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Presidents Day Weekend Draws 2020 Candidates and Hopefuls To New Hampshire

Allegra Boverman for NHPR
Kamala Harris greets a large crowd at a rally in Portsmouth

A handful of potential and declared 2020 presidential candidates are spending Presidents Day Weekend criss-crossing New Hampshire.

NHPR's reporters are on the trail, and filed these reports.

Note: Bookmark this page for more news from candidate events through the weekend  

Harris Draws Big Crowd In Portsmouth

- by Annie Ropeik

Hundreds of people braved a snowy night in Portsmouth to hear 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris hold her first town hall in the state. Some said the first-term California senator already feels like a front-runner.

Harris' audience packed the pews of Portsmouth's South Church and spilled out on its steps, where a cheering crowd could watch the candidate speak inside on a big screen.

In her answers to audience questions, the former California attorney general backed a slew of progressive policy goals like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, universal background checks for firearms sales and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

She also said she’d support turning Columbus Day into Indigenous People’s Day at the federal level. And she got standing ovations as she repeated a theme:

"The way we achieve unity is by understanding that yes, we are diverse, and we have so much more in common than what separates us,” Harris said.

Recent polls of likely New Hampshire voters put Harris at or near the top of the declared Democratic field for president.

For residents like Robin Lurie-Meyerkopf of Portsmouth, the turnout and excitement at Harris’ town hall felt as though the candidate had already won the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

"I've been in New Hampshire since 1980 – I've met a lot of presidential candidates,” Lurie-Meyerkopf said. “I've met them this early in the campaign, and this is crazy here."

On Tuesday, Harris makes another traditional early campaign stop at a Politics and Eggs breakfast in Manchester.

[Bernie Sanders Is Running for President Again]

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR
Cory Booker spoke to voters at the Electric Avenue arcade in Manchester over Presidents Day weekend

Booker Covers Wide Range of Issues on First N.H. Visit Since Declaring Candidacy

- by Sarah Gibson

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker spent the weekend crisscrossing New Hampshire in his first visit since announcing a presidential run.

He visited voters in Portsmouth, Manchester, Rochester, and North Conway before addressing over 200 people at a Nashua house party on Monday morning. Booker said he would focus less on partisan politics, and more on finding solutions.

“People are starting to lose their faith in us – in our ability to solve our own problems,” he said.

“There are people feeling left out, there are people feeling left behind, there are people feeling isolated, when the truth is, their pain is a common pain.”

Booker touted his years as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey addressing environmental problems, improving school test scores, and fighting mass incarceration. He pointed to the First Step Act, a landmark bill which he co-sponsored and President Trump recently signed, as a bipartisan example of how to help those with addiction who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

But he said there was still work to be done to address the mental health and substance abuse crises that often land people into jail.

“Here in America, go to our prisons and jails, and you see the shame of our country,” he said. “We overwhelmingly incarcerate the mentally ill; we overwhelmingly incarcerate the addicted; we overwhelmingly incarcerate the poor; we overwhelmingly incarcerate survivors of sexual trauma.”

In answer to questions from local high schoolers, Booker said he was for closing loopholes and requiring universal background checks. “And then after that I’d like to do more things, like banning assault rifles and weapons that don’t belong on the streets of America,” he said.

A resident of a Nashua neighborhood abutting the Mohawk Tannery, a proposed EPA Superfund site, asked whether Booker would boost the EPA’s oversight and budget.

“If I am President of the United States, as a guy who comes from a low-income area surrounded by toxic soil and polluted air, I will fight every single day to make sure we address them,” he said.

After a Q&A, voters milled around for selfies with Booker.

Ryan Guptill, an attorney in Nashua, said it was too early to decide who he’ll support, but he suspects most candidates will have similar policy platforms.

“I think it’s about how you campaign, and then how would you govern,” he said. “And for me, Booker’s message of hope and unity is inspiring.”

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
2020 presidential candidate and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand campaigns at Teatotaller Tea House in Somersworth.

In Seacoast Campaign Stop, Gillibrand Backs Green New Deal, Non-Binary Gender Marker

by Annie Ropeik 

During her swing through New Hampshire Friday, 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand made a stop at an LGBTQ-owned coffee shop on the Seacoast.

Standing on the stage at Teatotaller in Somersworth, which would host a teen drag show later that night, the New York senator got emotional as she said President Donald Trump's policies have demonized queer and trans people, like a boy she knows.

"That young man is the exact person who should not be demonized by the president of the United States," she said, to applause. "That young man is exactly the person who the president of the United States should protect."

She told a trans rights organizer with the state ACLU that she'd support a third gender marker for non-binary people at the federal level.

On the opioid crisis, Gillibrand says the public health system should address addiction, "and I would use the criminal justice system particularly to hold drug companies accountable."

And she addressed Middle East policy, saying she believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and does not support the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts of Israel to support Palestinian equality.

She says she thinks President Trump's military policies have destabilized the region:

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
Seacoast and Southern Maine residents talk with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at Teatotaller.

"I don't think sending troops to Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria will undermine terrorism," she says, adding that defense officials overseas have repeatedly told her that "you cannot defeat terrorism militarily."

Gillibrand also prioritized action on climate change, saying she supports the Green New Deal “because I think global climate change is the most urgent crisis of our lifetime.”

She added that she likes the proposed resolution’s inclusion of clean air and water policies, which she says would help address the PFAS chemical contamination that’s affected New Hampshire and her home state of New York.

Gillibrand also accepted a reusable water bottle from a Seacoast nonprofit. She promised to use that bottle instead of single-use plastics on the campaign trail.

The nonprofit, Sustainable Seacoast, presented a similar bottle to Gillibrand's fellow senator and 2020 candidate Cory Booker at another event this weekend. He reportedly promised to start carrying his own reusable bottle.

Credit Robert Garrova
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a packed house in Raymond, N.H. The 37-year-old veteran has launced an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States.

Possible 2020 Candidate Pete Buttigieg Calls Trump’s National Emergency Over a Border Wall “Absurd"

by Robert Garrova

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, mulling a presidential run, spent his weekend in the Granite State. The 37-year-old Democrat made his pitch to a packed room in Raymond on Saturday.  


Buttigieg said his record as mayor of a distressed midwest city makes him qualified for the Oval Office despite his youth, touting an economic turnaround for the community.

“I didn’t say ‘we’re going to make South Bend great again,’” he said to laughs from the crowd. “We talked about how the future wasn’t going to look like the past."

Buttigieg has pointed out that his youth also makes him positioned to connect with millennials in a crowded Democratic field.

“I think he does understand what the problem is,” said Michael DiTommaso, Treasurer of the Raymond Democratic Committee. “The fact that it is very hard for young people -- getting saddled with college debt -- being unable to, essentially get out and participate in the economy in a meaningful way.”  

The Harvard educated veteran believes a shift in national policy is needed to benefit those hurt by changes in trade and automation.

"We need to recon with the fact that people aren't just losing their income, they're losing their identity,” Buttigieg said. “And I believe that helps to explain everything from strange election results to the opioid crisis."

As with several potential Democratic candidates, Buttigieg is a fan of a medicare for all type health care system. He also said he wants more attention on issues like cyber security.

As for President Trump's declaration of a national emergency to fund a border wall, Buttigieg called it “absurd.”

"The real emergency facing our country right now is from things like climate change that has led to individual emergencies that mayors like me have to pick up the pieces from,” he said. “And if we don’t take that seriously, there’s nothing that a wall’s going to be able to do to save us.”

Raymond Democrats said it was a record crowd for them, with Buttigieg coming off of a week of national attention, including Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.”

Several in the crowd made the trip from Massachusetts. That included Aaron Levin, who said Buttigieg ignites something missing for Democrats.

"I've got Senator Warren -- Elizabeth Warren -- who's running,” Levin said. “But I'm with Pete."

If elected, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay president.

Credit Sean Hurley for NHPR
Tulsi Gabbard greets voters at the True Brew Barista in Concord

Tulsi Gabbard Meets Voters in Concord

- by Sean Hurley

“Service above self,” was the repeated theme of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s speech in Concord Saturday night.

After the crowd of 50 or so at True Brew Barista greeted Gabbard with a resounding "Aloha!", the 37 year old Presidential hopeful from Hawaii pledged to walk the United States back from the “abyss of nuclear war," made a commitment to universal health care and promised to work with the global community to address the climate change crisis.

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