With New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary election fast approaching, Bar News asked attorneys across the Granite State to write about their favorite moments from the dusty campaign trails of the past.
As the candidates make their final pitches, this collection of memories and photographs reminds us of the powerful momentum - or torpidity - that primary election results in New Hampshire have afforded the candidates over the years. It also provides a behind-the-scenes look into the campaign buses, airplanes (and even flatbed trucks) that have shaped the influential role New Hampshire voters and campaign operatives play in the political process.
Read about a 10-year-old future lawyer's 1952 encounter with a coonskin-cap-wearing Estes Kefauver. Learn what it was like to travel the state with the "Comeback Kid." Find out how one candidate charmed Nackey Loeb and another spurned her husband. And more...
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c. 1952: Truman and Mayor Benoit
Kathleen N. Sullivan
Wadleigh, Starr & Peters
This photo shows Harry Truman with my father, Henry P. Sullivan, and Mayor Josephat Benoit of Manchester. My father told us that the day before the visit he dropped by Joe Benoit's office to make sure everything was okay, as the mayor was introducing Truman at an event the next day. The mayor told him, "I am working on my speech." Henry responded, "Mayor, no one is going to this to hear you give a speech, they are going because they want to see the president. All you need to say is, 'It is an honor and a privilege to introduce the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman." I always tried to remember that when introducing people when I was the state chair of the Democratic Party. Looking at this picture, I wonder if the mayor was giving his speech to Truman - my father looks a little perturbed.
1952: Kefauver 'Was Quite Tall'
Boynton Waldron Doleac Woodman & Scott
In 1952, when I was 10, my father, Charles J. Griffin, was heavily involved in the campaign of Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who was running against then Incumbent President Harry Truman.
I remember driving with my parents from Portsmouth to the Hampton Tolls to meet Sen. Kefauver's motorcade on a snowy Saturday morning in February and escorting him to Portsmouth for a campaign stop. I was introduced to him and recall that he was quite tall. His trademark was a coonskin hat, as he was from Tennessee, the home of Davey Crockett, who was at the time a popular television character portrayed by Fess Parker.
Sen. Kefauver went on to defeat President Truman in the Democratic primary. Shortly afterwards Truman announced that he would not seek his party's nomination.
Many believe that it was Kefauver's upset victory over Truman that put the New Hampshire primary on the national map.
1960: The Senator from Massachusetts
Kathleen N. Sullivan
Wadleigh, Starr & Peters
Henry P. Sullivan with Kathleen N. Sullivan's sister, Grace, and Jack and Jackie Kennedy.
My father, Henry P. Sullivan, a 50-year member of the New Hampshire Bar Association, was very involved in politics in the 1950s and 1960s. He served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and State Senate, and was at one time the Democratic National Committeeman from New Hampshire. We have a number of photos of my dad and other family members with national figures. I particularly like the ones with then-Senator Jack Kennedy. My father's parents were poor immigrants from the Beara Peninsula in Ireland. His first job was working on a vegetable truck before he was 10 years old. But there he is, just a few decades later, a lawyer, with the soon-to-be-elected President of the United States. You cannot understate what a big deal it was for Irish Americans of his generation to see Jack Kennedy become president.
1972: Giving the Other Side a Hand
Howard & Urbaitis
In 1971 I was, and still am, a member of the New Hampshire branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. Although a Republican, I was approached on behalf of McCarthy '72 to attend their presentation to Secretary of State Bill Gardner of the boxes of signatures, and to make sure that everything was done according to Hoyle. I read the law then in effect, saw what they had put together, and said that's fine. They asked if l would accompany them, which was my pleasure.
Gardner predictably was very gracious, accepted their boxes of signatures with some ceremony, and told them that if the count were sufficient, which it certainly was, they would be on the ballot. One of the sponsors was overcome and fainted.
It was fun, but the ACLU has not called upon me since then.
c. 1960: JFK Meets the Sisters of Mercy
Kathleen N. Sullivan
Wadleigh, Starr & Peters
Jack and Jackie Kennedy visiting the Sister of Mercy, with my father leaning in the doorway, back when the nuns still wore the full, traditional habit. My parents always brought absentee ballots to a couple of convents in Manchester, as many of the nuns wouldn't go out to vote, or were too elderly. Back in those days, the nuns were pretty reliable Democratic voters, and there were a lot more then than there are today.
1972: The 'Crying Speech' of Muskie
David K. Pinsonneault
From left, Unknown, David K. Pinsonneault, Ed Muskie, Greg Thifault and Paul McCormick.
I was a political science student at St. Anselm College (1969-73). A number of us volunteered to work on the Muskie campaign. I helped out with the advance team on a few events, including Muskie's disastrous speech in front of the former Union Leader building on Feb. 26, 1972. The event was organized at the last minute (in fact, people were on the phone after midnight on the 26th to get things in place, including a flatbed trailer that I think was donated by Falton Trucking Co and a portable PA machine from Radio Shack).
The Senator was in high dudgeon about remarks Bill Loeb made about his wife and he was going to give Bill the what for. Senior (and paid) staffers tried to talk him out of it. It started snowing around 4 a.m. giving the event an "It's a Wonderful Life" feel. Muskie and a throng of supporters marched through the snow from campaign headquarters on Franklin Street (the former Carpenter Hotel) to the Union Leader on Amherst Street.
In the meantime, I was at the trailer with future governor Hugh Gallen trying to figure out how the senator and his supporters were going to get onto the trailer (flatbed trailers do not ordinarily come with stairs). Hugh and I seized on the idea of using a square trash receptacle from across the street to do the job. A Union Leader reporter/photographer (Nancy Meersman) recorded the decision for posterity.
My assignment at what became known as Muskie's "crying speech," after dragging the can, was to be sure that the late ABC television reporter Frank Reynolds got anywhere he needed to be. No satellite trucks then. TV reporters had to get to a studio to file their stories. I stood next to Frank at the edge of the flatbed, and after the senator started sniffling (there were no tears; he did not cry) I made a snarky comment to him about how it would be better to have a president with feelings as opposed to Richard Nixon. He leaned over and said something like "Nice try, Dave. It's not going to come out that way." Indeed, it did not. There was no "It's a Wonderful Life" ending to this story.
'Heady Stuff' from Primaries Past
Brad E. Cook
Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green
1968 - In mid-February 1968, George Romney, governor of Michigan and the moderate Republican hope for the GOP presidential nomination, dropped out of the race after coming back from Vietnam and saying he had been "brainwashed" by the generals there. Former Vice President Richard Nixon was the clear frontrunner.
I, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire and president of the Young Republicans, contacted another student interested in drafting Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York, and we went to see Forbes Professor of Management John Beckett at the Whittemore School of Business. He said, "Be at my house at 3 this afternoon." We showed up to a crush of TV and radio trucks, cables down the driveway, and mass confusion. Beckett held a press conference announcing a Rockefeller write-in effort, saying, "Governor Romney's withdrawal was the selfless act of a statesman."
For the next several weeks until the primary, we covered the state as best we could, picketing Nixon, handing out materials, granting interviews to Theodore H. White and Bill Lawrence, among others, and having a great time. We started with a strong 13 percent of the vote, and after tireless effort, got 9 percent, if I recall correctly. Election night headquarters was in a guest room at the Sheraton Wayfarer in Bedford where, after about 10 seconds of suspense, we adjourned to the Conference Center where the Eugene McCarthy people were celebrating his moral (if not statistical) victory over President Lyndon Johnson, which led to Johnson's withdrawal from the race later that month.
One other notable memory of that primary was, as an officer of the UNH Young Republicans, sitting on the stage in the Fieldhouse at UNH with Nixon addressing about 3,000 people, having him comment that he could be wearing make-up, but that would give a false impression ("that would be wrong"), and seeing the make-up run down his collar at the same time. A picture of Nixon sitting on that stage is on the cover of the brochure for the free online UNH course on the primary this year.
1972 - As a student at Cornell Law School, I returned to New Hampshire for the primary election weekend in 1972 to work on the Paul McCloskey campaign against President Nixon's re-election campaign, which clearly was dominant. Pressed into service by the same Professor Beckett, I was named "deputy press secretary" and sent to Concord to brief the press, including, if I recall correctly, Barbara Walters and other nightly news anchors and commentators. One of them asked the question, "Is this guy William Loeb (Union Leader publisher) serious?" They obviously thought he was some kind of nut whom they could embarrass. The Nixon press people, very professional and several people deep, pooh-poohed Loeb. I said that if they didn't take him seriously in an interview, he would make them look silly. The morning after the primary, on one of the morning news shows, possibly TODAY, Loeb in fact wiped the floor with commentators who didn't take him seriously. (McCloskey didn't win.)
1980 - A colleague who had worked with John Connally when he was secretary of the Navy, got me interested in the Connally campaign. I did some work, but Connally ended up getting about 80 votes, and I ended up voting for Howard Baker, who withdrew the next day. Ronald Reagan became president, notably. Later that year, our law partner Warren Rudman was elected to the US Senate the night Reagan won the presidency, and my wife and I along with many other New Hampshire representatives, many of whom were attorneys, including William S. Green, Norman Stahl, and others, went to the inauguration, which was heady stuff for a 32-year-old.
NH Childhood Punctuated by Politics
Ernst & Young
Growing up in Manchester in the 1960s, reading the Union Leader every day, and listening to my parents argue about civil rights and other political issues, I couldn't have avoided or ignored presidential primary politics, even if I had wanted to.
My earliest memory is of seeing our neighbor's car go by with a Goldwater sign on the roof, in 1964. My father supported Nelson Rockefeller in 1964, and we had a Rockefeller campaign poster in our attic for years thereafter. But the most exciting campaign in our household (fatherless, by that time) was Eugene McCarthy's run in 1968.
The Vietnam war was extremely unpopular, and McCarthy was the anti-war candidate. Things didn't turn out very well as 1968 progressed, but the New Hampshire primary early that year was exciting for us kids, in a good way.
One last memory: In 1972, I was sitting in Ferlita's, a pizza shop in Exeter, sharing a pizza with two friends, when in walked George McGovern and Paul Newman! I was amazed by how small Newman was.
1984: Roses for Your Conscience
Law Offices of Nancy Richards-Stower
Nancy Richards-Stower walking with Senator George McGovern to the Secretary of State's office to sign up for the 1984 NH primary.
Tom Fahey photos reprinted with permission from Union Leader Corp.
In 1984, Senator George McGovern asked me to chair his 1984 "Vote Your Conscience" New Hampshire primary comeback campaign. I was honored. Activists loved George. When he was introduced at a Keene candidates' forum, everyone in the auditorium rose for a 10-minute standing ovation.
For the primary sign-up, we walked two snowy blocks from my law firm to the Secretary of State's office. While Boston television cameras rolled, a pickup truck stopped suddenly and a burly, bearded, flannel-shirted man leaned out the truck's window and shouted: "HEY! SENATOR MCGOVERN!"
I froze. The Senator stopped. "Senator McGovern! I voted for you in 1972 and I can't wait to vote for you again!" My sigh of relief was audible, and in the cold air, visible. George smiled and whispered "Nice work, Nance!" I had zero to do with this serendipitous media moment. However, I was responsible for the dozen roses that the senator brought to Nackey Loeb, owner of the Union Leader, just before his interview.
Loeb despised the senator's liberal politics, but was smitten by McGovern's outspokenness and his roses. The next day, page one of the Union Leader carried a large center photo of a beaming Nackey Loeb accepting my dozen roses from a smiling George McGovern.
(Colorado Senator Gary Hart, McGovern's 1972 national campaign director, won the 1984 New Hampshire primary (Jeanne Shaheen ran his campaign); Senator McGovern came in fifth of eight candidates).
1984: Roses for Your Conscience
Law Offices of Nancy Richards-Stower
Pictured left: Senator George McGovern with Richards-Stower, his 1984 N.H. primary campaign chair, holding her son, Jonathan, age 3.
Pictured right: Thirty-one years after the 1984 primary campaign, Nancy Richards-Stower hosted Senator George McGovern's New Hampshire book tour for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, of Arthur Schlesinger's "American President Series."
1988: One Firm, Two Campaigns
The first presidential campaign I worked on was in 1988. I was Manchester Ward 7 chair for George Bush. This is how that happened: Our senior partner at Devine Millimet, Norm Stahl, encouraged me to use his invitation and attend a Presidential Primary warm-up event at the Sheraton Wayfarer in Bedford in January 1987, which I did.
I listened to proxies for several potential candidates, and after the event, introduced myself to Will Abbott, who was heading up Vice President Bush's New Hampshire exploratory committee. I committed to supporting Vice President Bush on the spot and agreed to serve as his Manchester Ward 7 chair.
Little did I know when I returned to the office that Norm Stahl was co-chairing Bob Dole's campaign. I told him it didn't matter to me; I was sticking with Bush (yes, I was even more naïve then).
Anyway, Norman was quite jocular when Dole won the Iowa caucus in 1988 and told me it was time to jump ship and join the Dole campaign. I respectfully demurred, but had the last laugh when Bush won the New Hampshire Primary the following week by 10 points. Always the competitor, Norman was none too happy and blamed me for "stealing the Primary" by running ads about Dole's taxing ways.
Of course, I had nothing to do with the media campaign and forgave him - on the spot.
1984: Insights from Behind the Scenes
George Bruno, attorney and former ambassador to Belize, (far right) aboard an airplane with a sleeping candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
Photo courtesy of George Bruno
In 1984, New Hampshire was on the edge of losing its first-in-the-nation primary election. DNC Chair (and attorney) Chuck Manatt created a rule allowing other states to jump ahead of New Hampshire, so long as all states stayed inside a "window" designated by the DNC before which no state could hold a primary or caucus.
As result, two other states lined up with New Hampshire to be first. NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner then advanced New Hampshire outside the "window." Displeased, Chairman Manatt dispatched then-California Party Chair Nancy Pelosi to admonish Gardner and me to return to inside the "window," or New Hampshire would lose half its delegates, its prime San Francisco hotel space, and be placed in the nosebleed section of the convention hall. My strategy, in coordination with the chairs of the other early states of Iowa and Maine, with the able assistance of party operatives and attorneys Kris Durmer, of Nashua; Kate Hanna, of Manchester; and Martin Gross, of Concord, was to get all the candidates to disavow the DNC's edict and pledge to support New Hampshire's first primary.
At the encouragement of candidate Gary Hart, with Ned Helms, of Concord, and others over a hamburger and fries at Manchester's Backroom Restaurant, I arranged to hold a first-ever state party convention with all the candidates on stage. One by one, we ushered the candidates to a holding room behind the convention stage. We "requested" that they sign a statement that I would hold up before the convention announcing which candidates supported the primary, calculating that no serious presidential contender would want to appear before 1,000 party activists and not be in support of New Hampshire's primary.
Candidates Mondale, Hart, Cranston, Hollings, McGovern, and Glenn all signed. Florida Gov. Reubin Askew did not. Several days before the Primary, Chairman Mannat sent me a peace offering via NH DNC member Will Brown, of Dunbarton, in the form of a donkey piñata. The symbolism was evident. The fight was over. New Hampshire prevailed. Our delegates received all courtesies at the national convention, the punitive rule was later repealed, and the New Hampshire primary lived on.
As these activities were taking place, out in the state convention hall, located in the gymnasium of what is now Southern NH University, a fringe candidate (and Ohio lawyer), Richard Kay, had jumped on the stage and stubbornly claimed a seat reserved for one of the major candidates, threatening to disrupt the convention. During the standoff, the Manchester police (MPD) arrived and attorney Kay was escorted off the stage. Unfortunately, Kay was arrested on the Hooksett side of the SNHU stage which, unknown to most, cut across two jurisdictions. He sued me as party chair and the MPD for false arrest. The Democratic Party was broke. Through the creative efforts of Concord attorney Bob Stein, my homeowner's insurance policy covered my defense (Bob convinced the carrier that my North End Manchester home was a short distance from the school and thus within the "zone of risk"). The case against me was dismissed. The MPD settled for something in the neighborhood of $20,000.
As the 1984 primary was coming to a climax, I asked Arizona Congressman (and prior presidential candidate) Mo Udall to emcee our Party's annual 100 Club Dinner. Before a sellout crowd of activists and media at Nashua's Sheraton Tara, he delivered his oft-quoted line about seeking votes for president in a barbershop in Laconia, to which the barbers replied, "Yeah, we were just laughing about that this morning." But the candidate that really stole the show that evening was South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings. Low in the polls, ever colorful with his southern drawl, and joined at the head table by VP Mondale, Alan Cranston, Gary Hart and other luminaries, he looked out at his audience and said he felt like an old trial lawyer. "When you have the facts on your side, you go before the jury and argue the facts; when you have the law, you argue the law; when you have neither the law nor the facts... you plea for mercy, and that is just what I am doing this evening - give me your vote!"
1992: Taking Time for People
The Broderick Group
I had the privilege to co-chair then-Governor Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign in New Hampshire. When he arrived here for the first time as an announced candidate in early October 1991, just four months before our primary election, he was known to only 3 percent of the American people. President Bush, on the other hand, had 100 percent name recognition and favorability ratings topping 90 percent. To say that Clinton had a steep road to climb would be an understatement.
By early January, his campaign was slowly but surely gaining momentum and the crowds were growing in size and enthusiasm. Then the bottom dropped out.
Amidst allegations of sexual indiscretions and dodging the draft the governor was under withering and relentless attack from the national press. It would have crushed a lesser person. On one of those difficult days I drove with him in a three-seater van from Nashua to Stoneyfield Yogurt in Londonderry. I sat with Hillary in the second seat. James Carville and a much-less-well-known George Stephanopoulos sat in the seat behind. No one said much during the drive. It seemed like the campaign could be ending, which meant the governor's political future might be ending, too.
After the governor finished his tour of Stoneyfield, our group was leaving by the rear entrance. It was pitch black and cold when we opened the back door. The van was waiting, engine running. The Governor had to make the long flight back to Arkansas that night to be present in-state to deal with any last-minute requests for clemency from an inmate scheduled to be executed the next day. He needed to be home, and it seemed he was running late. He had little margin for error if he was to make the flight. And he had to make the flight.
As we were hurriedly getting into the van I was startled to see a woman with a young child standing nearby in the darkness. "Governor, can you talk to my son for a few minutes?" she asked. She was wearing a ripped ski parka and looked like her life had been very hard. Clinton told us to get into the van and that he would join us. He ignored the warning that he could miss his plane. As I peered out the window, I saw him with his arm over the woman's shoulder and that of her son's but I couldn't hear what they were saying.
It seemed like he was with them for a long time, but it was likely less than two minutes. There was grumbling in the van about missing the plane. When the governor's conversation ended, I saw him give the woman and young boy a group hug. There were no cameras there to capture it. When he jumped into the van someone reminded him in an annoyed way that he might miss his flight. "That woman out there," he said with real irritation in his voice, "just lost her husband. Her son is having a very difficult time. She said he was my biggest supporter and that if I would talk to him for a few minutes, it might help him a lot. I thought that was pretty important," he said curtly. "We'll just have to move a little faster to make the plane." Silence consumed the van.
He made time he didn't have to lift up two people he didn't know who were hurting. No one but us saw it, and no one ever reported it. His own political life was in serious jeopardy and he was late for a plane he absolutely needed to be on. As we drove towards the airport that January night I knew I had just witnessed one more reason I thought I had made the right choice to support an unknown governor in the New Hampshire Primary, and one more reason I hoped he'd win the presidency.
1992 & 1996: Clinton in Keene
Attorney at Law
One of my clearest memories of the NH Primary is when I was a young attorney volunteering for the Bill Clinton campaign in Cheshire County when he first ran for the presidency in 1992. Candidate Clinton was scheduled to make a stop in Keene in January 1992 and I was enlisted to be his driver. We borrowed a local supporter's big white Chrysler, and I picked him up at the local airport. The local supporters had arranged for a large meeting room on the second floor of a building on Main Street. We worried about the turnout and whether the room would be too big.
When I drove into downtown Keene, I was instructed to pull the car alongside the sidewalk and let the candidate step out in front of the building. As I drove up Main Street I noticed an empty parking space about 50 yards down from the building and pulled right into it and turned off the ignition. I thought I was doing the campaign a favor in finding a parking spot. Instead a staffer told me, not very politely, that I had not done them any favors.
The press person had wanted Clinton to step out of the vehicle nearer to the building to maximize his exposure to the local press and supporters, who were waiting at the entrance. That was my first real experience in the little nuances of running for political office.
The second piece of evidence which indicated to me that I was dealing with a sophisticated political operation was the enormous crowd we found when we walked into the building. The fire marshal told us we had too many people to fit into the original room. The few campaign staff and local volunteers quickly adapted and divided the crowd in half approximately. Clinton spoke to the first group in the first room while I stood on a folding chair in the second unfinished room across the hall and tried to convince those people not to leave the building before hearing Clinton.
I somehow succeeded in keeping most of the crowd in the second room patient and finally Clinton arrived (after what seemed like forever) and gave a second speech to the waiting overflow crowd. After his speech, he answered every question asked of him. He was impressive and certainly presidential. At the end of the event, he had been speaking nonstop for about two hours and asked me to find him a bottle of water. Years later I heard President Clinton give a speech to a large crowd in Manchester in which he said that it was at that event in Keene in January 1992 when he first had an inkling that he might have a chance to win.
President Clinton came back to Keene four years later in February 1996 to campaign in that year's New Hampshire Primary.
The presidential advance team arrived about a week before the event. They agreed with us that visually it would be wonderful to hold the event outside at the head of Main Street and they pulled out all the stops to build the crowd. Unfortunately, the night before the event we had a snowstorm with about 7 inches of snow. The day of the event, the weather was clear but with biting wind chill.
I remember getting on the local radio station that morning asking people to show up with shovels and clear snow off the bleachers. Some individuals actually showed up with shovels! Keene was the last stop of the day and the President was late in arriving, but the crowd stood for hours in that frigid cold to hear him speak.
The authorities estimated between 10,000 to 14,000 people attended the event, which at the time was the biggest gathering in the New Hampshire Primary history.
2000: You Met Which Roosevelt?
Cleveland Waters and Bass
In 1999, when his New Hampshire campaign consultant was introducing John McCain all over the state, he brought him up to Dixville Notch for the first time. He had arranged a meeting with Neil Tillotson, who was the founder of Tillotson Rubber, owner of the Balsams Grand Resort, creator of the Dixville polling place, and the first voter from Dixville every presidential election until his death in 2001.
Neil had just turned 100 years old. McCain asked him, "What presidential candidate did you enjoy meeting the most?" Tillotson replied immediately, "Mr. Roosevelt."
And McCain said, "Oh, Franklin Roosevelt, he certainly was a strong President," to which Tillotson replied, "No, no, Teddy Roosevelt."
McCain was stunned and said, "You met Teddy Roosevelt?"
Tillotson said, "Yes. I met him at a fairground in Vermont when I was about 16.