”

New Hampshire’s other House Member, freshman Rep. Paul Hodes (D), also attended the convention; however, his re-election campaign is perceived by political insiders to be an easier race than his counterpart’s. Shea-Porter said she had worked all of August in the state before traveling to the convention.

“My New Hampshire constituents saw me in my district every single day the month of August,” she said. “I worked every single day the month of August, and they saw me working for them and now I’m working for New Hampshire’s role as the primary state.”

Kathy Sullivan, former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said she thought it was a good idea for Shea-Porter to be in Denver to motivate the delegation to work for her re-election bid this fall.

“The other thing too is, all the eyes of the country right now are on the convention, so by being here at the convention, I think she will actually be able to generate more publicity and free media than if she was back at home,” Sullivan said. “Also, it’s a good opportunity to do some additional fundraising, which is always important of course.”

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), another New Hampshire delegate in Denver, agreed that this trip would be good for Shea-Porter’s campaign coffers.

“This is her opportunity to make new contacts, to build support for her campaign and to be able to develop the financial depth that she needs to have to stay truly competitive,” said Clark, who ran for the seat in 2002.

Shea-Porter said, however, that she has no plans to raise money on this trip. In addition to working for Obama and supporting the delegation, she planned to attend an event for veterans Wednesday evening.