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Politics in our midst

From extreme left-wing candidates to farthest right, all presidential hopefuls have found it necessary to pass through the Granite State on their way to the White House.

The New Hampshire Primary remains influential for the rest of the country, so it’s not a mystery why candidates spend so much time here.

Living in this politically-saturated state, I took the unique opportunity to document people’s various experiences of being involved in campaigning.

I personally worked many shifts of canvassing, and encountered my share of closed doors.

Many New Hampshirites do not disclose who they are voting for because “America has a private ballot, so [they] are going to use it.” Voters who adopted this tactic usually screened their political calls, hung up their phones, didn’t answer, or even slammed doors in canvassers’ faces.

This would be marked as “not home” on a canvass or call sheet, which would prompt another volunteer to try to contact the residents again within two days. This created a vicious cycle during the campaigning season.

One woman I called gruffly stated, “Before you say who you are calling for, I want to tell you that we are tallying each political call, and whichever candidate calls us the least, we’ll vote for.”


imageVolunteers showed their support outside of Concord High School, left, when Hillary Clinton spoke during the peak of her campaign season.

These New Hampshire residents had to switch off wearing a pair gloves to hold up their hand-made signs in the bitter New England cold.

Pictured here is Concord High School junior GraceAnn Kontak, who since has transferred her support to the other Democratic candidate.

Although she isn’t yet old enough to vote, Kontak “agrees with Bernie on more of the issues,” and is now in full favor of this candidate who won the New Hampshire Primary in February by 22.4%.


Several candidates visited CHS and spoke in the auditorium, guests of the CHS Presidential Club.

Heated debates sometimes ensued among students as local television stations prepared their cameras for the big events.

imageAt left, students settled into the front row of the Christa McAuliffe Auditorium as they awaited John Kasich’s appearance.

Concord High has been “a historical stop on the way to the White House” said Chrigus Bozeman, the Social Studies teacher who introduced the Republican candidate to the stage on February 4th.

At this point in the race, Kasich has won his home state of Ohio, raised $15.4 million for his campaign and  received 143 out of the 1,237 delegates required to win the Republican nomination.

Kasich is “mathematically out of the race,” some say, but he has refused to drop out, motivated to keep delegates from Republican front runner Donald Trump.


It is not the typical newly-licensed driver’s wish to spend hours driving around town, canvassing for a political election.

Sabrina Hart-Meyer, however, a devoted campaigner since this past July, is a different story.

P2061227This CHS junior canvassed (on average) fifteen hours a week, on top of her rigorous school work and extracurriculars, during New Hampshire’s primary season.

“This takes up all my time, but I’ll miss everyone so much when [the campaign] is over,” she said.

Hart-Meyer relied on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and encouragement from campaign organizers to keep going during long driving shifts.


P2061160Cold Concord canvassers trudged in with completed canvass packets from Bow to Hooksett as New Hampshire’s Primary day approached.

The weekend before voting day was filled with hail and rain — canvassing was not for the weak of heart.

Because Concord is made up of many senior citizens, elderly Clinton supporters (who were willing and able) came in during work-weeks to participate in phone banks and complete canvass shifts.

Seeing younger volunteers who happened to support their chosen candidate, some observed, “Isn’t it nice how all these young people come out to help, and support the right person?”

Many older volunteers helped with the Clinton campaign for months, devoting hours of their time to making a difference in the election.


CHS junior Noah Champagne came to school wearing an anti-Hillary shirt that read: “The H is silent in Benghazi.” He bought his shirt on Amazon.com.

imageSome following the candidates have voiced strong skepticism concerning Clinton’s past, not only referencing the Benghazi tragedy but also her use of a private e-mail server when she served as Secretary of State.

While Colin Powell, Secretary of State under George W. Bush, also used a private e-mail server, and recently noted that neither his nor Clinton’s e-mails were classified at the time they were sent, a number of Clinton’s critics have been heard to say, “I just don’t trust her.”

Champagne is an avid Ted Cruz supporter. He said he has attended several rallies and sometimes carries his Cruz trademarked pocket Bible with him at school.


College students are also among the people volunteering or working for pay on presidential campaigns.

Yale medical student Taylor, left, organized canvassing packets during many busy days at the NH Hillary headquarters.

P2061174Once the date of the New Hampshire Primary drew near, the office had to relocate from a cramped two-story building to Concord’s NEA office to gain more space for the increased rush of volunteers.

A huge calendar in the main room reminded everyone how much time was left. Organizers and recruiters frequently asked, “Ok, thanks for what you did today, but when can you come next?”

Taylor was one of a number of college students who traveled to New Hampshire to work in different campaign offices and promote her candidate with a very modest salary and housing accommodations.

After Clinton’s disappointing results in New Hampshire, these college students said goodbye and flew off to different states to focus efforts on helping Clinton win more delegates.


imageDonning his candidate’s campaign merchandise like band stickers on his laptop, CHS junior Connor Kilgore has been interested in politics for many years.

He is a prominent member of the Presidential Club, belongs to the Class Senate, and never backs away from a spirited but typical political argument.

Kilgore has been involved in multiple campaigns and has worked hard for John Kasich this election season.

As a few other Concord High School volunteers and I mourned Clinton’s loss on the night of the New Hampshire Primary, Kilgore texted, “Well, we both got second place!”


Olivia Kinhan is another devoted high school volunteer who worked tirelessly for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

In the photo at left she signed in volunteers and dealt with paperwork.

P2061169The the task was mundane she said she felt that she was doing so much more.

“Getting to work on the campaign was an exhilarating, stressful, and educational experience. I’ve never worked harder for something and I now know what I want to do with my life,” she said.

Kinhan dreams of studying political science in college and continuing to work on campaigns following graduation.

She and Hart-Meyer are already planning on to become campaign organizers together during what they predict will be Clinton’s re-election campaign in 2020.


P2071276Many canvassers found themselves running behind schedule with their packets because they stayed at one house too long or got lost on the way to another.

Like the stereotypical liberal, Hart-Meyer drove a Prius. When time seemed to be running out, she would make use of the Hybrid’s “power mode” to cover more distance from town to town.

Over her whole canvassing experience, Sabrina suspects that she drove hundreds of miles for her good cause (but used next to no gas because of her car’s great fuel-efficiency!)


P2061241A Donald Trump sign stood tall as this New England snowbank melted, perhaps representing the way the candidate himself keeps managing to end up on top during this election season.

A few elementary-age refugees from the Broken Ground after school program openly criticized this Republican because, they said, Trump’s immigration beliefs made them “scared of being deported.”

Trump’s campaign gained enough support in New Hampshire to bring him to a 19.5% victory over his competitors, which granted him 11 delegates.

Many New Hampshire residents seemed to identify with his views because of our state’s “Live Free or Die” slogan.


P2061175Anne Schweitzer, center, is a recent graduate of Brandeis University who served as a lead organizer of the Clinton campaign in Concord.

Here she gave “Get out the Vote” training to new volunteers and rehearsed the official campaign script that she’d committed to memory months before.

“Working on Hillary’s campaign in New Hampshire was the experience of a lifetime,” she said. “There’s something truly special about the people of the Granite State and the politics reflect that.”

Schweitzer stopped working on the campaign after Concord, but still watches the polls closely and hopes that her hard work will pay off in the long run.


P2061178In this moment from the campaign trail, Hart-Meyer carried four canvass packets, each of which took about two hours each out of her Saturday.

The dedicated high school volunteer sometime skipped studying in order to stay at the campaign headquarters late into the night.

Hart-Meyer did not let the disappointment of Clinton’s New Hampshire Primary finish get in her way. A few days after the election she was already making calls to Massachusetts and Vermont to advocate for her candidate.

Working on the Clinton campaign changed Hart-Meyer’s future dreams dramatically, as, like Kinhan, she now plans on pursuing Political Science in college.