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NH's Power Brokers
 
Published Tuesday, January 18, 2011 7:00 am
by MATTHEW J. MOWRY

Power is fleeting, just ask the Democrats. Four years ago, then House Speaker Terie Norelli and then Senate President Sylvia Larsen graced the cover of this magazine as the faces of the new Democratic power in NH, representing a dramatic shift in NH politics. "New Hampshire, once a purple state, turned a distinct shade of blue," we said in the January 2007 story on The Powerful.

This year's cover says it all-Republicans are back with a vengeance and determined to hold onto their newly won veto-proof majority. The state's Republican leadership, who dominate this year's Power List, agree they received a clear message form voters: Lower the budget, cut taxes and get people back to work. And they know if they don't deliver on those promises, it is their power and control to lose. "They have to stay focused on [the budget] and do it quickly," says John H. Sununu, retiring chairman of the state's Republican Party. "If we do not address the budget issues in three to four months, it will get out of hand again."

Some say this agenda is good news for NH's businesses. "The impact on business will be a more business-friendly environment in the legislature," says Andy Smith, director of The Survey Center at the University of NH. "There won't be talk of a sales or income tax."

James Demers, founder and president of The Demers Group, a government affairs firm in Concord, agrees that businesses will be heard in Concord. "New Hampshire has always prided itself as a low tax state. We will see the new legislature committed to reducing business taxes and reducing oversight of business. This will be perceived as pro-business for the two years coming," Demers says.

Gov. John Lynch, the last major Democrat left standing, is ready to tackle the budget with the new legislature. "There are no huge disagreements between Lynch and the Republicans as to where the state needs to go fiscally," says Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern NH University and the writer for NHPoliticalCapital.com. That's not to say there won't be heated debate about what to cut. "The biggest issue is Republicans ran on, ‘We have a spending problem and not a revenue problem.' It's an interesting assumption," Spiliotes says. "Lynch has never been an across the board cutter. There will be some clash between these competing philosophies."

Smith and Spiliotes say the political scene in NH will continue to be shaken up by what happens on the national level over the next two years. "The volatility at the national level reverberates at the local level," Spiliotes says. "I don't think the mid-term election put to rest that uncertainty."

The List

For the past 20 years, Business NH Magazine has created the annual "Most Powerful People" list by polling our readers and asking a select group of leaders in NH-"Those in the know"- whom they turn to get things done. After analyzing not only who received the most votes, but also who voted for whom and why, we compiled this 2011 Powerful List.

The recent election was certainly top of mind for people as they considered their nominations as all but two of the people who made the list are connected to the political world. Though those two business executives not in politics are Gary Long, president and COO of Public Service of NH, and Thomas Colacchio, president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, will both have their hands full of legislative issues. Energy issues and health care costs are among the hot topics in this legislative session and both will be influential players.

On the political side, Gov. Lynch and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen are the lone democrats on the list. But while they are a minority, both have a history of effectively reaching across the aisle.

On the Republican side, this year's power brokers range from the state's senior statesmen-John H. Sununu and Sen. Judd Gregg, who though facing retirement will continue to wield influence in NH, to rising stars like Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone
Policy Research.

As for what it means to be considered powerful, Long puts it this way, "If you are a person in a position of influence and power, it comes with responsibility and obligation. You have to use power or influence to do something good or progressive. It's not about me, but what that position can do." He adds, "I believe power is temporary. It's usually granted upon you by somebody else and it comes with an obligation to serve."

Only time will tell how this year's class of the Most Powerful will use their influence to serve the state.

Please note each of the 10 most pwerful will be featured online over the coyurse of the next 10 working days.


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