Who was naughty and nice in New Hampshire politics in 2023?

As the year 2023 comes to a close, it's time to take a festive look at the world of New Hampshire politics through our very own "naughty and nice" list. Check and see who's getting coal in their stocking this year 🫣 (Stock photo)

By Colin Booth

December 22, 2023

Ho ho ho, as the year 2023 comes to a close, it’s time to take a festive look at the world of New Hampshire politics through our very own “naughty and nice” list. Let’s see who’s been spreading cheer and who’s been stirring the pot in the world of New Hampshire politics, as we embark on this holiday-themed journey.

On the “nice” side of the ledger, we’ll highlight the politicians who have worked tirelessly to advance the causes important to the people of New Hampshire. From legislative victories to community outreach, these individuals have earned their spot on the nice list with their dedication to improving the lives of Granite Staters.

Conversely, on the “naughty” list, we’ll take a closer look at those whose actions may have raised eyebrows or sparked controversy over the past year. Whether it’s policy disagreements or political missteps, these individuals will find themselves in the spotlight as we examine the flip side of the political coin.

So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and let’s dive in as we wrap up 2023.

NICE

Will Stewart & June Trisciani — After a hard fought primary in the Manchester Mayoral race, former State Senator Kevin Cavanaugh won and earned the general election nomination, but Will Stewart and June Trisicani articulated strong visions for Manchester’s future. They ran clean races with very little drama and endorsed Cavanaugh in the general without a fuss. This is the mark of disciplined, principled political leaders.

For exemplary behavior in the heat of political battle, they make the nice list for 2023.

Jordan Applewhite — Due to a number of factors, the North Country is often underserved by political forces of both parties, which is deeply unfortunate. But that lack of engagement does make it easy to see who the local champions really are, and in this case, one local activist took the opportunity this year to rise to the challenges meeting their community.

When a local State Senator made attacking the LGBTQ+ community her sole focus and mission in 2023, Jordan Applewhite stepped up, rang the alarm bells, organized their community and brought the eyes of the entire state onto what was happening. They circulated a petition to expand the three-member Littleton Select Board to five members to diversify the partisan makeup of the board, and even had time to open a bar in the North Country, Slim Pickin’s.

For outstanding community organizing in the face of profound adversity, Jordan makes this year’s nice list.

State Reps. Matt Wilhelm & Alexis Simpson — The past year has been a historic one for the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The partisan split of the House is as close as any time in the history of the body, leading to unique challenges, compounded by the headaches  that come with attempting to organize one half of the largest democratically elected body in the United States.

Yet House Leader Matt Wilhelm and Deputy House Leader Alexis Simpson have come through their first year in minority leadership with major wins under their belts. These victories include:  twice defeating legislation that would have forcibly ‘outed’ trans students in schools; passing a bipartisan budget with critical investments—$15 million for the affordable housing fund, a 10% pay raise to state employees, and $158 million in education funding; ending New Hampshire’s gay panic defense; and protecting equal access to interracial marriage.

For leading their caucus through seemingly insurmountable challenges in the first year of their leadership and coming out successfully, Wilhelm and Simpson make this year’s nice list.

Joanne Dowdell — 2023 is the year the New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary came under siege by the Democratic National Committee. Many state Democrats fought valiantly against their attacks, but perhaps none with such grace and dignity as New Hampshire’s member of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee (RBC), Joanne Dowdell.

In the face of well-organized, high-profile detractors of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, Dowdell’s calm but forceful defense of New Hampshire’s century-long tradition was often awe inspiring, and was even praised by those DNC RBC committee members charged with challenging her in high-stakes talks among DNC members.

For tremendous poise and courage, Joanne Dowdell makes 2023’s nice list.

NH GOP Chair Chris Ager — In a time of intractable partisan division and red hot rhetoric, this year, Chris Ager did his due diligence as leader of the State Republican conference and showed some bipartisan spirit appearing alongside the Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party at a number of events, including at Dartmouth where they teamed up to jointly defend the first-in-the nation presidential primary across various events.

For a show of bipartisanship, even friendship, when it was in short supply, NH GOP Chair Chris Ager makes the 2023 nice list.

Congressman Ro Khanna — Often referred to as the unofficial fifth member of New Hampshire’s Federal Delegation, Congressman Khanna of California’s 17th district has become one of the most vocal champion’s of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, and a well known friend to Democratic committees across the state.

For being a true friend to the people of New Hampshire, Congressman Ro Khanna makes the 2023 nice list.

NAUGHTY

State Sen. Carrie Gendreau — State Senator and member of the Littleton Select Board Carrie Gendreau has had a banner year in the worst kind of way.

After winning her election in 2022, Gendreau spent little time establishing herself as the de facto conservative culture warrior in the New Hampshire State Senate — a legislative body that has transformed into an institution more politically extreme than the state house in record time.

First, she attacked an inclusivity mural on private property in her hometown of Littleton, linking the work to satan. After her complaints, the town manager, Jim Gleason, decided to contact the municipality’s lawyers about the possibility of enacting a public art ban in the town.

As though that weren’t enough, Sen. Gendreau also sponsored a 15-day abortion ban that has made national headlines for being one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country.

For inflicting financial and reputational harm on the community she is charged with representing, Sen. Gendreau tops our naughty list for 2023. 

State Rep. Jeff Greeson — In a perfect world, state Representatives are supposed to be the best of us and role models for our communities’. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a deeply imperfect world, and sometimes our elected officials are deeply imperfect themselves. Rational people understand and accept that.

However this year, State Rep. Jeff Greeson’s behavior moved from imperfect to criminal when he attacked a snow plow driver in front of his house — an incident which was captured on film — and was then arrested for it.

For alleged gross, violent misconduct, Rep. Greeson makes our naughty list.

Former State Sen. Andy Sanborn and member of NH GOP House Leadership Laurie Sanborn — Former State Sen. Andy Sanborn, and perhaps more importantly, member of Republican House Leadership Rep. Laurie Sanborn this year were indicted by the NH Department of Justice for illegally taking more than $844,000 of COVID-19 relief loans for their casino and using the money to buy three luxury cars.

The case has already forced State Rep. Laurie Sanborn to step down from her position as chair of the House Commission to Study Charitable Gaming, and many now question if she should have ever been appointed in the first place given the obvious conflicts of interest in that appointment.

For a brazen, allegedly criminal display of abject greed with taxpayer money, the Sanborns make this year’s naughty list.

State Sen. Keith Murphy — A number of elected officials experienced legal issues this year, but few have been the subject of such speculation as Sen. Murphy, who was arrested in June of this year and charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of criminal threatening after an employee at a restaurant he owns said he slapped and spit on him during an argument.

For gross, abusive behavior, Sen. Keith Murphy makes our naughty list for 2023.

Troy Merner — Not even a former Representative, this… man, problem… whatever you want to call him, his actions this year damaged almost every aspect of the last legislative session. Troy Merner was arrested just last month, charged with a felony count of wrongful voting and misdemeanor theft, and falsification charges tied to his refusal to resign his State House after moving out of his district for over a year.

The long-term impact of his illegal votes from illegally serving in the House are almost impossible to quantify. His illegal votes are already the subject of protection by members of Republican House leadership, who were aware of Merner not living in his district. They’ve sought to prevent any review of decisions by those illegal votes by House Democrats.

For the greatest betrayal of the public trust  in 2023, Troy Merner sinks to depths of our naughty list this year.

House Speaker Sherm Packard — What is more reprehensible than the fiasco of Troy Merner’s fraud against the people of New Hampshire are the officials who enabled it. In this case, that would be none other than House Speaker Sherm Packard, who received a complaint from the New Hampshire Department of Justice on December 6, 2022 but took no action until a second complaint was filed after session had already ended.

Merner was also reported to have wanted to resign but was told by Republican leadership to stay on — possibly to retain their narrow partisan advantage in the House.

For so badly failing his role protecting the public trust, House Speaker Sherm Packard hits rock bottom of 2023’s naughty list.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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