For the last several weekends I’ve been schlepping up to New Hampshire and Maine for canvassing. My gratitude to Swingleft.org for putting these trips together: They’ve got a nice interface and ride-sharing board, and I’ve had a nice time bumming rides with a number of local folks and getting to know them. (More events here.) Crossing the border to canvass is, of course, a Massachusetts tradition, which extends the reach and influence of our relatively-progressive culture, afforded by locked-down Democratic power in our own districts. In any event, many of us have friends and family in ME and NH; and their elections obviously affect us here in Massachusetts.
Two weekends ago I headed up to New Hampshire’s first congressional district campaign office in Manchester. The district, which includes the area from Manchester to the Seacoast and north to Laconia, had a late and crowded primary on September 11, with eleven candidates running on the Dem side. It is a highly competitive district: Retiring incumbent Carol Shea-Porter won re-election by only one point in 2016; and had traded places with a Republican a couple of times since being first elected in 2006.
I’m happy to say that the primary voters made a very solid choice in Chris Pappas. He comes from a Manchester family well-known for running the Puritan Backroom restaurant, which fairly and generously employs about 200 people. They’re known for treating their employees right. Pappas makes an excellent case for himself: He’s decently progressive; not afraid to criticize Trump; he’s got real government experience with New Hampshire’s Executive Council, which has power over a governor’s nominations and — a very frugal New Hampshire touch — contracts over $10,000; he’s young, charming, and well-spoken; and would be New Hampshire’s first openly gay congressperson.
In canvassing Manchester, one got the impression that Pappas is everyone’s favorite nephew. People know his name from the restaurant; or from church; or they know someone-who-knows-someone, etc. He’s a fine candidate with deep roots in the community, and it’s very easy to advocate for someone like that.
NH-1 food recommendation: DH’s Dog House.
The last two weekends I’ve begged rides to Lewiston, Maine, the campaign HQ for Maine’s second district. This district has been competitive historically: It’s been represented by Margaret Chase Smith, William Cohen (later Defense Secretary), John Baldacci (later Governor), Mike Michaud, and lamentably, incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin. This working-class district, which used to be known for paper, textiles, and shoes, went sharply for Trump after being reliably if closely Democratic for decades. We can blame people for being suckers, but in a place that is struggling, we should not be surprised that people who have already lost a lot sometimes make extremely risky bets to get it back. (cf. Thinking Fast and Slow.)
They’ve nominated another good candidate in Jared Golden. Golden is 36, an Iraq- and Afghanistan Marine veteran; a Lewiston native who set up Cabin in the Woods, a program for returning vets with PTSD. He was a legislative aide for Susan Collins. He is decidedly less comfortable directly attacking Trump; instead he’s decided to run on health care. In this district that’s not a bad play; in my canvassing I’ve heard plenty of concern — and evidence of misinformation — about health care. The incumbent Bruce Poliquin did indeed vote to end protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and is now outright lying about it. For a district with no major media markets, there’s a lot of money being spent on media. The attack ads accuse Golden of wanting to “end Medicare as we know it”, when he actually wants to extend access to those 55 and older; accusing him of wanting to raise taxes by $2 trillion; and voting to allow food stamp recipients to buy lottery tickets, alcohol and tattoos on EBT cards — which is, naturally and redundantly, prohibited by federal law.
I wish I could tell you that people are immune to the propaganda dump; they are not. They don’t completely and credulously imbibe the worst of the attacks; but they do become cynical about everyone. Golden is eminently likable, a dutiful son of the district; but I wonder if his agenda is bold enough to cut through the rat-a-tat-tat of a dirty, post-Citizens-United campaign and inspire enthusiasm.
In any event, last Saturday was a glowing, iridescent fall day. One almost felt that one had found … redemption.
Yesterday, on the other hand, featured Nor’easter weather on the snow/rain — a delightful wintry mix before Halloween. And yet Maine is full of a serene, unselfconscious beauty, and its residents are friendly, if a bit guarded (as is their right!). I’ll be back up, on a bus from South Station on Sunday 11/4.
Lewiston food recommendation: Forage Market coffee shop. Good bagel sandwiches and coffee.
Where have you been getting out to this election season?