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Shurtleff, N.H. House Dems jump into Ala.’s U.S. Senate election battle

  • Steve Shurtleff went to Alabama to campaign for Democrat Doug Jones for U.S. Senate, who is running against Republican Roy Moore. He was joined by fellow Democratic state Reps. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua (the House deputy minority leader), Tamara Le of North Hampton, Catherine Sandler of Dover, CarolettaAlicea of Boscowen, Beth Rodd of Henniker, and Eileen Kelley, the senior legislative assistant for the House Democrats. Courtesy



For the Monitor
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The top Democrat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and six colleagues were in Alabama on Tuesday helping to campaign for the Democratic nominee in that state’s blockbuster U.S. Senate special election between Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.

House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff told the Monitor that he decided to travel to Alabama right after Moore, a former chief justice in that state’s Supreme Court, won September’s GOP primary runoff.

Moore, a strong advocate for far-right positions, has long been a controversial figure who was twice removed from his position on Alabama’s high court (the second time for continuing to enforce his state’s same-sex marriage ban even after it was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court). More recently, Moore faced an explosion of allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women who said he harassed and abused them when they were in their teens and Moore was in his 30s.

Shurtleff said he’d made his decision before those accusations surfaced.

“I sent an email to our caucus and I said, ‘I’m planning on going to Alabama to volunteer for Doug Jones, and the reason I want do that is because of the record of Judge Moore and the comments he’s made in the past,’ ” Shurtleff recalled.

“To me, the choice is so clear between the two candidates: One who wants to move Alabama forward and one who wants to take it back to the ’60s,” Shurtleff said.

The contest has received massive amounts of national attention, and the controversy over Moore has divided many Republicans.

Alabama is a state that leans heavily towards the GOP. Donald Trump won the state by nearly 30 percentage points in last year’s presidential election. But public opinion polls in the closing weeks of the campaign indicated a tight contest between Moore and Jones.

Shurtleff arrived in Alabama on Sunday. He was joined by fellow Democratic state Reps. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua (the House deputy minority leader), Tamara Le of North Hampton, Catherine Sandler of Dover, Caroletta Alicea of Boscawen, Beth Rodd of Henniker, and Eileen Kelley, the senior legislative assistant for the House Democrats.

Shurtleff said this was his first time campaigning outside New Hampshire.

The group is staying in Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

“I thought it would be appropriate to come here, with the history the city has had in the civil rights movement. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, Dr. King’s letter from Birmingham jail,” Shurtleff explained.

The group spent Monday canvassing for Jones in Bessemer, a small city a few miles southwest of Birmingham, knocking on doors in the predominantly black community. Energizing Alabama’s African-American vote was considered crucial for Jones to defeat Moore.

“The reception we received was wonderful,” he said.

Shurtleff recounted a conversation with an elderly woman who said she was the first black person to graduate from Bessemer High School after it was desegregated. He said he could see the pride in her eyes as she said, “You bet I’m going to vote tomorrow.”

“Hearing stories like that, it just warms your heart,” Shurtleff said.

While they’ve received a warm reception, he said, they’ve had some fish-out-of-water moments.

“I stopped into a store yesterday and the lady said ‘Gee you talk funny. Where are you from?’ ” Shurtleff recalled. “I said ‘New Hampshire.’ And she said, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I had a Doug Jones button on and I said, ‘Well this is the reason.’ ”

Shurtleff said the group paid a visit early Tuesday to the 16th Street Baptist Church. Then they were headed to the Jones campaign headquarters.

“We’ll do whatever they need,” he said, “be it holding a sign or calling or whatever they need us to do.”

He said he wasn’t missing much action back at the State House because it’s a quiet time of year.

But Shurtleff, also a Concord city councilor, said he missed Monday’s council meeting when the city’s new parking plan was put up for a vote.

“In 10 years, I’ve only missed two others, but to me this was a higher priority,” he said.