They’re all in for 2020: Locals who’ve thrown their support behind presidential candidates

  • Eric and Mike Jackman with presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard at Post & Beam Brewing. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Courtesy photo

  • Gail Hernandez of Wilton in a video supporting presidential candidate Joe Biden. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Courtesy photo—

  • Bill and Libby Reinhardt of Peterborough with presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Courtesy photo—

  • Beth Crooker and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at a Town Hall event in Nashua in April. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Courtesy photo

  • Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg checking out Jim VanValkenburgh’s Studebaker in August. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg checking out Jim VanValkenburgh’s Studebaker in August. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Eric Jackman stands by presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard as she files for the primary in the statehouse in November. Locals are working to support their chosen presidential candidates in advance of the 2020 primary. Courtesy photo—

  • James Callahan and Michael Atkins with presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar in Depot Square in April. Locals are expressing their support for 2020 presidential candidates in advance of the primary. Courtesy photo—

  • Temple resident and Warren campaigner Beth Crooker and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at a town hall event in Manchester. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/14/2019 3:40:41 PM

“The rest of the nation is looking to New Hampshire to say, “Please tell us who our candidate is,”” said Peterborough Attorney Michael Atkins, “We have such a unique opportunity in New Hampshire with the primary to get involved and make a difference.”

Atkins said that he feels that he has not just an opportunity, but a responsibility to do that. He is one of several area residents who have taken action on a 2020 presidential candidate’s campaign in advance of the primaries on Feb. 11.

Eric Jackman for Tulsi Gabbard

Eric Jackman, co-host of Politics and Pints and Jackman Radio with his twin brother Michael, met Tulsi Gabbard the first time almost a year ago in Exeter. “[It was] before she announced [her candidacy], but I know she was thinking about it because she was up there in the cold of winter meeting people,” he said.

After hearing her speak and answer questions, Jackman said he pledged to do everything in his power to get her elected.

Gabbard “really came on our radar in 2016,” Jackman said, when she resigned as the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee to support 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“That was awesome, and gave me hope that we still have people in power that’ll do the right thing,” Jackman said.

He described Gabbard as “a breath of fresh air,” citing her millennial perspective as a 38 year-old candidate, as well as her impressive firsts: the first Hindu elected to congress, the first female combat veteran to ever run for president.

Jackman described himself as “her New Hampshire cultural attache” and reaches out to everyone he knows in the region to connect with as many voters as possible.

“I know a lot of people, it’s not a huge area,” he said.

He said he’s introduced Gabbard at several events, promoted her in interviews and marched in a parade to promote her since February.

He said he’s not worried about his open support of a candidate affecting his interviews of other political figures.

“We talk to people all across the political spectrum,” he said, and said that being transparent and honest with people goes a long way. He described the Politics and Pints series as an effort to bring humanity back to politics.

Gabbard attended the Jackman Brothers’ 33rd birthday party at Post and Beam Brewing in Peterborough in October.

“Her husband played the uke and she sang a Hawaiian lullaby,” he said.

Jackman was also present when Gabbard filed for the primary at the statehouse, an “incredible, surreal experience...That was a lot of fun.”

Gabbard told the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in Jaffrey this month that volunteers like the Jackman brothers are “extremely important” to her campaign.

“We don’t have a lot of money,” Gabbard said. “As you may see other campaigns opening tons of offices with hundreds of staffers, our campaign is really fueled by volunteers like the Jackman brothers and so many others who are so passionate about this movement that we are building and giving up their time and energy and resources and recognize that it is us. It’s ‘we the people’ that are going to make this change happen. So I’m really proud of the people-powered campaign that we have. It’s a beautiful and inspiring thing and I am so grateful.”

Going forward, Jackman plans to help organize more campaign house parties, “as many events as possible” until the primary in February.

“It’s been amazing ride,” he said.

Beth Crooker for Elizabeth Warren

“When I say that volunteering for this campaign has been life changing, it’s not an exaggeration,” Beth Crooker said of her participation in the Elizabeth Warren campaign.

The Temple resident had “absolutely not” participated in political campaigns before, but said that after the 2016 election, “I wasn’t going to be a passive participant in democracy anymore.”

Crooker canvasses on the phone and in person, and helps to organize events for the campaign.

“Getting over the stage fright was hard, and the public speaking was not my strong point,” she said, and that when she signed up to volunteer in early April, she said she’d do anything but knocking on doors.

“One of the things that makes the canvassing easier is that I work in publishing, I’m a book nerd,” Crooker said. “Elizabeth is the great book that you read and you can’t help recommending to other people.”

She said she found that “if it’s something you feel passionate and believe in, it’s easier to talk about.”

Crooker said she was “80 to 85 percent in” when she met Warren in late April at a town hall in Nashua, and joined a roundtable with other campaign volunteers.

“She put us in a circle and wanted us to tell our stories,” Crooker said. “I went in thinking I was going to be able to hide in the back and keep quiet,” but Warren called on her along with everyone else. “You can tell she was a former teacher. I was 100 percent after that.”

“I truly believe Elizabeth has the strength and conviction to stand up to Republicans, and Big Pharma, and businesses,” Crooker said. “Her student loan cancellation plan really pulled me in” she said, as someone with student loan debt of her own as well as two kids preparing for college.

Crooker said spoke at Warren’s Peterborough town hall, marched in parades, and attended the New Hampshire Democratic Convention in September, and is now the staging location director for the Warren field office on Vose Farm Road in Peterborough.

“I was also asked to talk about my support for her student loan debt cancellation and tuition free public college plans for an upcoming campaign video,” she said on Friday. “We did the filming earlier this week.”

Crooker said that now that she’s found her voice in the campaign, “I don’t think I’ll be quiet again.”

Jim VanValkenburgh for Pete Buttigieg

Peterborough resident Jim VanValkenburgh garnered national attention in August when he brought his antique Studebaker downtown while presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was in town.

“Honestly it was a car that kind of lost its way,” he said of the Studebaker brand. “It’s a cute one.”

He said he was inspired to bring the car out due to its connection with the campaign’s roots in Buttigieg’s home state of Indiana.

“I’m a midwestern guy,” VanValkenburgh said, “His whole campaign started out at the ancient Studebaker plant in South Bend that’s been empty since like 1967. In a lot of ways it was the epitome of the rust belt.”

The vehicle has now appeared at two Buttigieg events in Peterborough. Buttigieg “loved it,” and VanValkenburgh said he appreciated the opportunity to meet the candidate, describing him as “very classy, very reserved, a thoughtful, thoughtful guy.”

VanValkenburgh said he felt like he didn’t really count when he lived outside of Chicago.

“When you’re in New Hampshire, you feel like you could make a difference, meeting the candidates in person. … You can make a statement and try to get some influence in the national picture.”

VanValkenburgh said he has donated to multiple campaigns and has not officially picked a candidate, but he continues to be impressed with Buttigieg.

“It’s amazing how much he calms me down. I can say I’m definitely trending towards him,” he said, and that he expects that eventually he’ll go out to knock on doors for his chosen candidate. “I have a feeling he’s gonna be my guy for the primary,” he said.

Gail Hernandez for Joe Biden

In early November, Gail Hernandez of Wilton shared one of her reasons for supporting presidential candidate Joe Biden in a video for his campaign’s “14 days, 14 ways” video series, which features health care stories from New Hampshire residents.

In the video, Hernandez explains she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma two years ago. When she lost her job in June, she was able to get health insurance through COBRA coverage, which she said was improved by the Obama-Biden administration. She said she’d likely have had to dig into her retirement savings if she lost coverage due to her pre-existing conditions.

“Thank goodness there’s COBRA,” she said.

Hernandez said she knows Biden will defend the health care coverage she relies on, and said she looks forward to payments dropping more once he’s elected.

Hernandez said she made the video after sharing her story with an organizer for the Biden campaign.

“The way we influence others is through telling our personal stories,” she said. Hernandez asks her friends what they personally would do if their access to health care coverage was diminished.

“I’ve looked at all the candidates and … you know, he’s my guy,” she said, and that she trusts him because of his reputation as a Vice President and Senator. Hernandez has met Jill Biden and Michelle Kwan, but has not yet met Biden personally.

“I don’t have to literally shake his hand,” she said.

Hernandez said that because she’s unemployed and her husband had to come out of retirement, she’s looked for ways to serve the campaign besides donating. In addition to the video, she said she’s offering a Biden campaign organizer a place to stay. She described it as a “big decision, because we don’t let anybody in our house.”

“We’re going to see how it works,” she said, and if it seems like a good fit after two weeks, she said she would host the organizer until the primary.

“If I could do more, I would,” Hernandez said. “I want to fight for me, but I also want to fight for those people who are really struggling with these issues.”

Libby Reinhardt for Pete Buttigieg

Libby and Bill Reinhardt of Peterborough have been hosting the local organizer for the Pete Buttigieg campaign since Labor Day, and will continue through the primary. Reinhardt said that although she campaigned door to door for Obama in 2008 and 2012, this is the first time she’s hosted a supporter. She said she recognized it as a way to ensure campaign funds to toward outreach, rather than hotel bills.

“We’re also canvassing doo-to-door,” she said, and have invited people to their house to watch Buttigieg during debates.

Reinhardt said she got involved in the Buttigieg campaign in February when her neighbor Peter Kambol, who grew up in South Bend, invited her to see him in Alstead.

“We just thought he was terrific,” she said. Reinhardt described Buttigieg’s appeal as hope grounded in reality, and expressing the urgency of the country’s moment without anger. “And he’s young and enthusiastic. I could go on and on,” she said.

Between now and the primary, she said she plans to organize house parties to mix staunch Buttigieg supporters with undecided voters, and “talk to as many people as we can.”

Michael Atkins for Amy Klobuchar

Michael Atkins and his law partner James Callahan are “fully on board with Amy Klobuchar.”

“She’s been there from the beginning, she’s gonna be there in the end,” Atkins said.

He is part of her New Hampshire leadership committee, and hosted Klobuchar in Peterborough in April. He said that having the chance to interact with her personally strengthened to his commitment to her victory.

“She is absolutely tireless,” he said, and that Klobuchar rented a car and drove through the night to make it to a Tuesday commitment in New Hampshire after last week’s storm grounded her flight.

Atkins said he previously served on the steering committee for John Kerry in 2004 and Hilary Clinton in 2008, and was a New Hampshire delegate to the Democratic National Convention both times.

Michael Strand for Bernie Sanders

Michael Strand of Peterborough only had about two minutes to speak with his chosen political candidate Bernie Sanders, but it left a powerful impression.

“He’s very loud publicly… but privately, he’s very soft spoken,” he said.

Strand said the experience convinced him that Sanders is the gentle soul that his policy agenda would suggest.

Strand said he endorsed Sanders at his Peterborough town hall in September, and has donated, canvassed,and worked with the paid campaign staff to help where he can. Strand said he didn’t settle on backing Sanders until Labor Day, but describes the candidate as “beyond reproach” when it comes to staying true to democracy rather than catering to private interests.

“Bernie is the person who not only deserves to be the figurehead of the movement to reform the lack of democracy, he is also the person who has the symbolic and moral standing in character to lead the movement.”

Strand is also Chair for the Peterborough Democrats, which assists any and all Democratic campaigns. He said he’s careful to keep his personal campaign interests separate from his work with the Peterborough Democrats, and said he tries not to alienate anybody in the group, regardless of which candidate they stand by.

“If somebody’s made their mind up, I don’t know if there’s a ton of value in trying to flip them,” he said.

He said he gives every candidate the same spiel to introduce them to campaigning opportunities in the Peterborough area, highlighting the area as an appealing cultural hub that’s great for engaging voters.

Strand sees the competition pool in the coming election as giving America the “rare opportunity to actually choose the candidate we think is best…. Barring crazy stuff. I guess you never know,” he said. He believes in the power of primaries to engage people on issues, and sees them as productive, rather than divisive, within the Democratic Party.

“If you can’t beat a Democrat, you can’t beat a bully of a Republican,” he said.

Through the Peterborough Democrats, he’s met many presidential candidates – Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Gabbard, Beto O’Rourke, and Warren. He said Warren spoke to his six year-old daughter one-on-one when they met in a selfie line.

“[Warren] does something that’s really genuine,” with the young girls she meets, he said, describing how Warren told his daughter that she was running for president “because girls are supposed to run for president.”

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