On the trail: County and town Democrats want in on the state party’s election autopsy

  • Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, takes the stage to address a forum on the future of the Democratic Party, featuring candidates running to be the the next chair of the Democratic National committee, on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Denver. The candidates spoke during the Association of State Democratic Chairs session. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

For the Monitor
Published: 11/13/2020 5:01:06 PM

County- and town-level Democrats from across the Granite State know their party took a drubbing in last week’s elections, and they want a new task force being set up by New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley to be broadened.

In a letter to the state party, 45 current Democratic county and town chairs are calling on the state party “to form a broadly representative, independently led, and fully transparent task force to perform a thorough post mortem.”

The state party, responding to the letter, said they “welcome all ideas.”

In their letter, the county and town leaders acknowledge the sweep by Democrats at the federal level, with now-President-elect Joe Biden topping President Donald Trump by 7 points to win the state’s four electoral votes, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s convincing double-digit re-election victory, and re-election wins by Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas.

“We all should be proud of that,” the letter states.

But the letter emphasized that at the state level “the news is quite grim.”

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu crushed Democratic challenger Dan Feltes, the state Senate majority leader, by a nearly a two-to-one margin. And his coattails swept the GOP back into the majority in the New Hampshire House, Senate, and Executive Council.

“This would be bad in and of itself as far as policy progress over the next two years is concerned. However, being a census year, this clean sweep out of power means that we will likely need to contend with another 10 years of GOP-gerrymandered districts that we have no control or influence over drawing,” the county and town leaders stressed.

They said as “active members of the N.H. Democratic Party, representing County and Town Executive Committees, we have a compelling interest in making sure the N.H. party understands what went wrong in this election at the state level, and what we need to do differently going forward.”

Buckley is expected to announce his “Task Force on Building a Blue Hampshire” on Tuesday. The group is charged with taking “an objective look at the coordinated efforts across all entities and partner organizations in the 2020 campaign, compared to 2018’s successful down-ballot year, in order to identify areas of opportunity and to build our bench for 2022.”

The task force will be chaired by former House Speaker Terie Norelli. Other names on the panel include state Sen. Tom Sherman, Executive Councilor-Elect Cinde Warmington, state Reps. Sue Ford, Manny Espitia, Jennifer Bernet, Cole Riel, former state Sens. Peter Burling and Kathy Sgambati, former House chief of staff and former NHDP executive director Ryan Mahoney, Rockingham County Democratic Committee Chair Larry Drake, and former chair of Strafford County Democratic Committee Gene Porter.

Buckley highlighted that the task force would “seek out and welcome feedback and data from individuals and partner groups from all aspects of the campaign, and will host virtual listening sessions across the state to gather this information to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

But since the announcement of the task force, there has been plenty of social media critiques that the panel chosen did not contain a broad enough spectrum of party leadership from across the state – and that it was too heavily dominated by party establishment figures.

“We welcome all ideas and information as we move forward,” NHDP communications director Holly Shulman, responding to the letter, told the Monitor. “There are many suggestions for discussion.”




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