Primary Source: Democrats Start Courting Working-Class Voters

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Published: 1/16/2019 10:58:19 PM
Modified: 1/16/2019 11:16:59 PM

It looks like Democrats hoping to win their party’s presidential nomination may have learned a key lesson from 2016 and are targeting working-class and blue-collar voters already.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for example, is headed to Claremont on Friday evening for a “Claremont organizing event” at The Common Man restaurant.

As you’ll recall, Donald Trump captured Sullivan County in 2016, winning 11 of the 15 communities there, including Claremont, which traditionally had been friendly to Democrats.

Sullivan County Democratic Chairwoman Judith Kaufman, a Cornish resident, said she hopes Warren might talk about such issues as inequality in education funding in her visit to the old mill city, which had a median household income of just $47,555 in 2016.

“I think it’s very thoughtful of her to target Claremont, because Claremont is a small city in New Hampshire that has different types of demographics — and also problems — that some other communities in New Hampshire don’t have as much,” said Kaufman, who is staying neutral in the race due to her party role.

Assistant Mayor Allen Damren, who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 but is “wide open” to Democratic candidates now, said he thinks Warren will find a “warm reception” in the city, but noted the timing of her visit coincides with the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce’s annual President’s Awards event at the nearby Opera House.

“I think there will be a lot of focus on Claremont and communities like Claremont, especially given the fact that Donald Trump won it last time around,” Damren said.

The Warren event at The Common Man starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Members of the public can reserve a ticket through the Warren Exploratory Committee at

Warren, of course, isn’t the only likely candidate with working-class appeal who will be focusing on New Hampshire.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat who won re-election in November in a key battleground state that Trump won handily in 2016, this week announced a “dignity of work” tour that will include Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Brown, who voted against the Iraq war and against the North American Free Trade Agreement, combines progressive politics with a heartland appeal that could energize a number of Democrats and disaffected voters. He said on National Public Radio on Wednesday that he was still undecided whether he will, in fact, run for president, but his pending tour clearly is designed to test the waters.

Like many newcomers to the Granite State, Brown has a small learning curve to master. Speaking on MSNBC, he mispronounced the Granite State’s capital city as “Con-Cord.” (Someone in the Upper Valley might also want to clue him in about Lebanon).

Brown, by the way, may have a not-so-secret weapon when it comes to understanding media strategy. His wife, Connie Schultz, won the Pulitzer Prize in commentary in 2005 for what the Pulitzer committee called her “pungent columns that provided a voice for the underdog and underprivileged.”

What does a Brown or Warren candidacy mean for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.? He’s clearly thinking about that. And Sanders yesterday announced the filing of a bill to “gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024,” along with 31 co-sponsors in the Senate and 181 in the House.

That’s not enough to get by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but it pushes an issue Sanders has long advocated.

Speaking of candidates, as previously mentioned in this column, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., is holding a Hanover meet-and-greet at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Base Camp Cafe at 3 Lebanon St.

And Dartmouth College may get a little more focus with the announcement by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that she also is launching an exploratory presidential campaign committee and is headed to Iowa.

Gillibrand, who was then known as Tina Rutnik, was an Asian studies major at Dartmouth, where she graduated in 1988, captained the squash team, and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. One of her buddies was future actress and Nashville star Connie Britton.

Briefly Noted

■U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., now in his seventh term, has been named to the House Intelligence Committee, which could play a key role in public hearings on the Trump administration and its contacts with Russia. Welch also remains on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has a major say on energy policy, telecommunications and health care.

■Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, who is calling for Trump’s impeachment, will be in Hanover tonight (Thursday) as part of his “5 Rights” campaign. He’s not running for president, but will be talking about the need to make health care a right for Americans. You can see him at 7 p.m. at the Ford Sayre Room in the Hanover Inn.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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