Tag Archives: women

Dems keep it civil in Friday debate, focus on policy

10 Sep

HENNIKER, NH — Weeks of campaign anger and insults came to a head this week when Ann McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett clashed visibly and personally in Wednesday’s debate, but the candidates put their discord aside Friday when they took the stage at New England College.

The two women presented a smart, focused, and driven image, hitting hard on policy issues such as tax code, Social Security and troop withdrawals in Iraq. Democrats can be pleased that whoever they elect will be a formidable candidate in November — both women did very well.

But the debate highlighted the inherent differences between the two candidates, and the degree to which Tuesday’s winner will have a tough fight ahead of her.

The candidates address a small audience at New England College Friday night. The Republicans will debate on Saturday at noon.

In a sharp contrast with Wednesday’s event, Kuster and Swett both largely refused to engage in attacks of the other, and spoke of their desire to raise the level of debate in their race. It would have seemed refreshing — to anyone who missed Wednesday’s debate.

It was particularly clear Friday night that the Democratic race is as much about voters picking a brand of politics they prefer than ideology — both candidates are fundamentally liberal, pro-choice, pro-Obama women who believe in government’s role in securing health care, economic growth and middle class opportunities.

But the two have vastly different personalities and brands of politics, which was clearly on display Friday night.

Swett is a something of a political bulldog. A mother of seven and candidate several times before, she took the lead in answering questions and used animated hand and facial gestures to convey her passion. She is spunky and passionate, comfortable talking policy and using anecdotes (however saccharine at times) to illustrate her points. When she talks of fighting for the middle class, it seems that she could break out boxing gloves at any minute. On Friday, she brought her A-game.

Kuster, in contrast, never looks quite as comfortable  behind a podium as she does in voter living rooms. She can come off as slightly plodding in debates, repeating her mantra of running a grassroots campaign. But while she lacks Swett’s flair for drama, she has a grounded, Yankee sensibility that appeals well to voters in a more personal settings. She is likable and articulate at the same time, and on Friday, seemed at ease in her role as the progressive candidate.

The two are set for a competitive race on Tuesday, but the questions on Friday already hinted at the challenges to come. Debate moderators asked both women if they thought the negativity of the campaign they’ve waged will serve as ammunition for whoever the Republican elect next week. While both claimed this would not be the case, GOP blogger glee last week told another story.

Democrats will have a tough choice on Tuesday, but it’s the contest that starts Wednesday that they should be worried about — in some ways, the fight has only just begun.

Check back Saturday afternoon for a post-event analysis of the Republican debate. It will be held at noon at New England College. Read more information here.


Swett’s strengths on display at Nashua office opening

18 Jul

NASHUA, NH — For 62-year-old Stephanie Micklon, filling out her ballot on the September 14 Democratic primary won’t be too tricky — the spry Salem resident and former NH state legislator is a Katrina Swett supporter all the way.

“My daughter says she has just a wonderful aura, and it’s true,” she said. “This is a really important year, and I’m sick of all the lies. I want people to focus on the issues that really matter, and Katrina does that.”

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Swett opened her second campaign office in Nashua today. She is the only candidate in the race to have offices in more than one location, and she has more than $1 million on hand to battle Ann McLane Kuster in the Democratic primary and the Republicans nominee in November.

The well-financed and well-known candidate is focusing her message on fighting for the middle class. While her campaign might lack some of the opposition’s grassroots enthusiasm, it was clear today that Swett will have no problem running an effective race. She is warm and enthusiastic, speaking passionately about her desire to fight for the middle class.

This woman is a pro, and it seems voters will respond to that.

“I feel very good about this campaign,” Swett said. “People are so deeply concerned about what I’m talking about, and you can tell.”

Swett’s husband Dick served as Congressman in the 2nd district in the early 1990’s, losing to Republican Charlie Bass in 1994. In 2002, she attempted unsuccessfully to unseat Bass, who is currently running to win his old seat back after losing it to Democrat Paul Hodes in 2006. Swett said she has learned from her past experiences.

“People obviously know my name better now. I have more experience, and I know what I’m doing,” she said. “I think that this election year is more volatile.”

And for Micklon, Swett is the answer to the volatile times.

“We don’t need anyone down there who doesn’t understand how hard it is to raise a family,” she said. “And if you want to talk about family values, just look at Dick and Katrina Swett. There is no better family than Dick and Katrina.”

Micklon, who worked with Kuster’s mother in the NH legislature, said she thinks both Democratic candidates are strong and would be preferable to the Republicans. But she said Swett’s passion for veterans issues and extensive political experience convinced her.

“We’re fortunate that we have two strong women candidates running,” Micklon said. “But I know Katrina doesn’t need any training when she gets there. We don’t have time for any on-the-job training. Katrina just edges her out with experience.”

Check back later today for this week’s Weekly Wrap.

Democrats: too strong for their own good?

16 Jul

BOW, NH — When Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, addressed voters Thursday night before the two Democratic candidates took the stage, he looked a bit like a concerned parent urging the kids not to get too rowdy.

“The problem is, we have a late primary,” he told voters. “And if we get too excited in our corners and we can’t get back together, there isn’t time, and Charlie will slip in. The day after the primary, in fact, the night of the primary, I would like for us to come together.”

And in Buckley’s stern remarks to enthusiastic Democrats, he laid out their essential problem — the candidates might be too strong for their party’s good.

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Democrats Ann McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett have bucked the national trend by raising more money than their three Republican counterparts combined, energizing voters across the state through house parties and grassroots activism.

Kuster has raised more money from New Hampshire donors than any other Congressional candidate in state history. And Swett is a well-known political name who has more than a million dollars on hand. The two have the power to wage a strong race against each other. Read about their fundraising here.

But for Democrats, the concern is that a bitter primary could waste time and energy — resources that could be better spent fighting the Republicans, as Buckley pointed out.

“This is going to be an exciting election,” he said. “And I think that either one of these women will be amazing members of Congress.”

The two were cordial and polite at Thursday’s forum, only explicitly diverging on a few issues such as the use of nuclear power.

Kuster emphasized her passion for women’s health issues and her work as an adoption attorney, and Swett talked about her experiences as the daughter of Holocaust survivors working for human rights. Both agreed that the economy is one of the most important issues facing Congress today.

The women were impressive and articulate, but in the end, it wasn’t Kuster or Swett who had the last word — it was the Democrat who turned to look into the camera of a Republican aide to say what many in the boisterous crowd were thinking:

“Get ready Bass, we’re coming for you!”

I live-Tweeted a good deal of Thursday’s forum at @primarywire. Follow me on Twitter, and check back on Friday for video footage of the forum.

Kuster says self-doubt will challenge Dems in November

24 Jun

WINDHAM, NH — As far as Ann McLane Kuster is concerned, it won’t necessarily be the GOP standing in the way of a Democrat victory in November.

“I don’t think Democrats will lose to Republicans. I think we’ll lose to our own hand-wringing,” she told Democrats from Windham, NH, at a meeting Thursday night.

Kuster speaks to Democrats in Windham on Thursday night.

In addressing the diverse and attentive crowd, Kuster spoke honestly and articulately about the challenges facing Democrats this fall but also the opportunities that await them.

“Republicans are excited, the Tea Party is just filling the airwaves,” she said. “Even within our own party we have our self-doubt threatening our ability to move forward.”

But Kuster urged Democrats tired from the tumult and emotion of the 2008 campaign to “get up off the couch” and get to work electing a Congress that can work with President Barack Obama.

And getting up off the couch certainly seems to be a life philosophy Kuster herself sticks to. It’s hard to imagine this smart and energetic woman sitting still for long.

In her first run, Kuster has launched one of the most dynamic campaigns New Hampshire has seen, raising more money from Granite state voters than any other Congressional candidate in the state’s history and launching a successful grassroots campaign throughout the district.

A self-proclaimed wonk, Kuster is both approachable and down-to-earth. She lacks the polished presentation of politician Katrina Swett or former talk show host Jennifer Horn, but for many voters, this will probably add to her appeal.

Kuster will certainly not win any votes among the supporters of Horn or Bob Giuda — haters of “Obamacare” won’t be fans. And for many in the state that value personal liberty above all else, she might seem a bit too “big government” to win them over.

But Kuster spoke well about her passion for women’s issues, renewable energy, health care and financial reform — all issues that affect the average voter.

“I tell people it’s a basic civics lesson,” she said. “We had a huge change and sent a new president to the White House, but we haven’t yet given him the Congress he can work with.”

When asked about Democrats and deficit spending — a topic Republicans love to bemoan — Kuster said she supports troop withdrawals from Iraq and a rolling back of tax cuts on the wealthy, in addition to more fiscally prudent spending.

“I’m a frugal Yankee,” she said. “Our car has 205,000 miles on it. We joke that it won’t last the campaign. I know how to stretch a buck.”

Until the candidate financial reports are released next week, it’s unclear exactly how many bucks Kuster will have to stretch in this campaign. But either way, Katrina Swett will have no easy time coasting to victory in November.

Check out the candidates’ first-quarter financial data — including cash on hand and money raised so far — here at OpenSecrets.org. Second-quarter reports are due at the end of June.

Weekly Wrap — June 13-19

20 Jun

Each weekend I post a “Weekly Wrap,” or my impressions of the race as they played out during the past seven days.

The week wasn’t particularly riveting on the campaign event front. But there were a few stories on the 2nd district candidates that made the news, and the individuals are all starting to better articulate where they will stand in the race.

Below are my top three observations of the week:

1. Charlie Bass on Joe Barton– You really didn’t need this

Charlie Bass‘s campaign issued a statement today condemning the apology issued to BP by Rep. Joe Barton of Texas — the very Congressman who was in New Hampshire campaigning for Bass as recently as two weeks ago.


Barton received extensive criticism after he apologized to BP executives in a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Thursday. Barton said he regretted that BP would be forced to pay for cleanup of the spill.

Not surprisingly, this caused quite the stir. The New Hampshire Democratic Party called on Bass to renounce Barton’s actions, and Bass’s Democratic opponents were quick to jump on this political gimme.

I could not disagree with Congressman Bass and Congressman Barton more — BP should be apologizing to America, not the other way around,” wrote Ann McLane Kuster on her Facebook page.

Katrina Swett issued this statement: ““If Charlie isn’t deeply embarrassed to be tied to BP’s defenders, then he’s hopelessly lost in a Gulf of Hypocrisy.”

While Bass couldn’t have known what Barton would say when inviting him to campaign two weeks ago, it reflected poorly on a candidate who is already struggling to shake off the “Washington insider” image.

It made him an easy target for Democratic criticism, and waiting until Sunday to issue a statement didn’t help his cause. Where was Bass’s campaign manager on this one?

2. It might really be the “year of the woman”

… or whatever it is the media is calling it after the July 9 primary. Watching the highly articulate, confident, and accomplished Jennifer Horn and Katrina Swett discuss the role of women in politics today, I was highly impressed.

They — and Ann McLane Kuster — are going places, if not the U.S. House of Representatives. All of them are admirable people who young girls would hope to emulate, politics aside.

The 2nd district could easily see a faceoff between two accomplished female politicians, as it seems that the women are among the most inspiring and energetic candidates in the race and best able to connect with voters.

Swett said Friday that she thought women, although they can certainly be fighters, bring a greater degree of cooperation to politics than men: “I think was women we can bring a certain sense of openness and that’s very valuable.”

Voters in the 2nd district may very well be able to test that theory should they send a woman to Congress.

3. The candidates have a thing or two to learn from Bob Etheridge

North Carolina Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge faced major criticism this week when he physically assaulted a young man on a public street, after the unidentified man put a video camera in the politician’s face and began asking questions.

The incident raised questions about the role of opposition operatives in politics. It was politically disastrous for Etheridge — and should serve as a lesson to everyone else.

While nothing of the sort has happened in New Hampshire’s 2nd district race, opposition members of campaigns are certainly at work. Bass has staffers attending most events hosted by other candidates, and other candidates have done the same.

At a recent GOP event, I was asked quite seriously if I was a “Democratic operative” and told I would have to leave if this were the case.

And at the Concord GOP meeting, a member of Senate candidate Bill Binnie‘s staff filmed rival Ovide LaMontagne speaking, promoting LaMontagne to addressed Binnie through the girl’s camera.

But if Etheridge’s mishap taught politicians anything, it’s that openness is the best policy — even for members of rival staffs.

Whatever they say in public is fair game, and it does nothing to improve their image when they discourage — or throw, in Etheridge’s case — their opponents from the room. Unless they’re counting on wrestling as a backup career.

Have a question about something? Disagree with me? Leave a comment below or email me at elizakern@gmail.com.

Up next: Check back Tuesday for analysis of Ann McLane Kuster’s appearance at the Plymouth Area Democrats Candidates Forum.