Written by Charlie “Chaz” Proulx
Since moving to Bedford from New York a few years ago, Shawn O’Connor has gone from doing next to nothing to help NH Democrats to becoming a major liability.
A short history:
On November 24, 2014 James Pindell wrote this about Shawn O’Connor’s preparations to run for the US senate against Kelly Ayotte. “Shawn O’Connor moved from New York City to Bedford last year and has not been particularly active in local Democratic politics. He has not given money to any federal candidates…according to the Federal Election website. Though a day before the Nov. 4 election, he did give $1,000. each to the Manchester Democratic Committee and to Executive Councilor Chris Pappas.”
Two thousand dollars isn’t very much for the founder and former president of Stratus Prep. According to O’Connor, “I sold the business for a ten figure valuation to a private equity firm.” Ten figures is a billion dollars.
It’s to his credit that he made so much money so young. But really–two thousand dollars? And beyond money, there are plenty of other things New Hampshire Democrats do to help keep the party strong. Shawn did none of them.
Most NH Democrats get active in one way or another and start making like-minded friends. New Hampshire is a small state where networking is very personal. But when I heard that Shawn O’Connor was running for Congress in the first district neither I nor anyone I knew in politics knew anything about him. Soon enough he claimed to have hired the Berenson Strategy Group and other ultra heavy hitters from outside NH to shape his image.
Creating an image for Mr. O’Connor had to be a challenge because a few years ago he was touting the “Third Way” movement in Forbes magazine. He singled out Democrats for wanting to raise taxes.
Somehow O’Connor then pivoted to become a Bernie Sanders supporter. Strange, because last summer his publicized political issues list never mentioned income equality. I saw him speak three times and there was no mention of Bernie Sanders either.
Now he’s all in with all the Bernie trappings. A recent O’Connor television ad co-opted Sanders “Join the Revolution” slogan. That’s a long way from Steve Forbes rag and anti tax rhetoric.
We all have epiphanies, but I suspect that Mr. O’Connor and his handlers watched Sanders pre-primary numbers and saw an opportunity to differentiate himself from Jeanne Shaheen, Carol Shea’Porter and Maggie Hassan — all of whom endorsed Hillary Clinton.
An early hint of mild negativity was to lump Maggie, Carol and Jeanne together as “establishment.” Shortly thereafter O’Connor press releases began reeking of a holier-than-thou attitude towards Shea-Porter. He attacked Carol’s character over accepting Union Pac money. He failed to mention that when Carol won her first primary the campaign had $19,000, then refused DCCC money and still managed to beat Jeb Bradley.
That win had everything to do with the networks of friend and activists I mentioned above. It was a true grass roots effort — one of the biggest upsets in NH political history. CSP had spent less than any other winning candidate for Congress in the entire US.
Then of course came the threats to sue Carol Shea-Porter. Before the threats hit the papers, O’Connor was lawyered up and pressuring leaders of the NHDP to “mediate” between him and Carol Shea-Porter. What a crazy – assed stunt when true Democrats are focused on a Presidential election year.
Turmoil followed. In the media Mr. O’Connor’s dragged State Sen. David Pierce into the mix. Sen. Pierce had endorsed Mr. O’Connor, but he found himself defending Mr. O’Connors over-the-top allegations of a “defamatory whisper campaign” against him. O’Connor has since called the “whisper campaign” part of a “broad conspiracy” perpetrated by Carol Shea-Porter. (My take is that at the very worst, somebody “misspoke” to Senator Pierce then “walked the statement back” a few days later.) I met David Pierce when he first moved to NH and respect him a lot. I can’t imagine that any of this was comfortable for him.
Next O’Connor told the press that members of Bernie Sanders campaign would corroborate his “whisper campaign” story. Two major staffers names were splashed across the press and local television. Both denied O’Connor’s allegations.
The Sanders Campaign didn’t need these distractions, but needy Shawn did.
And then there’s Twitter. Mr. O’Connor ties anyone who doesn’t agree with him to CSP campaign. People who have never had anything to do with CSP are called CSP hacks.
And if he doesn’t like what you write he’ll just make up something about you. Actually he’ll lie about you. Openly Gay, he has Tweeted that I’m Anti LBTG anti Domestic Survivor.” People who know me know that’s a lie, but his supporters probably believe I’m a bigot.
America Rising (Republican opposition research pac) is now attacking Shea Porter based on Shawn’s meme. Does Shawn understand that he’s tossing red-meat to the GOP?
I have no idea what motivates Mr. O’Connor but his all-about-Shawn act is wearing thinner every day.