Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A blogger gets elected

An interesting footnote to the 2006 mid-term elections is that a New Hampshire blogger was elected to the Legislature this year in the Democratic sweep. Margaret Evans Porter was elected to the Merrimack County District 8 seat, placing third out of eight candidates, and even helping to unseat popular Republican State Rep. Tony Soltani, an opponent of civil unions, who placed fifth. Politizine asked her a few questions about her campaign and why she decided to run.

Politizine: Why did you decide to forward yourself as a candidate?

Margaret Evans Porter: The short answer is that I believe in public and community service. I've been involved in different ways, but this is my first time holding a position in government.

I ran for the same office four years ago, when our district had been newly expanded to include Hooksett--which was a very inappropriate match, demographically, with Allenstown, Epsom and Pittsfield. At that time I said if another re-districting occurred, removing Hooksett, I would strongly consider running again. It did, and I did. I had a sense that the Democratic Party might ask me to run. I made an independent decision to run again, so by the time I was contacted (which I eventually was), I had already filed my candidacy.

P: In what ways did your skill as a writer and blogger help your campaign? Did voters know you were a blogger?

MEP: Writing skills always come in handy when putting together ad copy, and writing/designing a candidate flier for mail-out! Because of the public nature of my writing career, I'm comfortable with public events and talking to people.

My blog readers--all over the world--knew I was running for office. I blogged on the day I filed. As far as I know, the voters didn't know I was a blogger, except for the voter who lives in my household. Some of them surely knew I am a writer.

A lot of people voted for me who don't know me and never met me. I suspect they made their choice more for my party affiliation than any other factor. I will work hard to live up to this act of faith!

P: What are the three top issues you plan on working on and why?

MEP: The most important issue facing the entire Legislature is defining educational adequacy, because we have a deadline for that. Then a funding mechanism will have to be decided and agreed upon--I have no pre-determined agenda.

I would support a raise in the minimum wage, and substantial LCHIP funding. Safeguarding our environment and protecting natural resources is a priority.

P: Describe your district and tell me about some of the issues facing voters in your area.

MEP: My district is made up of three towns strung along the Suncook River. Each has a population of between 4,500 and 5,000 people. In addition to population, they have similarities in their demographics and history, and available services. However similar the residents may be, each town has a distinct character.

There are plenty of small business owners and the self-employed in this district. For them most especially, health care and health insurance are enormous concerns.

The towns also serve as "bedroom" communities for many people working in Concord, including many state employees.

Each town is a hub for small local businesses and outposts of larger companies (fast food outlets, gas stations, etc.) There are still several working farms (mostly dairy), and tracts of undeveloped land--rapidly being developed, which is good for the loggers and the developers and people looking for homes and good quality of life. But the added population has an impact on the schools and the other town services--there is disagreement about whether such growth can actually pay for itself. Epsom has a master plan and limits on building permits.

All three towns have budgets that are stretched. Pittsfield has a low tax base and extremely high property taxes, and struggles to support the schools. Allenstown, which incorporates Suncook village, is the largest town in terms of infrastructure and population. Epsom operates under default budgets for school and for town budget, because it instituted SB2 (ballot voting), and lately both budgets have been voted down at the polls.

Both Allenstown and Pittsfield were plaintiff towns in the Claremont lawsuit, so the educational funding issue is great importance.

Everybody has issues with escalating property taxes, and the impact of more frequent re-evaluations by state or local mandate.

P: No one can remember exactly the last time the Democrats had control of the state legislature, the state senate, the executive council, and the governor's seat. What do you think some of the challenges will be for Democrats in the next session?

MEP: The Democrats are unsure exactly what their mandate is, other than change. For whatever reason, the divided government was voted out--by a combination of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.

That said, our governor has set a high standard for bi-partisanship, and it's my hope--and intention--to follow his example, because working majorities are necessary for progress. The greatest danger for Democrats is over-reaching, or making the wrong assumptions about why they were swept in to power in such great (and unprecedented) numbers. So far, from what I've gleaned from the press, and from talking to people, they seem to know this.

I'd really like to know the impact of the changes to the ballot, and the re-ordering in an attempt to add fairness to the process. For all we know, Democratic majorities might have occurred sooner, if we'd had a different ballot!

Crossposted at Area603.com

1 comment:

kestrel9000 said...

Speaking of bloggers:
a new SoapBlox blog for New Hampshire progressive politics has just jumped off.
It's here: