Erika Cohen (LNH 2015) Associate Editor of Business NH Magazine
But this is not a political column. If it were, this would not be my tenth take. Instead I am writing this as an emerging leader welcomed to the House chamber as an honored guest. Both of those perspectives are new territory to me.
As a Statehouse reporter, I spent a lot of time sitting in the lobby of the governor’s office and trolling the halls under the watchful eyes of past governors and political leaders. Brad Cook ‘s encyclopedic knowledge of NH’s political history taught me just how much I didn’t know about all the those people.
I always groused about the woes of our legislators being volunteers, and thus not being representative of the general populous.
But Brad Cook raised a very good question when he asked us “Do you want someone representing you who is paid $7,500 a year or $100 a year. Think about it.” I did. Our unpaid legislators are indeed generally retired, independently wealthy and old, but they are there because they care. It’s not about the money; passion matters. No offense to Karen Wadsworth, but no one watches live stream of NH House sessions on the computer unless they are a reporter forced to do so for work, and even then we pop in and out. Yet Wadsworth freely admitted she did recently. She didn’t spent 20 years as Statehouse clerk for the money. She obviously loved her job.
Being a reporter, it was fascinating to listen to other people’s reactions. When some people seemed surprised Governor Maggie Hassan opened and closed her talk pledging against a sales or income tax, I was taken aback. For legislators and reporters, it’s common knowledge these things must be off the table for talks to begin. It’s akin to not drawing your gun in a dual until you are told to start; it’s political suicide.
And when there was a discussion about clapping versus texting and not showing respect, I had to pause. Out of habit, I rarely clapped Thursday as I was thinking and taking notes. It was not meant as disrespect, but instead processing what I heard. For many, not clapping was about disagreeing, either for an individual thing or on a party line. That was powerful silence if you know what it means.
An equally powerful silence was the one discussed by Dan Weeks and Steve Marchand. Money does talk and connections matter, so political families are very powerful, as are those with deep pockets. And working across the aisle is a problem. There is no easy solution, but in NH I believe it is easier to have influence, no matter the party of those involved. Anyone can testify on a bill and anyone can go up to state leaders at town home days, or heck, in the grocery store, and share their thoughts. These things are not always easy, and do take some research to know who to call, but can be done.
Now to the big question: Will you run for office? It’s a question that lingered throughout the day and should stick in everyone’s mind. I personally don’t have a forever answer (the immediate answer is no), but I think about it every time something about local or state government bugs me. Those elected officials chose to run, and that’s a huge commitment worth respect.