New Hampshire’s junior senator, like the entire Republican caucus, is refusing to give any consideration whatsoever to anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. And, like the entire Republican caucus, she should be ashamed of herself for abdicating her sworn duty — and for, as usual, undermining the legitimacy of our (twice) duly-elected president.
But Ayotte has an additional, very specific, reason to be ashamed. Her entire political career has its roots in a very unusual act of nonpartisanship. If it wasn’t for a pair of decisions by a Democrat, there would be no Senator Kelly Ayotte.
First, a bit of essential background. New Hampshire’s Attorney General is not elected. It is an appointed position with a four-year term. The governor chooses an AG with the approval of the five-member Executive Council (itself a wacky feature of Granite State governance, go Wikipedia it if you’re curious).
Back in 2004, then-AG Peter Heed resigned. The governor at the time was Craig Benson, a Republican so feckless that he was actually defeated in his first bid for re-election. Yup, served one term and got kicked to the curb. But he was governor at the time, and he nominated a young, ambitious attorney named Kelly Ayotte to replace Heed. And she got the job.
After Benson’s ejection, Ayotte’s partial term ran its course. Democratic Governor John Lynch chose to nominate her for a full term.
And, at the end of that full term, he nominated her once again.
And she ducked out of that term early on, to run for senate in 2010, thus reneging on a promise to Lynch that she would serve her full term as AG.
It is a certainty that, if not for the generosity of Democrat John Lynch, there’s no way Kelly Ayotte would be a U.S. Senator today.
Is she returning the favor? No. She is joining her colleagues in essentially spitting in the President’s face.
Lynch’s decision to retain Ayotte was, shall we say, controversial in Democratic circles. But Lynch was a moderate who liked to play the “above the fray” “better than all that” game.
His decision had consequences. In addition to enabling Ayotte’s ascension to the Senate, I mean.
In 2003, a federal appeals court threw out a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for a minor to get an abortion. Against the wishes of Lynch, Ayotte appealed that ruling to the US Supreme Court. She won in the short term, but the law was repealed a couple years later by a more moderate state legislature.
The icing on the cake? The state had to pay $300,000 for Planned Parenthood’s legal costs. (It had brought the original case against the parental notification law.)
But John Lynch’s nonpartisanship ran deep. Even after that fiasco, he chose to nominate her for a second full term. One year later, she repaid his loyalty by quitting.
And now she can’t bring herself to extend the most basic of common courtesy — nay, she can’t bring herself to do her Constitutional duty — all for the sake of naked, rancid partisanship.
Kelly Ayotte should be ashamed.