By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
NORTH WOODSTOCK – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, is facing backlash for the lack of a second round of stimulus as she tours the state in the last few days before the election.
Bryant “Corky” Messner, 63, of Wolfeboro, who is challenging her as a conservative Republican, and Gov. Chris Sununu, a fellow Republican, say Shaheen has not gone up against the Democratic leadership in the Senate to support a Republican-backed $500 billion “bridge” bill to help with a continuing need for financial relief from the impacts of COVID-19.
Shaheen asked for a meeting Wednesday in North Woodstock with New Hampshire’s “hard-hit” attractions, which have been limited to capacities from 25 percent to 50 percent since they were able to reopen, and are worried about their survival without more stimulus money to get them through to spring.
Whether a lame-duck Congress can agree to something is what hangs in the balance.
Messner said the “tourist industry as well as our restaurants and hotels certainly have been hard hit by the COVID pandemic, and continue to struggle, but they don’t need our Senator’s photo ops and campaign events.”
The event Wednesday was organized through the Senate office, not the campaign, and did not mention Messner.
“They need help,” Messner said, “but more federal COVID aid will be a long time coming, thanks to Senator Shaheen. Rather than support smaller, more targeted aid proposals until a larger package can be negotiated, she has rejected any and all funding because proposals don’t include enough pork.
“That means no help for our tourism industry, or hotels dealing with the lack of seasonal workers, or restaurants coping with limited outdoor dining options as winter moves in. This is no time for partisan politics,” Messner said.
“As Senator, I will put politics aside and do what’s best for New Hampshire so our state and our economy can quickly recover from the pandemic,” Messner added.
Messner said Shaheen is in lockstep behind Democratic leadership instead of agreeing to a partial deal and get some money flowing.
Shaheen said, “Working across the aisle, I helped create the Paycheck Protection Program that has helped more than 24,000 small businesses in New Hampshire stay open and keep more than 206,000 people on the payroll, and I passed additional legislation to address unique challenges facing the tourism and hospitality industries.
“After speaking with owners from three of the major family attractions in the White Mountains and the president of the White Mountains Attractions Association this week, it was clear that the PPP program has made a big difference for them, but they need more help, especially with colder weather coming. I am leading bipartisan efforts in the Senate to deliver a second round of flexible aid, and I’ll make sure they have the resources they need.”
Messner was raised in Altoona, Pa., and left home to attend West Point at the age of 17 playing football and graduating in 1979 where he became an Army Ranger and once guarded the Berlin Wall.
Messner went to law school at the University of Denver and became the founder of Messner Reeves LLP with over 200 employees in nine cities.
Messner’s first visited the Granite State in the 1970s helping a friend close up a camp near Mount Monadnock and said he fell in love with the rugged beauty of the state. A vow to someday have a house here was realized in 2007 with the purchase of a property on Lake Wentworth.
The state Democratic party calls him “Colorado Corky” and says he moved to New Hampshire to buy a Senate seat. They also say his Colorado nonprofit, the Messner Foundation, is a scam, which he denies. Messner also pointed out that Shaheen wasn’t born in New Hampshire either.
The two candidates agree on one thing: They both believe small business is the spine of New Hampshire, the backbone that keeps people employed.
Charyl Reardon, representing 17 White Mountain Attractions, told Shaheen at the meeting Wednesday that there is a shortage of workers because there is a shortage of work due to the coronavirus. Once people don’t have work, Reardon said, they move to where there is work.
Shaheen is no stranger to New Hampshire residents and Messner’s ad campaign event notes that Shaheen was “a good governor” but he contends when she went to Washington, something happened to make her less effective for residents.
Shaheen would disagree.
Born in St. Charles, Missouri, Jan. 28, 1947 she became governor in 1996 after Steve Merrill and served four terms before running unsuccessfully for Senate against John E. Sununu. She then ran and defeated him in 2008 becoming the first woman U.S. Senator for New Hampshire. She is now considered the dean of the New Hampshire delegation.
Shaheen was first a school teacher in Mississippi before moving to New Hampshire in 1973 and started a used jewelry business at York Beach, Maine, and taught in the offseason.
Wikipedia indicates that she is the 12th descendant of Pocahontas, a prominent North American native figure.
“I will do everything I can to push some additional help,” Shaheen said, as she sat in the closed foyer of the visitor’s center for White Mountains Attractions, just off I-93 on the Lincoln/North Woodstock town line Wednesday afternoon.
She told attraction owners in the White Mountains that those in the entertainment industry have been facing similar issues with capacity limits due to the pandemic.
“So that is what I am going to be arguing for. We have introduced another round of a modified PPP program that tries to be more targeted in how the assistance goes out,” Shaheen told them. “I think if we can get some agreement that we need to negotiate another round of assistance that that will be at the top of the list…because there is some appreciation of how important this is.”
But Shaheen noted nothing will happen before the election Nov. 3.
At the meeting, Wayne Presby, the owner of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, said loans that were first represented by the government for up to $2 million were arbitrarily reduced to $150,000 before anyone could get the $2 million. They have not increased that cap, he said.
Shaheen said she thought that was an initial problem that was fixed. Her staff there told her that the Trump Administration did not fix it. But there are still funds in that program that could be reformulated and redistributed.
“There have been some problems with the PPP program,” Shaheen acknowledged. “I appreciate it did not work out in every case exactly as we hoped. We were hoping for a second round but there has not been an agreement on that.”
Presby said the feds had a lot of money but the terms were so onerous nobody would take it. He said his bank told him not to, adding it would have cost a one percent fee to the bank, a one percent fee to the feds on top of the 3.75 percent interest, totaling 5.75.
“I’ve got lines of credit I have at 1.8 percent now,” Presby said, betting the feds haven’t lent 10 percent of that Emergency Injury Disaster Loans program.