Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan will enter November with the backing of one of New Hampshire’s most powerful labor unions.
The National Education Association’s New Hampshire chapter announced on Monday that it would back Gov. Hassan’s challenge against Republican freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The 17,000-member union is the largest public sector union in the state and among the most influential.
"Throughout her time in office, Maggie Hassan has consistently stood up for students, educators, and their families," union president Scott McGilvray said in a release. "Governor Hassan understands that our state and nation are better off when students have access to a quality education, and we are proud to recommend her to be our next United States senator."
Hassan praised the union in turn for its dedication to students.
"Every student, no matter their zip code, deserves to have access to a quality education, and in the United States Senate, I will continue fighting to support all of our students and educators," she said in the release.
The Ayotte campaign sent out a release highlighting the senator’s education record on Monday. She has backed bills that would allow federal funds to be used to help subsidize vouchers, which are used to defray costs of private schools for low-income students.
Ayotte’s campaign fired back at Hassan for putting the interests of Big Labor over those of students. She highlighted the Democrat’s opposition to school vouchers to allow students in failing schools to attend private schools—even if it ended up saving taxpayer dollars. The campaign pointed to Hassan’s veto of a local government’s attempt to provide vouchers to students as evidence of the governor’s misplaced priorities.
"Instead of putting the priorities of parents and students first when it comes to education like Kelly, Hassan supports top-down mandates that don't reflect the best interests of students—further evidence of her ‘government knows best' approach that is typical of what's wrong with Washington," the campaign said in a release.
Hassan’s veto led to public outcry, including a scathing editorial from the New Hampshire Union Leader.
"Hassan will have succeeded in expelling five middle school students from the school that their parents and the local school board have decided is the best choice for them," the editorial said.
NEA is one of the largest campaign spenders for the Democratic Party. It has contributed more than $1.5 million to congressional Democrats in 2016 compared to just $180,000 to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It has yet to report any contributions to the Hassan campaign, though it has given $500 to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. It gave Shaheen $10,000 in her 2014 race against former Sen. Scott Brown, making her one of the cycle’s largest recipients of campaign cash.