EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 17, 2010

Politics without borders: NH residents work on Bay State campaign

By Jillian Jorgensen

Perhaps it's special election envy: On both sides of the political spectrum, Granite Staters are getting involved in the Senate race in the Bay State.

From phone calls to e-mail appeals to television ads, New Hampshire politicians and activists are offering their support to Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown.

Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political scientist, said it is more common that Massachusetts volunteers, especially Democrats, come to New Hampshire, where races are generally more competitive.

"The New Hampshire Democrats are trying to return the favor by helping out Coakley," he said. "New Hampshire Republicans are trying to rally because they would benefit from a Scott Brown victory. It would do a lot to reinforce the idea that this will be the Republicans' year."

It's not clear how much difference the help from across the border may make.

"Field work, knocking on doors, makes a difference on the margins," Scala said. "But this could be a race that's decided on the margins. It could be a case that's decided on a couple of percentage points."

The New Hampshire Democratic Party had run multiple phone banks and sent out e-mails encouraging state Democrats to donate to Coakley's campaign, party spokesman Derek Richer said. They will send hundreds of volunteers to Massachusetts to help with get-out-the-vote efforts in the days leading up to the election Tuesday, he said.

Coakley spokeswoman Alex Zaroulis said the campaign was excited to have New Hampshire activists on board.

"The political activists in New Hampshire are the best," she said. "They know how to campaign, they know how to do retail politics, they know how to reach voters."

Zaroulis said it was usually the "reverse commute," but said activists in both states were happy to cross the state border to fight for a common cause.

E-mails also went out from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Congressman Paul Hodes, D-N.H., who is also running for the U.S. Senate.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Hodes campaign, said they have been working closely with Coakley's campaign in the close race.

"It's an important race, and not just for Massachusetts. It's an important race for middle class families across the country to make sure we are able to pass health reform," he said. "That's the priority for Paul, and we're going to be doing everything we can to help Martha Coakley win this race."

Lenore Patton, chairwoman of the Rockingham County Democratic Committee, and her husband Gary, both of Hampton, have been making phone calls to Massachusetts voters for Coakley's campaign. She also has been alerting local activists.

"I have been spreading the word among the Democrats in the county that Martha needs our help," Lenore Patton said, "and passing on information from other sources telling them how to connect with their campaign."

Gary Patton said the cause has "caught on like wildfire" among New Hampshire Democrats.

"It would be shameful if Brown won Kennedy's seat and then stopped health care reform, which he has already promised he would do," Lenore Patton said. "That would be a disgrace."

The Republican Party of New Hampshire urged Republicans to get involved in the race via e-mail. The party's spokesman did not return calls for comment yesterday, nor did the Brown campaign.

New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate William Binnie appeared in a campaign ad paid for by Americans for Responsible Health Care that starting airing in the Boston media market last week. The ad campaign cost more than $200,000, according to a press release from the group.

But the move could backfire: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Deirdre Murphy questioned the legality of the ads in a statement last week, saying it is illegal for a Senate candidate to form a "527" issues advocacy group and run ads for other candidates. A spokesman for the group did not respond to a request for comment.

Jeff Hatch, chairman of the Salem Republican Committee, said Friday he and a group of Republican activists were going to North Andover yesterday to make phone calls for the Brown campaign. He said he was supporting Brown as a fellow Republican, and for his views on health care and national security.

Hatch said New Hampshire Republicans were already feeling energetic after winning several recent special elections and the mayoral race in Manchester.

"If Scott Brown wins the Senate race in Massachusetts, that's going to be the shot that was heard around the world," he said.


Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.