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Primary Source: Making Early Rounds in N.H.

  • 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 permission@vnews.com.

  • Claremont resident Steve Wood, who has been doing "living history" presentations as Abraham Lincoln since 1995, talks with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer during the Fourth of July celebration in Plainfield, N.H., on July 4, 2018. In the center is former New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner Steve Taylor, a Meriden resident. The Breyer family owns a summer home in Plainfield. (Photograph courtesy Steve Halleran)


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Democrats thinking about a possible 2020 run for president are beginning to barnstorm through New Hampshire for a bit of politicking and grassroots get-togethers.

The latest was U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Oregon progressive who was the only sitting member of the Senate to endorse Bernie Sanders for president in 2016.

Merkley, 61, was back in the Granite State for a four-day weekend, starting with New Hampshire Young Democrats in Portsmouth on Thursday and ending on Sunday with Upper Valley Democrats in Lebanon and a house party with about 40 people at the Cornish home of former Democratic National Committeeman Peter Burling.

Burling, a former state senator who hosts a variety of Democratic candidates at such forums, said Merkley talked about immigration, his recent visits to a converted Walmart in Texas that was being used as a detention facility for children separated from their parents at the U.S. border, and the need for Democratic activism this fall in the mid-term elections.

Several attendees asked about Democratic leadership this year and Merkley told them “the fact of the matter, for Democrats in an off-year election, it’s local, it’s state, so turn to your gubernatorial and congressional candidates,” Burling said.

Merkley, the son of a millwright, attended Stanford and then got a master’s degree from Princeton and was the first member of his family to attend college. He ran the Oregon office of Habitat for Humanity, entered the legislature there, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Burling said Merkley’s soft-spoken demeanor reminded him of Jimmy Stewart, and that “everybody as they were leaving said, ‘Boy, I really like this guy.’ ”

For his part, Merkley earlier in his visit told the Concord Monitor: “in terms of 2020, that comes after 2018 ... After the November election I’ll take in the whole landscape, talk to the family. It’s a question that can happen down the road.”

Burling said he hopes to have former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who ran in 2016, to a house party in early August.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the Maryland Democrat and former corporate CEO, made his 10th trip to New Hampshire over the weekend as part of his declared 2020 run. Delaney helped campaign with Plymouth Democrat Bill Bolton, who is seeking to unseat state Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, in the Senate District 2 seat that includes several towns in Grafton County.

Briefly Noted

With the Aug. 14 Vermont primary fast approaching, Upper Valley residents will have a chance to see the four Democratic candidates in a debate in Strafford later this month. The Vi and Ned Coffin Memorial Candidates Forum on Sunday, July 29, will feature a picnic on the town common followed by a 3 p.m. candidates forum at the Strafford Townhouse with James Ehlers, Christine Hallquist, Brenda Siegel and Ethan Sonneborn. The moderator is former Secretary of State Don Hooper.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO Joanne Conroy made her first visit to Washington on Wednesday as head of the Lebanon-based health system, meeting with Twin State lawmakers to discuss such issues as the opioid crisis, health services for women and children, and Medicaid expansion. She was joined by Alison MacDonald, D-H’s Washington-based vice president of policy and federal affairs.

Claremont resident Steve Wood, who portrays Abraham Lincoln, talked about Lincoln’s stance on slavery early in his presidency with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer during the Plainfield July 4 parade (see photo). Wood said Breyer asked him about Lincoln’s relationship with Southern lawmakers after Wood had read from a tough pre-inaugural speech Lincoln gave in 1861. “I thought, well, OK, here is someone who is obviously paying attention to what I said and thought about it, and had a good question, I thought a very perceptive question.”

John P. Gregg can be reachedat jgregg@vnews.com.