There’s been a common question from Republicans in New Hampshire’s biggest political race lately.
"Where’s Maggie Hassan?"
Hassan, the Democratic governor, in case anyone missed it, is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte’s campaign, like the state’s Republican party, is keen on cataloguing Hassan’s time away from the state as she attends party meetings and fundraisers.
In a press release this month titled "Hassan Claims Her Job is 'Always' Her Top Priority, But She’s Increasingly Absent," the Ayotte camp made its case crystal clear.
"If Governor Hassan’s first priority is ‘always’ her job as governor, she wouldn’t have been out of state on 30 days over the last three months," spokeswoman Liz Johnson said in the release.
Could Hassan have possibly spent an entire month outside of the state from February through April? We decided to check it out.
What to check
First off, we should note that Ayotte’s campaign originally focused on Hassan’s travel in April alone, based on reporting by the New Hampshire Union Leader. That paper’s reporter Dan Tuohy wrote about the governor’s schedule that month, which included 12 days "out of New Hampshire" for political travel.
Ayotte’s office cited an earlier version of that article in a May 3 press release, claiming that Hassan spent half of April outside of New Hampshire. But based on Hassan’s schedule, at a maximum she was out of the state 40 percent of the time, which isn’t "half."
The senator’s campaign soon broadened its criticism to three months, so that’s what we’re focusing on here.
Hassan’s campaign regularly discloses the number of days that the governor travels out of state for political purposes. On March 1, it sent a letter to the state Republican party detailing her 10 days of out-of-state political travel from February. On April 1, it sent a letter outlining her eight days of out-of-state political travel that month. And on May 2, it sent a letter noting that Hassan had been outside the state for political reasons 12 days in April.
Add up the days, and you have 30 days of travel over three months. Case closed, right?
Ayotte’s re-election effort wants to paint the governor as an absentee leader, routinely leaving a state in need of leadership, including a day in May when two police officers were shot . A WMUR report this month lays out their case. The state GOP’s Twitter account routinely presses the charge, too.
We checked with both campaigns to see what was behind those numbers.
The Hassan campaign’s letters to the state GOP detail her travels.
With four exceptions (Philadelphia on Feb. 2, Chicago on Feb. 29, Austin on April 21 and Rhode Island on April 29) she visited three general areas -- New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Massachusetts. It’s easy to see why those three would be crucial for this candidate / governor -- and on five of the days in question Hassan attended the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in D.C.
What’s important to note about these travel days is that about half -- 16 of the 30 -- came during days that Hassan had no events scheduled in New Hampshire.
For the 14 other days of travel, Hassan spent at least some of her time here. That’s according to her public schedules for the three months, which were made available to PolitiFact New Hampshire by her campaign.
The governor’s schedule during these 14 days varied. On April 6, she had a breakfast event at 8 a.m. followed by an Executive Council meeting at 10 a.m. in New Hampshire. She headed to Massachusetts later. Likewise, on April 14, a day of travel in Massachusetts included events in Concord, N.H. (1 p.m.), Londonderry (2 p.m.) and Manchester (4 p.m.).
On other travel days, however, the governor only fit in a morning event before hitting the road. That was the case on Feb. 28 and March 2, among others.
Doing the math
This extra information allows us to crunch Hassan’s travel numbers in different ways.
In the simplest terms, Hassan was traveling out of New Hampshire 33 percent of the time from February through April.
Her five days at the national governors meeting could be excluded if all she did during that span was attend the conference. (The nonpartisan group includes the heads of all 50 states and discusses policy). However, she also attended separate gatherings with fellow Democratic governors, which is why her campaign included the trip as political travel. Deducting those days gives you a 28 percent absentee rate.
Counting only the days that the governor traveled out of state and had no public events in New Hampshire, she was gone 18 percent percent of the time.
Geographically, 19 of the 30 trip days were outside of New England -- meaning that Hassan was outside the region only 21 percent of the time.
Simple enough, perhaps. But we haven’t exhausted ways of crunching these numbers. Why don’t we simply look at a calendar?
While no one would dispute that a governor’s job never stops, most of New Hampshire’s legislative business is conducted during ordinary business hours, during an ordinary business week. So if you take weekend days out of the equation, we have a slightly different picture.
Looking only at the 65 total weekdays from February through April, Hassan traveled outside the state on 23 of them.That means she was at least partially on the road for 35 percent of ordinary weekdays for these three months. That’s more than a third of the time.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s campaign said earlier this month that Gov. Maggie Hassan was "out of state on 30 days over the last three months."
Hassan was traveling out of state for political reasons on 30 days of the 90 in February, March and April, but spent a portion of those days in the state as well. If you exclude the days that she also had events in the state, she was absent only 18 percent of the time.
There are a multitude of ways to interpret this data about Hassan, and Ayotte’s campaign is certainly taking the least charitable view possible. But it’s also a justifiable one, albeit needing clarification.
We rate Ayotte’s claim Mostly True.
"Hassan Claims Her Job is "Always" Her Top Priority, But She’s Increasingly Absent," Kelly Ayotte for New Hampshire, May 18, 2016
"Candidate Hassan picks up pace of out-of-state travel," New Hampshire Union Leader, May 3, 2016
"Hassan: The No Show Governor," Kelly Ayotte for New Hampshire, May 3, 2016
Maggie Hassan February out-of-state travel letter, Maggie Hassan for Senate, March 1, 2016
Maggie Hassan March out-of-state travel letter, Maggie Hassan for Senate, April 1, 2016
Maggie Hassan April out-of-state travel letter, Maggie Hassan for Senate, May 2, 2016
"Hassan criticized for out-of-state travel during Senate race," WMUR-TV, May 16, 2016
Maggie Hassan public schedule for February-April, Maggie Hassan for Senate, May 16, 2016
Calendar for April 2016, timeanddate.com
E-mail correspondence with Aaron Jacobs, communications director for Maggie Hassan, May 9-25, 2016
E-mail correspondence with Liz Johnson, Kelly Ayotte campaign spokeswoman, May 9-May 17.
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