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Primary Source: N.H. Democrats May Be Looking for a ‘Fresh Face’ for President

  • 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: 12/13/2018 12:04:30 AM
Modified: 12/13/2018 12:04:37 AM

With the New Hampshire presidential primary only about 13 months away, campaigning is likely to pick up a notch after the holidays, and the Democratic field easily could see more than a dozen candidates.

And other than the likelihood that 77-year-old U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., runs again — after all, he handily won the 2016 New Hampshire primary over Hillary Clinton — a torrent of new candidates are expected to be making the rounds.

“I think this is going to be a really wide-open contest. It’s not like 2008, when Clinton and (Barack) Obama ate up all the oxygen, or 2016, when Hillary and Bernie did,” said Judy Reardon, the former legal counsel for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and a Manchester Democrat. “I think it’s wide open.”

Though former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, is among the many Democrats looking at the race, he appears to generate more respect than excitement.

Instead, some of the recent chatter centers around the likes of U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who narrowly lost a Senate race against Republican Ted Cruz.

“I’ve heard a lot of enthusiasm about Beto. Young people seem to be very enthusiastic about him,” said state Rep. Garrett Muscatel, D-Hanover, a Dartmouth College junior who was just elected to the New Hampshire House.

State Rep. John Cloutier, a 61-year-old Claremont Democrat who backed Sanders in 2016, said he won’t make up his mind about a candidate until well after the 2019 legislative session has ended, but he thinks Democrats would be best-served by a candidate in his or her 40s or 50s with some government experience.

“I think we need a fresh face, with all due respect to Bernie and Joe and Hillary,” Cloutier said. “We need someone who is going to unite the party, appeal to independents to some extent, and be just a total difference from Donald Trump, frankly.”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also is among the possible contenders, as is U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. A couple of governors, including Steve Bullock, D-Montana, and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., also may be in the mix. And two billionaires also may run for the Democratic nomination: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was a Republican and then an independent, and Tom Steyer, who bankrolled the successful NextGen America voter turnout drive.

(In case you were wondering, Trump is 72, Bloomberg is 76.) At least one candidate, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., already has declared his intention to run and has been campaigning regularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, and former San Antonio Mayor and Housing Secretary Julian Castro formed an exploratory committee on Wednesday.

Reardon said that before the mid-term elections, she thought Democrats might need a candidate with a “big personality” to compete with Trump, but no longer thinks so.

“I don’t think we need Oprah. I had thought for awhile we did,” Reardon said. “I think people want someone serious and who takes the job seriously.”

Dartmouth Pledge

Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon and other top college officials are pledging a strong response and reform following widespread concern among students, faculty and alumni about allegations of sexual harassment and assault brought by seven current and former students in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in a lawsuit last month.

In an email on Wednesday to the Dartmouth community, Hanlon also promised a “sweeping plan” early next year to combat sexual assault and to boost “inclusivity.”

“I admire the courage the students showed in bringing forward their complaints last year. I deeply regret that an environment existed on our campus that was so at odds with our values,” Hanlon wrote.

The email, which also was signed by the provost and top deans at Dartmouth and its graduate schools, noted that the three former tenured professors at the center of the lawsuit are now “gone from our community.” And it also pledged that Dartmouth would, “over time ... address each specific allegation openly and honestly and explain the careful and rigorous actions we took when students came to us with complaints” about the three professors.

Briefly Noted

■Sullivan County Republicans will caucus at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Richards Free Library in Newport to elected county and state committee members.

Jake Sullivan, a former State Department aide who would have held a top foreign policy job if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, will be a Montgomery fellow and then a “distinguished visitor” on the Dartmouth campus at the Dickey Center in 2019.

■Hanlon, the Dartmouth president, has recovered from successful hip-replacement surgery last month, his second such procedure in 12 months.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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