In N.H. for 9th time, Jason Kander steers clear of Dems’ attempt to oust Bill Gardner

  • Jason Kander (left) talks with N.H. Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord. Kander made his ninth trip to New Hampshire on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Voting rights activist and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Jason Kander says his record as a progressive who can win in a red state may be one reason he was tapped to headline a major fundraising dinner next month for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Kander was in New Hampshire on Wednesday, his ninth trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state in the past year. His visit came one day after the state Democratic Party announced that the former Missouri secretary of state would keynote the McIntyre-Shaheen dinner – the party’s major spring fundraiser.

“Part of the reason that I’m often invited to speak at stuff like this is I’m a progressive from a red state and I’ve won a statewide election,” said Kander, who came close to ousting GOP incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016 in a state President Donald Trump won by double digits.

Keynoting the dinner should give Kander more statewide and national exposure if he decides to run for the White House.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “And any opportunity to talk about where party ought to go, the importance of voting rights, that kind of thing. And I’ll leave it up to the rest of you all to opine on everything else.”

He tried to steer the conversation away from the 2020 election and back to 2018 midterm elections.

“I’m really impressed by the Democratic momentum here in New Hampshire,” he said. “It’s some of the strongest in the country. So I’m excited to be a part of that. And I’m excited to have a chance to talk about my vision for the future of the party.”

Last year, the 36-year-old Kander founded the voting rights group Let America Vote. In its announcement, the state Democratic Party described Kander as “America’s leading voter protection advocate” and “a young star.”

Kander has targeted New Hampshire’s Senate Bill 3, which tightened voter eligibility for same-day registration. The measure was signed into law last year by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. And he also has in his crosshairs two new Republican-backed bills making their way through the GOP-dominated State House that would further tighten voter eligibility laws in New Hampshire.

Part of Kander’s mission in the state is to try to help Democrats defeat Sununu and State House Republicans who’ve supported those bills.

But Kander said he’s staying out of longtime New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s re-election. The nation’s longest-serving secretary of state is running this December for a 22nd two-year term in a vote decided by state lawmakers. Partly because of his support for the bills that tighten voter eligibility, Gardner is facing opposition for the first time in years by fellow Democrats.

“I’m focused on the November elections here, the legislative races. That’s not one of them,” Kander said. “Secretary Gardner is a friend of mine. Sometimes friends disagree.”

After speaking with the Monitor and WKXL radio, Kander headlined a fundraiser in Concord for state Sen. Dan Feltes’s re-election campaign. Later, he headed to Dartmouth College to speak to the school’s Young Democrats.