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Voters get up-close access speed dating with 1st District candidates

  • The rules are laid out for the “speed-dating” candidates forum in Meredith on Wednesday night. Democratic candidates to vying replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Democratic candidates participate in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Terence O’Rourke participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Chris Pappas participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Maura Sullivan participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • State Rep. Mark Mackenzie participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Deaglan McEachern participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Lincoln Soldati participates in a “speed-dating” forum hosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night, Jan. 10, 2018. Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District rotated between tables of voters and fielded questions for 10-minutes periods. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor



For the Monitor
Thursday, January 11, 2018

This wasn’t your father’s kind of political forum.

No podiums or long-winded speeches.

Instead, the seven Democrats running for the open seat in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District jumped from table to table, sitting down and taking questions from voters in a “speed dating”-style forumhosted by the Belknap County Democrats in Meredith on Wednesday night.

“There’s something about actually sitting down at the same table with your candidate. It’s much more intimate. You can really get to know and get a feel for the candidate,” forum organizer Mo Baxley told the Monitor.

“Candidates like it. People like it. No more podiums,” added Baxley, a New Hampshire Democratic Party vice chair and chair of the Belknap County Democrats.

Baxley explained that she’s held a speed dating-style forum at a lower level before, but hosting candidated for the U.S. House is new.

“This is the first time we’ve done it at a congressional level.”

Here’s how it worked:

The forum started with all seven candidates standing and briefly introducing themselves. Then each candidate sat down at a table with eight or nine voters and engaged in a conversation with those voters, taking and answering their questions.

After 10 minutes, Baxley would ring a bell. Then each candidate got up, and moving clockwise, advanced to the next table.

After the candidates made their rounds, Baxley rejoiced in a job well done.

“I think people love it. I think it went well,” she said. “Seven candidates. Seven tables. We like it.”

Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester, arguably the best-known of the seven Democratic candidates, agreed.

“This is a great format to get to know one another and to get talk about the issues,” he said.

And the voters taking part in the forum enjoyed the format.

Ruth Larson of Alton enjoyed the “up close and personal” access to the candidates and called the forum “refreshing.”

There was one twist.

At the beginning of the day, there were only six declared Democratic candidates in the race.

They were Pappas; state Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester, a former fireman who served more than two decades as head of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO; Maura Sullivan, a U.S. Marine who later worked in the Pentagon during the Obama Administration before moving to Portsmouth last year; Army veteran and Rochester city attorney Terence O’Rourke; Lincoln Soldati, a trial lawyer and former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17 years as Strafford County attorney; and Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, an environmental scientist.

But early in the afternoon, technology executive and community activist Deaglan McEachern announced his candidacy.

Baxley quickly added a seventh table to the forum and extended the event by 10 more minutes.

The candidates are hoping to succeed four-term Democratic congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who announced in October that she wouldn’t run for re-election this year.

The two Republicans in the contest are businessman and conservative state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford and Eddie Edwards of Dover, a Navy veteran and former South Hampton police chief who also served as top law enforcement officer for the state’s liquor commission.

Carroll County Commissioner and former state senator Mark Hounsell of Conway said earlier this week that he’ll jump into the race for the GOP nomination. And Dover resident and former New Hampshire GOP vice-chairman Matt Mayberry has said he is also seriously considering a bid.