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Lesser-known presidential candidates seize the spotlight

by Eli Okun, Union Leader correspondent


Gofftown: Twenty-three candidates took the stage at the Lesser Known Candidates Forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Tuesday night.

Gofftown - Every little kid in America is told that she or he can be President someday. On Tuesday night, that dream seemed a bit closer to reality.

At St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, a couple dozen presidential candidates took the stage to present their views and campaigns - no matter how much money or fame they already wield.

The Lesser Known Candidates Forum, a cherished New Hampshire tradition for the past 44 years, allowed a variety of Democrats and Republicans the opportunity to be taken seriously, despite their exclusion from the polls and the mainstream political conversation.

The New Hampshire primary has always been the place where a little guy can make an impact, said New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in his introduction.

“This event is something special for all of us,” he said. “It’s one of a kind.”

And in a race dominated thus far by unorthodox contenders - in which candidates opine on Egyptian pyramids and their opponents’ bathroom breaks - who’s to define the contours of mainstream discourse?

The 23 candidates all had their time to shine, providing respectful answers to serious questions.

Five Republicans took the stage first, sounding alternately more moderate and more extreme than their party’s better-known candidates.

Manchester’s own Andy Martin criticized Democrats’ plans for college tuition and proposed common-sense bipartisan work to reduce gun violence. “More conversation and less hostility is called for,” he said.

Stephen B. Comley, Sr. of Rowley, Mass., cited his decades of experience as a private investigator in Washington, which included threats against his family.

“I’m going to get some more threats when I bring all this information up,” he said before revealing that he gave Donald Trump and Ben Carson evidence 140 days ago about unsafe conditions in nuclear plants across the country, including Seabrook.

Some suggested policy solutions that have yet to be broached by either Republicans or Democrats on the main stage.

Joe Robinson of Boston said coal emissions are cleaner than those from any other energy source, and rolling back Environmental Protection Agency regulations could help solve unemployment and terrorism.

The latter part of the evening featured a much larger suite of Democratic candidates - 18 in total.

Change the dialogue about race and move to a 32-hour work week, said William H. McGaughey, Jr. of Minneapolis.

Make the Democratic Party pro-life, said Henry Hewes of New York.

Reform the veterans’ health-care system, said Lloyd Kelso of Gastonia, N.C.

There was one notable absence: Vermin Supreme, who was banned after he glitter-bombed another candidate at the 2011 forum.

No matter - he still showed up outside before the event, clad in his traditional boot-hat.


New Hampshire Union Leader, January 20, 2016, page A1


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