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Clinton Recalls Time at Dartmouth

Saturday, July 04, 2015
Hanover — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheered recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act and called for “(taking) on the gun lobby one more time” during an outdoor campaign stop at Dartmouth College on Friday, pushing a progressive image as contender Bernie Sanders climbs the New Hampshire polls.

“I take a back seat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values,” Clinton said, speaking at the Bema to an estimated 850 people.

Speaking without notes, she began her remarks with a nod to Dartmouth, saying she’s visited the college over the decades for meetings, conferences and even a “blind date.”

“During what was that called? Winter Carnival?” Clinton said, eliciting cheers. “So, I have memories.”

Mixed among the crowd were steadfast Clinton supporters, young voters looking to learn more about the candidate, and those who said they planned on voting for Sanders — or at least were leaning toward doing so — but wanted to come hear Clinton speak nonetheless.

“I’m not into this juggernaut thing,” said Brian Bentley, a voter in his 50s from St. Johnsbury, Vt. He said he hasn’t decided who to vote for, but Clinton’s not on his list because she represents the “status quo.”

“I like people who don’t go along with the jump,” he said, saying he’s glad that Sanders is running.

Others said Clinton is an electable candidate with a proven track record.

“I think she has the best chance of winning as a Democrat,” said Hanover resident and longtime Clinton supporter Kelly Pikus, who attended with her 6-year-old daughter, Adele. “I would like to see Bernie as her running mate.”

A UNH Survey Center poll released last week showed Clinton with 43 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, compared to 35 percent for Sanders.

Prior to a pit stop at Lebanon’s Dairy Twirl, Clinton spoke for about a half-hour at the sun-soaked amphitheater, which saw long lines for patriotic cookout fare like hamburgers, apple pie and lemonade before the former first lady and secretary of state took the stage about 2:30 p.m.

Clinton pointed to the economy and voting rights as two “huge decisions” for Americans going forward, accusing Republicans of trying to keep segments of Americans, including college students, out of the polls. She also blamed the other party for leaving the last two Democratic presidents with economic messes.

“There’s just a pattern here,” she said.

Clinton also vowed to defend President Obama’s signature health care act and “do everything I can to improve it,” warning that it’s destined for repeal if a Republican is elected.

On gun control — an issue on which she differs from Sanders, who has voted against federal background checks for gun-buyers — she said it was the “height of irresponsibility” not to talk about the issue, saying public opinion needs to push Congress toward universal background checks.

Before Clinton spoke, State Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, told the crowd that Clinton has “developed into quite a candidate” since her failed bid against Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries, and that Clinton’s experience as secretary of state “just makes her that much stronger” than the many candidates who have flooded the Republican field.

Nordgren cheered Clinton’s work on women’s issues and voters’ rights and said she was on the “forefront” of the health care movement when she was first lady.

The 3-year-old granddaughter of another Democratic state representative from Hanover, Martha Hennessey, briefly stole the show at a point when Clinton was speaking about her hopes for the youth and future generations of the country. The youngster, Louisa Hill, skipped away from her parents and Hennessey — who were among a flag-waving crowd of people that organizers had arranged behind Clinton — toward Clinton as she spoke.

“I want every child in this country to have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential and I don’t think that is possible —,” Clinton said, suddenly noticing Louisa and smiling. “I don’t think that is possible without a visual manifestation of it.

“I want every child to feel like he or she is a star,” Clinton added.

Hennessey said she strongly backed Clinton, applauding her stances on election campaign financing reform, among others. Hennessey added that she feels it’s “time for America to have a woman (president),” although she said that based on Clinton’s qualifications, she would vote for her regardless of gender.

Gender was also on the mind of Dartmouth rising sophomore Zoe Dinneen, of Boston, who came back to town after two weeks of working on the Appalachian Trail with a group of students in order to hear Clinton speak. Dinneen said she was “pretty excited” to have a viable woman candidate, but wanted to judge each candidate on merits.

She still hasn’t decided who to vote for, she said, but worries about Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, having a “political dynasty” in the White House, arguing that government needs to remain accessible.

She liked that Sanders’ campaign was running on small donations, but said she suspected Clinton was more electable.

Others were less worried about Sanders’ chances. Plainfield’s Thom Wolke, 56, attended wearing a homemade shirt bearing Sanders’ name and the phrase “don’t waste your vote.” He said he found parts of Clinton’s remarks to be “disingenuous,” including her vows to fight Citizen’s United.

Wolke said he found it to be “distasteful” when Clinton brought up Freddie Gray, the black Baltimore man who died after being taken into police custody in April, calling it a “tragic, terrible incident that is obviously now in the court system.” Wolke said he was bothered that Clinton then talked about reports that Gray experienced lead poisoning as a toddler.

“Lead paint destroys brain development, lead paint increases the likelihood of behavioral problems. Here we are, it’s 2015 and we have thousands of our children living in substandard housing ... who are still suffering that kind of brain damage. There are so many pieces that we have to address together,” Clinton said in the remarks, calling for better access to health care.

Wolke’s daughter, Sonja Wolke, didn’t share all of her father’s concerns, saying she was happy to hear Clinton speak positively about marriage equality and other issues the 17-year-old cares about. She said she hasn’t yet decided how she’ll cast her vote when she turns 18, but she was “really impressed” with Clinton.

The event was originally scheduled to be held at a private Rope Ferry Road home listed on real estate websites for $3.8 million, with members of the public invited to attend by signing up ahead of time. Campaign spokesman Harrell Kirstein said the planned location was switched to the Bema on Thursday afternoon because of “large local interest.”

Many people interviewed said that they had planned to attend the Rope Ferry Road event, but others said they came upon the Bema event by chance as the buzz spread downtown Friday. Hanover resident Joanna M. Long, 83, was among that group, saying she found out about the event at CVS when she was wondering what all the traffic was about.

“I wanted to be part of the whole thing,” she said.

A registered Republican, Long said she’s “leaning toward” voting for a Democrat this year because she’s unimpressed with her party’s candidates thus far. After the event, she said it was obvious to her that Clinton’s a “strong candidate,” but Long said she’s worried about Clinton’s “trustworthiness” because of Benghazi and Clinton’s use of personal email for secretary of state business.

As for Sanders, she’s “glad he’s running,” but said he probably doesn’t have a strong chance.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at or 603-727-3220.

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