A Tale of Two Candidates: Gilmore Files for Primary Ballot in Clinton's Shadow

Nov 9, 2015

For months now presidential candidates have been campaigning in New Hampshire. But to officially enter the race, candidates large and small, Republican and Democrat alike, must pass through the Secretary of State's office. It's a time honored tradition of the New Hampshire primary, but it can lead to some unexpected presidential run-ins. Like yesterday with Jim Gilmore and Hillary Clinton.

Gilmore is one of those Republican candidates you've probably never heard of. His support in the polls has been virtually nonexistent and that's kept him off of the TV debate stages and largely out of the political news cycle. Still, he's going forward with his campaign in New Hampshire, and yesterday, the former governor of Virginia made it official.

He was the first to file his paperwork in the morning, but if you happened by the statehouse, you wouldn't have known it. Clinton supporters had already transformed the capital lawn into a fortress of blue.

Inside, Gilmore, who has struggled to get attention even from his own party was largely neglected. Sitting down in an office to prepare some of the paperwork before his official filing there was no press gaggle and no throng of supporters. All of which allowed him to focus on dotting his "i"s and crossing his "t"s.

"...I may as well just write this rest of this stuff in, too. Unless they want to fill it out -- you don't think they do, do they?..."

Before heading to the Secretary of State's office, Gilmore made a few preliminary stops around the State House. At one point he stumbled upon what looked to be a study-group, who were apparently uninterested in the political theater of that day. But Gilmore didn't let that that phase him and he walked over to introduced himself. After a moment, one of the group asked if Gilmore had any advice for them.

Gilmore stopped to take questions from 10-year-old Gregory Watson before officially filing his candidacy.
Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

"The more initiative you have the more money you'll make," Gilmore told them "And ignore the opposition party, they don't want you to make any."

'Ignore the opposition' was advice that could've easily been given to Gilmore himself. On his way through the statehouse he passed Clinton supporters in the hallways and the sounds of honking horns and a gathering crowd could be heard from outside. If the Clinton fanfare bothered him though, Gilmore didn't let on.

"We couldn't be more different, so I think it's a great opportunity," he said. "She's got a lot more money and hoop-la, so be it...I been at this a long time, I've seen plenty of signs in my time."

As Gilmore handed over his candidacy papers, he enjoyed the most media attention he's seen in a while. And he was keen to make use of it. Over the course of half an hour with reporters, Gilmore criticized a process that he said was stifling candidates like himself. In particular, he took issue with the exclusion of candidates with low poll numbers from the debates.

"I'm perfectly qualified to be on the stage. I'm better qualified than most of the other candidates. I'm not getting on the stage because of an arbitrary power that's been vested in the establishment media to decide who gets on and who doesn't get on. And I think that's wrong, it's not in the public interest."

And with that, Gilmore was off to give a foreign policy speech in Manchester.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton was still in the air, not yet even in New Hampshire. But the frenzy that had been growing outside started to make its way indoors. The hallways flooded with the blue shirts of Clinton supporters, and inside, reporters and photographers were jostling for every last square inch. When Clinton finally did arrive, she was caught in an avalanche of reporters' questions.

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR

Over about twenty minutes, Clinton largely stuck to her core themes and avoided commenting on other candidates. She added that the frenzy that follows her hasn't kept her from running the campaign that she wants to.

"I feel very fortunate that in this campaign I've had so much time to listen to people. And when I go out to the rally that we're doing here, I'm going to talk about some of the people I've met here in New Hampshire and why their stories have touched me so much."

This ceremonial voter's notice holds the signatures of many presidential candidates, already.

Speaking to that rally moments later, Clinton sounded more like a general election candidate, running against the Republican party. An impression she would no doubt like to leave voters with.

And with that, a very different day at the statehouse ended for Hillary Clinton. And for all the obvious contrasts that the day held, Jim Gilmore and Hillary Clinton's signatures sit just inches apart on a ceremonial voter notice, back in the secretary of state's office.