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New Hampshire

November 9, 2012

N.H. political parties must build for future

Elections over, N.H. political parties must plan for future

Representative-elect Mary Till last week defied conventional wisdom, which holds Democrats are unlikely to win a House seat from Derry.

When word of her victory reached former state Democratic Party chairman Kathy Sullivan via Twitter on election night, Sullivan was herself moved to tweet: "Wow!"

Till was one of four Democrats campaigning for 10 seats in Derry. Two of them – town Democratic chairman Betsy Burtis was the other – managed to win.

Till's story is a lesson in political party building, something much on the minds of New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans for very different reasons.

Rep. Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, acknowledged the Democrats' successes in claiming House seats in Republican-dominated Derry, as well as neighboring Londonderry. Norelli is seeking to return to the speaker's office.

Sometimes places are regarded as Republican strongholds, but candidates can make a difference, Norelli said.

"If you don't have candidates who speak up and go door-to-door," she said, "they will stay Republican."

Mary Till made a difference. The retired social worker and engineer did so by following Norelli's simple strategy.

"I must have knocked on 1,000 doors," Till said. "I spoke with Democrats, Republicans and independents. I found most people were reasonable."

It took time.

"Between 10 and 20 hours a week since the middle of August, a couple of hours a night and 10 hours on the weekend," Till said.

Democrats need a little faith, in Till's opinion.

"Believing in themselves" is what will help the party build on successes in future elections, she said.

"We had four Democrats to fill 10 slots," she said. "We have had a hard time recruiting people. They don't think they can win."

Sarah Gannon-Weston, who heads the Democratic committee in Danville, said Democrats have to get out the vote.

"We have to continue to mobilize Democratic voters in our area," she said.

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