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With Iowa unresolved, candidates try to manufacture momentum in New Hampshire

NASHUA — Pete Buttigieg reiterated his declaration of victory. Bernie Sanders’ campaign heralded their vote total. Joe Biden said he’d walk away with delegates. And Elizabeth Warren attempted to lump herself into a three-way race that excluded the former vice president.

The dark cloud hanging over the Iowa caucuses morphed into a hazy fog in New Hampshire, as the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates grappled with how to create momentum heading into the increasingly critical first-in-the-nation primary next week after the Iowa caucuses failed to produce a clear-cut winner.

“I know a few people who were waiting to see what happens in Iowa because they thought it might provide some clarity in the race,” said Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman who endorsed Warren. “How’d that work out?”

Almost 24 hours after the caucuses closed, an Iowa victor remained unknown. Late Tuesday, the Iowa Democratic Party released results from 62 percent of precincts, showing Buttigieg and Sanders vying for the lead, separated by just a few thousand votes, with Warren in third and Biden stuck in fourth place. Whoever the ultimate winner is will be deprived of the true spoils of victory, just as the loser may have been spared the stinging embarrassment of defeat.

There was no telling when the outstanding totals would be released to the public. The mystery around the results lingered throughout the day as campaigns carefully calibrated how to address such an unprecedented scenario.

Buttigieg, who began his day in Manchester, noticeably tamped down his appearance of a triumph at a morning event inside a theater. He didn’t specifically mention Iowa in his morning remarks. Only at the closing of his speech did the former South Bend, Ind. mayor reference having “had the chance to quiet those questions about whether we belonged in this effort in the first place.”

By time he took the stage in Laconia in the evening, he doubled down on his claim of victory.

“Official verified caucus results are coming in from the state of Iowa,” Buttigieg told his audience. “They show our campaign in first place.”

The partial results indicated a disappointing performance from Biden, who campaigned aggressively down the stretch in Iowa and had hoped to capitalize on his popularity with older, rural Democrats familiar with his 40-year-career. But even before they knew the final results of the caucuses, many of his supporters were already arguing he was still on track to win the Democratic nomination.

“I didn’t have any expectation that he would be first or second,” said Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who has endorsed Biden. “Where he is in the final tally, or at least what we now know of the beginnings of the final tally, is kind of where I expected him to be.”

Casey added that New Hampshire would be a “difficult” state for Biden to win, citing the fact Sanders and Warren represented neighboring states, but that he thought the former vice president would still be competitive there.

Other Biden backers were even more dismissive of Iowa.

“What happened last night is nothing happened,” said Florida attorney John Morgan, a Biden donor. “When I woke up this morning, everybody had declared victory. I kept reading my paper here to see if Kamala Harris had declared victory, too.”

Morgan, who hosted a fundraiser last May in his Orlando home that raised $1.7 million for Biden’s campaign, said he still thinks the former vice president will pick up steam as the race progresses. It’s an argument Biden’s team has made from the beginning, pointing out that he was poised to earn greater support in the more diverse states that vote later in February, Nevada and South Carolina.

“I think in the long run he’s going to be just fine,” Casey said. “Obviously, the electorate changes a lot when you get outside some of these states over the next few weeks.”

Still, a lackluster result in New Hampshire could damage a campaign like Biden’s that entered the year with less cash in the bank than his top rivals.

“If you lose two contests in a row, or underperform two contests in a row, that can make it harder to raise money to go forward,” Sullivan said.

She added that in her view, many New Hampshire voters remain undecided even this late in the primary. And on the ground in the state Tuesday, the Biden campaign sought to start winning them over.

In Nashua, he claimed to have had a “good night in Iowa.”

“We think we’re going to come out of there really doing well, but you know, be careful what you say because it’s not done yet,” he said inside a gymnasium. “So we don’t know precisely how many delegates we have, or I’m going to get, but I feel really good about getting more than our fair share.”

He then took aim at the feasibility and cost of the Medicare for All plan championed by Sanders, who leads in New Hampshire polls.

“Bernie’s talked about the single-payer Medicare system for health care system ... for 30 years now. Hasn’t moved it an inch,” Biden said. “It’s not going anywhere. The speaker of the House isn’t for it. Most Democrats in Congress are not for it. So how’s it going to pass? How’s it going to move? How’s it going to get done?”

But on the rope line on his way out of the event, Biden stopped short of saying he’d accept the results from the Iowa Democratic Party.

For her part, Warren seemed stuck in the middle. She was unable to declare victory, but attempted to lump herself in with Sanders and Buttigieg.

“It’s a tight three-way race at the top,” Warren said in Keene (see related story, page A3). “We know the three of us will be dividing up most of the delegates coming out of Iowa. I’m feeling good.”

New Hampshire voters who spoke to McClatchy dismissed the possibility of Iowa influencing their decision, even if Biden ended up finishing fourth or worse.

“It’s an item for the media. What is important is he’s going to get to South Carolina and he’s going to do well,” said Harold Solomon, a Nashua resident backing Biden on the basis of electability. “Who can win in the battleground states? Joe Biden. Blue collar people are going to vote for him.”

Anna Pappalardo, a recent transplant from Nevada to New Hampshire, said she was still deciding between Warren and Biden, but that final tallies out of Iowa wouldn’t move her.

“I don’t think it means that much,” she said.

“You shouldn’t base your decision on another state,” chimed in her husband, Al, a Biden supporter.

The Iowa muddle raises the stakes even further for the New Hampshire primary. And the candidates will have a major opportunity to win over some of those undecided voters at the next debate.

“The New Hampshire debate Friday is going to be one of the most important primary debates in history,” said Colin Van Ostern, the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in 2016. “If the results of Iowa are what everyone thinks, it would have been deadly for Biden and (Amy) Klobuchar if that was clear last night, But given the debacle, that damage is now downgraded to ‘painful.’ ”

Partisan passions overtake Trump's State of the Union speech

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump highlighted economic gains and his reelection bid in a sweeping State of the Union address Tuesday, but his impeachment overshadowed the text as the traditional address to a joint session of Congress devolved into theatrical outbursts and unmasked partisan disdain.

Republican lawmakers loudly chanted “four more years!” before Trump began speaking, setting an intensely political tone for an address that offered few major policy proposals but presented a triumphant view of the nation’s progress under his administration, especially emphasizing areas that excite his supporters: curbing illegal immigration, limiting access to abortion and imposing tougher trade policies.

“The state of our union is stronger than ever before,” Trump declared, adding hyperbole to the standard presidential claim.

But the timing and the setting offered a starkly competing message. Trump stood in the House rostrum seven weeks after House Democrats voted to impeach him for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate is all but certain to acquit him after the shortest presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

He did not mention his impeachment in the one-hour, 18-minute speech, but when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., extended her hand in greeting before he began, he did not take it, a break with protocol that spoke volumes about the bitter divisions that have deepened during his turbulent presidency.

Apparently in response, Pelosi, who sat behind the president, stood up and dramatically ripped her printed copy of his speech in half when he finished speaking, a sign of disrespect equally stunning for the most powerful Democrat in Congress, as he paced just in front of her, basking in applause from the GOP side of the chamber.

In his remarks, rather than urging lawmakers to work together, Trump took credit mostly for work already done, criticizing and sometimes distorting Democrats’ positions on immigration and health care.

As his language became increasingly sharp-edged, the mood in the chamber soured. Democrats made little effort to hide their eye-rolls and visceral reactions.

When Trump urged Congress to work on legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, Democrats stood and chanted “H.R. 3,” waving three fingers at the president to call attention to their existing legislation addressing the issue.

They booed and groaned when he promised he “will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” unabashedly declaring, “There are those who want to take away your health care.”

Many Democrats, incensed because Trump is currently suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act, including the provision that guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions, shouted back at the president: “You!”

The first president who came to office after hosting a reality television show once again showed his ability to produce dramatic, even heart-rending, made-for-TV moments.

Trump invited a Venezuelan opposition leader to sit in the audience, awarded a Medal of Freedom on the spot to cancer-stricken controversial talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, and orchestrated a surprise reunion of a soldier who had been on his fourth deployment to the Middle East with his tearful wife, who was seated in the gallery.

By the time of the reunion, at least two Democratic lawmakers had already walked out, noting their departures on Twitter.

“I’ve had enough,” tweeted Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. “It’s like watching professional wrestling. It’s all fake.”

In his remarks, Trump contrasted his record with President Barack Obama’s, blaming his predecessor for a decline in the workforce that was largely triggered by the recession that began before Obama took office in 2009, and taking credit for recent gains.

“From the instant I took office, I moved rapidly to revive the U.S. economy — slashing a record number of job-killing regulations, enacting historic and record-setting tax cuts, and fighting for fair and reciprocal trade agreements,” Trump said.

Democrats sat without clapping as the president recited a litany of economic and jobs numbers.

“This is a blue-collar boom,” Trump said, pointing to a rise in median household income and the steady rise of the nation’s stock market since he took office.

“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny,” he said. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”

Drawing another battle line ahead of the November election, Trump promoted school voucher programs that have long been a priority for traditional conservatives, derisively labeling public schools as “government schools” and calling on Congress to pass a bill that would allow the use of vouchers at the federal level “to rescue” students left on waiting lists for state scholarships.

He panned the “Medicare For All” proposals backed by two Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“We will never let socialism destroy American health care!” he said, before pivoting to a even more controversial assertion, claiming that support for a government takeover of health care would lead to “free government health care for illegal aliens.”

He also cited milestone accomplishments on trade talks and national security, including the CIA-led raid that left Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead in Syria, and the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani in Iraq, whom he called “a ruthless butcher.”

Trump also reaffirmed his administration’s support for the surprise guest, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whose attempts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have failed so far.

In another unexpected move, Trump recognized Limbaugh, who announced Monday that he is fighting advanced lung cancer and appeared frail. Trump said he was awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, and then looked up to the balcony as first lady Melania Trump put the medal around Limbaugh’s neck.

As he embraced the pageantry and spectacle of the annual televised address, Trump aimed to define himself as a Washington outsider fighting a thicket of partisan opposition to bring the changes his supporters want.

And he presented his accomplishments — namely, a revised North American trade agreement and criminal justice reform — as priorities that his predecessors failed to get done.

Trump’s signature on the U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico last week marked one of his most concrete accomplishments, and he said it showed he had delivered on his pledges to retool America’s trade relationships.

“Many politicians came and went, pledging to change or replace NAFTA — only to do absolutely nothing. But unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises,” he said.

For the second year in a row, a large group of Democratic women wore all white to honor the women’s suffrage movement, which is celebrating its centennial, and in apparent protest of the president.

Several Democratic members of Congress boycotted Trump’s address, including Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Some who attended protested Trump’s environmental policies by wearing pins showing a graphic representation of how much the planet has warmed since 1850.

“We are wearing these climate pins to send the message that Americans will not hear from President Trump tonight: Climate change is real. We need to act, and we need to act now,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del.

In the Democratic response to Trump’s address, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she wanted to focus on working-class struggles and health care.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market. What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs,” she said.

The Democrats’ impeachment effort may have given Trump a slight lift, at least for now.

In recent weeks, Trump’s support has risen slightly as he has showcased policy wins on trade and foreign policy while Democrats pressed their impeachment case in the Senate. A Gallup tracking survey Tuesday showed Trump’s approval rating at 49 percent, a record high for his presidency.

He may give a separate speech after the expected Senate acquittal vote Wednesday, according to an administration official.

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Carpentino, formerly of Hinsdale, loses appeal of 2018 conviction

A former Hinsdale man serving 32 years in federal prison in connection with a 2017 sexual assault on a teenager has lost an appeal seeking a new trial.

Kurt R. Carpentino, 36, had challenged his conviction on the grounds that his recorded confession to police should have been excluded from the trial.

In a Jan. 17 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston disagreed, finding the confession was admissible.

“We find that the defendant agreed to waive his Miranda rights after the troopers repeatedly advised him of those rights and the consequences of his waiver,” wrote Judge Bruce M. Selya, referring to the required warning that a detainee has a right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning. “He made this choice freely, without coercion on the troopers’ part.”

The appeal sought to vacate Carpentino’s June 2018 conviction in U.S. District Court in Concord on a charge of transporting a minor across state lines for criminal sexual activity.

According to evidence presented at trial, Carpentino sexually assaulted a 14-year-old Hinsdale girl multiple times before coaxing her out of her bedroom one night in April 2017 and driving her to an abandoned motel in Rockingham, Vt. There, the girl testified, Carpentino gave her a beer before sexually assaulting her on a tarp spread across the floor.

Carpentino was arrested the next day in Springfield, Vt. What happened next was the subject of his appeal.

Early that afternoon, Carpentino agreed to waive his Miranda rights and speak to two Vermont State Police troopers, who pressed him on his claim that he had been driving around alone that night. Carpentino asked to talk to his lawyer. The troopers ended the questioning and returned him to his cell, though they did not give him access to a phone to call an attorney.

About 40 minutes later, Carpentino told the troopers he wanted to speak to them again. According to a transcript of the conversation, Carpentino seemed to go back and forth on whether he wished to consult an attorney before continuing.

“I can talk with you with a lawyer, right?” he asked at one point.

“You can, but usually that doesn’t happen,” one of the troopers responded.

Carpentino eventually agreed to again waive his Miranda rights. He then admitted to driving the girl into Vermont and sexually assaulting her.

Carpentino’s lawyers worked to undermine the confession at trial, claiming their client had been falsely accused. Scared and confused, they said, Carpentino gave in to the detectives’ pressure and told them what they wanted to hear.

His appeal contested U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Barbadoro’s decision to allow the confession into evidence, arguing, among other things, that Carpentino’s mention of a lawyer was an invocation of his right to counsel and should have shut down the interview then and there.

Selya, however, found that Carpentino’s statements were ambiguous and, when troopers asked if he wanted to keep talking or speak to a lawyer, Carpentino did not end the interview.

Selya did fault police for not immediately allowing Carpentino access to a phone when he asked to call his lawyer after the first interview.

“We do not in any way condone the VSP’s failure to facilitate the defendant’s requested telephone call,” the judge wrote. “Best police practices plainly entail providing a suspect with prompt access to an attorney upon request.”

But, he added, he did not have enough information before him to assess why that request was not fulfilled right away.

Carpentino’s April 2017 arrest came less than a year after his release from prison on previous sexual assault charges. In 2003, Carpentino, then 19, was convicted of 12 felonies for sexually assaulting at least six different teenage girls in Hinsdale. He was released in August 2016.

Carpentino is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution Fairton in New Jersey, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ online inmate tracker. His release date is in 2046.

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Fritz eatery to switch spots in downtown Keene

More than a dozen years after moving to Main Street, a Keene culinary staple is getting new downtown digs.

Fritz — which serves Belgian fries, sandwiches, salads and more in a fast-casual setting — will be relocating from 45 Main St. to the site of the former Pour House Restaurant at 44 Central Square. Fritz owner Michael Rigoli said he hopes to make the move in mid-March.

The plans were announced on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page.

Rigoli, of Swanzey, attributed his desire for a change-of-place to “a number of things that I’ll just never be able to adjust or correct in the current space.”

The former Pour House Restaurant has a kitchen Rigoli described as “professionally designed,” which he said is “much larger and more capable” than the kitchen where Fritz is now.

The Central Square spot also has more ample room on the sidewalk, where Rigoli plans to put out tables and chairs when the weather allows. Including the outdoor space, Rigoli estimates he’ll have a seating capacity of about 100 at the new site, compared to 65 where he is now.

With the new location, Rigoli said he’s looking to bring on more employees — he’s in the process of hiring — and hopes to start offering breakfast if staffing makes that possible.

The restaurant will remain open seven days a week, according to Rigoli.

“Hopefully, we’ll end up having enough staff to be open later in the evening on Sunday, but at first, we’ll probably still be closing at 4 on Sunday,” he said.

He also aims to begin hosting live music again (one night a week over the summer), which he said proved too much of a squeeze to continue in the restaurant on Main Street.

Other changes on tap include likely adding some menu items, probably incorporating steak and fish while scaling down the number of panini sandwiches, Rigoli said.

The sandwiches are very time-intensive to cook, he explained, and are “one of the things that slows things down for the restaurant.”

But fear not, fry fiends: Rigoli said those aren’t going anywhere, and he also plans to continue offering burgers, salads and wraps.

The Pour House Restaurant closed at the end of 2019, less than a year after opening where Pedraza’s Mexican Restaurant had been for a decade. The Pour House bar, which predates the similarly named eatery, remains in business next door.

In 2007, Fritz’s then-owner and founder Jessica Graveline announced plans to move to Main Street from The Center at Keene, into the previous home of Bookland. Rigoli said he bought the business five years ago.

The restaurant will close for “hopefully not more than a week” when it moves in March, he said.

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ConVal voters move unchanged warrant to March's elections

PETERBOROUGH — As presidential candidates fanned out across the state before the primary, residents of the ConVal Regional School District gathered for another rite of New Hampshire democracy.

The district’s deliberative session Tuesday night drew more than 130 voters from nine towns to the ConVal Regional High School gym, though few spoke. The 10 warrant articles which include the $50.6 million budget and authorization to install solar panels at the high school moved to the ballot with little discussion and no amendments.

ConVal covers Antrim, Bennington, Dublin, Francestown, Greenfield, Hancock, Peterborough, Sharon and Temple.

At the start of the session, Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders explained changes between the current year’s budget and the proposed 2020-21 budget that goes before voters March 10.

By itself, the budget of $50,565,103 would represent an increase of $927,909, or 1.9 percent, over total appropriations approved last year. If everything on this year’s warrant passes — totaling $51,235,103 — the increase in appropriations would be $1,597,909, or 3.2 percent.

Most of the other appropriations on the warrant would come out of any end-of-year surplus funds, rather than new taxes.

Saunders said the biggest driver of the proposed budget increase is personnel, including 3.2 new positions as part of a plan to expand preschool. More children are showing up for kindergarten without the emotional skills they need, and research has shown preschool saves money in the long run, she said.

Other changes include necessary equipment replacements and a $140,000 contractual increase in transportation costs.

If the budget fails to pass, a default budget of $49,142,616 would take effect. A default budget reflects the current year’s budget, plus certain adjustments set by law.

Saunders said the $1.4 million shortfall, were the district to operate under the default budget, would require cuts to staff, programs, facilities and supplies. Administrators would start with those items that have the smallest direct impact on students, she said.

Former school board chairman Tom Welden of Hancock asked why staffing is increasing when the district’s enrollment has declined. “We keep adding things on; the population is not increasing,” he said.

He also raised what has been a contentious issue in past years — the future of the district’s elementary schools. Eight of the nine member towns have elementary schools, and voters have rejected attempts in recent years to amend the district’s articles of agreement to allow school consolidation.

The district’s enrollment has dropped from 2,755 a decade ago to 2,130 in 2019.

Welden said some elementary schools are well below capacity, creating a financial burden. “We cannot afford to keep passing on this,” he said. (No articles related to school consolidation are on the warrant this year.)

Otherwise, there was little discussion of the budget and most other articles. Welden stood up again toward the end and contrasted the day’s session with previous district meetings where, he said, hundreds would show up for lively discussions.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that we no longer have a dialogue about spending $50 million,” he said.

Two voters quickly got up to speak in support of the proposed budget. Ken Phillips of Peterborough warned the default budget could harm programs that enrich the experience of many students — including his daughter, a member of the Nordic ski team.

“The things that we will lose are the things that will make our students the kinds of people that we want to lead this community in the future,” he said.

As he spoke, seven or eight members of the Nordic team in yellow uniforms stood up in the bleachers.

Not to be outdone, Holly Wilson — a Francestown resident who coaches Alpine skiing — strode to the mic with three team captains.

“Please remember that sports do build consensus,” she said. “And just these kids being here tonight is an indication of that.”

The team plans to put out signs encouraging people to vote for the proposed budget, she said. “This team really wants to get the vote out.”

In addition to the budget, articles on the warrant propose putting up to $550,000 into the school building capital reserve fund, $25,000 into the athletic trust fund and $25,000 into the health trust fund, all drawn from whatever surplus funds the district has at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The district is also seeking authorization to enter a long-term power purchase agreement for energy generated by solar panels that would be built on the high school’s roof or elsewhere on the grounds, initially owned by a private company. After the first several years, the district would have the option to buy the panels, resulting in free electricity for the rest of the system’s lifetime.

Another article would set up a new fund for alternative-energy and energy-efficiency projects, with $70,000 raised through taxes. The fund would be used to save for the possible purchase of the solar panels, among other initiatives to reduce energy costs.