Shea-Porter Gives Advice To Incoming Lawmakers As She Leaves Office

Jan 3, 2019

Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter announced in 2017 that she wouldn't seek reelection for her 1st Congressional District seat, and now her term has ended.

Democrat Chris Pappas will take her place after defeating Republican Eddie Edwards in November's midterm election.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Shea-Porter on Wednesday by phone about her time in office and what's comes next.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

With such a partisan divide in place right now, Republicans in the Senate and with Democrats up against President Trump’s agenda, do you see any room for anything to actually get done there?

Well, first of all, everybody's always absolutely pleased that they made it to Congress. They've worked hard to get to Congress. But they need to understand you can be a soloist and maybe be heard over everybody for a bit, or you can sing in the choir, which has a lot more strength. And so I would recommend that everybody bring it down a notch wherever they happen to belong on the political spectrum. Bring it down a notch so that you can work together. You know, try to restore civility and to at least hear each other. It doesn't mean that you're going to vote the same, but it does mean that they might support an amendment that you have. You might understand and be able to support an amendment they have. And at least it feels better that you understand that there's a lot of the people there who really are trying to move this forward.

So how's the mood in Washington now compared to when you first took office [in 2007]?

I would say grim, and I would say there's a great deal of uncertainty. When I took office, there was a difference. I mean George W. Bush actually did pass a lot of our legislation, as you know. When you look back, you can see that a lot got done and we're not seeing that right now. For example, we raised the minimum wage in 2007 and that became the law of the land. So there were a lot of things that mattered to Americans that the president, despite being a different political party, was either willing to sign or at least have a conversation about. And I think it's different right now. But I am optimistic. I am very optimistic because the American people showed up in droves, and had their say and they are engaged. And as long as Americans stay actively engaged, I think that we're going to be fine.

There is a perception, and I think maybe you could tell me if this is reality or not in Washington, that the wheels have somehow come off in legislation and nothing is getting done as parties move away from the center and into the edges. Is that really the case?

You know, I think the wheels were coming off. But I think it has more to do with the fact that Speaker [Paul] Ryan, who is now leaving and will be gone shortly, we didn't see any efforts to try to come together. Now we have a change again and I do believe that we are going to see progress. As for people being too far to the left or too far to the right, I would say that yeah there are some that are really far to the right there are some that are really far to the left. But for the most part if you look for example at the Democratic caucus, they've held together very well and there's people from all different parts of the spectrum there. And I do believe that there's a lot of Republicans who were afraid to speak out, but we'll be hearing from them in the next year or so and that they will work more closely with Democrats. There's going to be challenge, no question about it. But I do think that we're going to see more getting done.

Well, given that you feel there's so much more to be done, you haven't ruled out another political run in the future. Do you see an opening somewhere down the line?

You know, right now I'll tell you what I'm doing in the next couple of weeks. I am baby-sitting and I'm thrilled to be with my little grandbaby, and I'm going to do some fun things and relax a bit. And I want to keep working on issues that I care about. I'm going to be on some non-profit boards and do things like that, you know that I think matter. And I've been an advocate all my life. So I'm looking forward to doing more advocacy. Everything else I'll just fall into place as it should. Who knows what the future holds and I'm really just not concerned. I just want to take care of my little corner of the world, and be part of my family and be part of our political network, and certainly be part of trying to make change in my communities, my state and my country -- like everybody else.

Any advice for your successor Chris Pappas?

Well, you know I laugh and say that best I told him was where the best cafeteria was.

There are important things you must know.

Yes. But the advice that I would give anybody is every day get up with a sense of awe that you get to do this and to remember that no matter what is happening in the moments, that you're part of history and that there's great challenges and this country depending on you and everybody else who to work together to get it done. There's a lot of trouble there. I'm not trying to say that there isn't. There's a lot of division and a lot of trouble, but there's also a path forward. And so you know, find that path. I believe that Chris already knows that and I believe he'll do a good job. I think he's going to be just fine there.