Longtime lawmaker Jackie Cilley stepping away from N.H. politics

  • Jackie Cilley and Cassandra Levesque of Barrington at the State House on Tuesday. Paul Steinhauser

  • Rep. Jackie Cilley poses for a photo in Representatives Hall inside the State House in Concord. The longtime Democratic lawmaker says she won’t seek re-election to her House seat. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Friday, June 01, 2018

Jackie Cilley says she’s had enough of the State House, at least for now.

“I’ve decided to suspend the campaigning and the service for the time being,” the longtime Democratic lawmaker from Barrington and progressive firebrand told the Monitor in an exclusive interview.

Cilley – who served in the state House of Representatives, the state Senate, and again in the House the past four years after an unsuccessful 2012 campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination – said it was a tough decision not to run for re-election in November.

“I gave it a lot of thought,” she said, adding that her “family situation has changed a little bit.”

Cilley, 66, detailed how her husband, Bruce, is now semi-retired and how they hope to travel more often.

“The other part of it was it has been challenging to serve in the minority the last four years. I had grown accustomed to being in the majority when I was in the House the first time and the Senate,” she added.

Granite State Democrats are hopeful that they’ll recapture the majority in the state House in this November’s elections. Cilley said that prospect actually made her decision not to run again easier.

“That sort of pushed me in favor of doing it (retiring) at this time,” she explained. “I feel because I see that blue wave coming and because I believe that Democrats will be in the majority, I also believe that the seat is safe.”

Looking back at her legislative achievements, Cilley listed voting in the Senate for same sex marriages as one of her proudest moments.

“Having the ability to have voted for marriage equality, first for civil unions and then for full marriage equality and being one of the first states to do that,” she said. “It’s hard not looking at the gravity of that decision and the difference it’s made in peoples’ lives and not recognize how significant a moment that I had the honor of serving in that chamber and the opportunity to vote in that way.”

She also pointed to two bills she pushed this year as the prime sponsor which raise the age of marriage in New Hampshire to 16 – which is the legal age of consent.

Current law dating back over a century allows girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 to marry if they have parental and court consent.

“We have protected them far more. We have raised the standards for judicial review for an underage minor to get permission to marry. I’m very proud of that,” Cilley said. “I think we protected young people better in the state of New Hampshire by doing that.”

She also touted one of her constituents, Cassie Levesque, a Barrington girl scout who championed the two year push to raise the state’s marriage age.

As for her biggest legislative disappointment, Cilley said “the driver for me is income equality. The disparity in income, the way working men and women are not seen the same as when I was growing up.”

Cilley grew up with to working class parents in a third floor tenement in Berlin, a city that’s been decimated by cuts to the paper industry.

“The greatest source of frustration to me, the losses that workers have sustained in their protections, in their retirement programs, in their health care, in their wages,” she said.

And looking to her post-Statehouse life, Cilley said “that’s something that I’d like to carry on and that something that I’d like to focus on after this life.

“I think it’s time that I have an opportunity to focus on the things I most care about,” she added.

Cilley vowed to remain active.

“Activism. Absolutely,” she offered. “That’s something that becomes a part of you. You wake up in the morning thinking about it. You go to bed at night thinking about it. I don’t see that stopping. The question will be how can I do that in an effective way that would actually make policy differences.”

And she’s not ruling a return to campaign politics.

“You never close the door,” she said. “If there were an opportunity in a place where I felt what skills and talents I have are best spent, then I would certainly consider it.”