EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 14, 2013

Online Mother's Day card to Ayotte spurs criticism

Londonderry Democrat says it was individual action

By Doug Ireland

---- — LONDONDERRY — A Mother’s Day card addressed to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., that a Londonderry Democratic Committee member posted on the group’s Facebook page, is creating a political firestorm.

It’s captured the attention of both Democrats and Republicans.

The card, posted by former committee treasurer Jerry Conner, features photographs of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims and the words: “Senator Ayotte, Happy Mother’s Day.”

Conner said yesterday he posted the card over the weekend in response to Ayotte’s vote last month against President Barack Obama’s gun reform plan.

Obama’s plan called for requiring criminal and mental health background checks for anyone purchasing guns over the Internet or at gun shows. Ayotte responded to her critics by saying expanded background checks infringed on the rights of prospective guns owners.

The Londonderry committee removed the posting. Conner said although he didn’t intend to create a controversy, he stands by his criticism of Ayotte’s decision. He said Ayotte should apologize to her constituents.

“I’m not going to apologize for it until she does,” Conner said.

He said the card was taken from a website created in memory of the 26 people, including 20 students, killed Dec. 14 by gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The card drew numerous responses on Twitter, with most people asking that it be taken down because it was inappropriate.

Some commented on the Democrats’ Facebook page as well, prompting committee Chairman Tammy Siekmann to remove the card after several hours because she said it did not reflect the views of the group.

“Some people just thought it was in poor taste and we just want to make sure everyone knows it was Jerry’s personal opinion and not the committee’s,” Siekmann said yesterday.

Conner said he will not post on the committee website and gave up his administrative privilege to do so.

Siekmann said she notified New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley about the posting and told him it was being taken down. She said Buckley left if it up to the local committee to take the appropriate action.

State Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said the party wasn’t taking a position because the posting was not made by the committee’s leadership.

New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn issued a statement yesterday, calling the posting “inappropriate” and criticizing state Democratic leaders for not taking action.

“As a mother, my heart breaks for those moms whose children are no longer with them on Mothers’ Day,” she said. “However, the decision by New Hampshire Democrats to use that loss for political gain is despicable and inappropriate. Democrat leaders including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Governor Maggie Hassan and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter should have the courage to stand up and denounce the disgusting political tactics used by their party activists.”

Liz Johnson, Ayotte’s spokeswoman, said her office declined to comment on the card and stands by the senator’s earlier statements on the issue.

Ayotte has said that not even an expansion of background checks would have prevented the shootings and that current laws need to be enforced to ensure the prosecution of those who attempt to illegally obtain firearms.

Members of the organization Granite State Progress delivered a similar Mother’s Day greeting to Ayotte on Friday. They dropped off 250 cards at the senator’s Nashua office, according to executive director Zandra Rice Hawkins.

A Public Policy Polling survey conducted in late April shows 44 percent of those surveyed approve of Ayotte’s job performance while 46 disapprove. That compares to 48 percent approval and 35 percent disapproval in October.