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Candidates for Head of N.H. Democrats Make Their Case to Progressives

Emmett Soldati for NH/AP
Emmett Soldati (L) and Ray Buckley

The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s longtime chairman, Ray Buckley, is facing a challenge from a young activist who says the party needs to do a better job supporting down-ballot candidates and connecting with local communities if it wants to turn New Hampshire blue.

Emmett Soldati, who runs the Teatotaller Café in Somersworth and heads that city's Democratic Party, is running to unseat Buckley in the party’s election next month.

Buckley has had a strong voice in local and national Democratic Party politics for decades but has been criticized recently for how many seats the party lost to Republicans in the legislature and executive council this past November.

At an online forum organized this weekend by the progressive group Rights and Democracy, Buckley defended his leadership and said he was well-poised to begin an 8th term.

"The amount of money we raise, the amount of staff we have, the support we give to our candidates, our local and county committees, is unprecedented,” he said.

Buckley acknowledged the landslide win in November of Gov. Sununu and local Republicans, but he said the party was taking a hard look at what went wrong in 2020. He also pointed out the Democrats’ ability to fend off challenges to the state’s top Democrats for years.

“We have won four of the five last Senate races,” he said. “If we hadn’t run those races [in November 2020], Mitch McConnell, no what had happened in Georgia, would still be the majority leader in trying to destroy everything you’re seeing the Biden-Harris administration accomplish.”

Soldati, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2020 primary for Executive Council, said Democrats needed to focus more on building grassroots progressive activism and “unify all the voices and leaders in the state.”

“Whether you’re concerned about the statehouse majority, or Senator Hassan’s election campaign, it’s all going to happen with everyone that is activated and inspired at the local level,” he said.

The N.H. Democratic State Committee members are voting remotely for chairman until March 13 and will announce the results on March 14.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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