Concord, NH (CNSNews.com) - Governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) canceled Monday's noon hour endorsement of Vice President Al Gore citing a crisis in public school funding.
"My first concern is, and must be meeting the needs of the people of New Hampshire, " Shaheen said through a statement issued late Sunday.
Shaheen insisted she still plans to endorse Gore and said she regrets having to cancel the Monday event. "Al Gore has my strongest support and I look forward to holding an official endorsement event with him in the future and campaigning hard for him during the next few months."
The scheduled endorsement, coming at this time, surprised many in the party, even though Shaheen's husband, Bill, is chairman of Gore's New Hampshire effort.
Several Democratic activists told CNSnews.com yesterday, the Gore campaign urged Shaheen to move up the date of her endorsement, to help the campaign gain ground on former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.
"He needed today's endorsement and he didn't get it. I'm guessing the delay will slow what limited momentum he has here," said another Democrat.
Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for the Gore campaign, insisted the vice president understood Shaheen's dilemma and called her decision "totally understandable."
The latest public opinion polls show Bradley slightly ahead of Gore, in this first-in-the-nation primary state.
"It seems nothing can go well for the vice president," said one party activist, who spoke to CNSNews.com on a condition of anonymity.
Other political operatives wondered whether Shaheen's support of a broad-based property tax and her inability to find a permanent solution to the school funding issue, would cost Gore votes in the February primary.
On Friday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down a key part of an educational funding plan, which resulted in the entire plan being deemed unconstitutional. The court struck down a state-wide property tax, which the governor supported as a solution to a lawsuit, brought against the state, by five so-called property poor communities.
In signing the law, Shaheen became the first New Hampshire governor to agree to a broad-based tax.
Prior to signing the law, public education in the state was funded primarily through the local property tax, with the state providing an estimated 10 percent of the total.
New Hampshire currently has no state income or sales tax.
"In some parts of the state, Jeanne Shaheen is not exactly the most popular politician. The property tax has hit cities and towns in the seacoast and Lakes region very hard. I wouldn't want to be Al Gore campaigning with her in those parts of the state," said a Democrat operative who requested anonymity.
Since moving his national campaign offices from Washington, DC to Memphis, TN, Gore has also picked up the pace in New Hampshire. After last week's endorsement from the AFL-CIO, at its national meeting, Gore staffers are said to have increased pressure on unions in the Granite State to endorse sooner rather than later and also announced a host of endorsements in critical counties.
In Strafford County, the campaign produced endorsements from nearly 70 party loyalists on Friday, as well as an endorsement from the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire, which has now joined the 232,000 member International Association of Firefighters in endorsing the vice president.