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  • Susannah Colt

REFLECTIONS ON A JINXED CAMPAIGN



Organization Day of the NH State Legislature is today, Dec. 7, 2022. I put the date on my calendar a few months ago because I was feeling certain I would be attending as a state representative. Instead, I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself when I did that.


In politics there is always a winner and a loser, just like in sports, card games and lotteries. That doesn’t stop people from entering the race or playing the game. The odds may be against you, but you still hold out a shred of hope that you can beat them.


When I entered the race for state rep, I was quite certain I was going to win. The seat was held by a Democrat, who had won the last election by over 100 votes. Because of redistricting, her town, Randolph – a Democratic stronghold, was taken out of the district she had served for six years and put into a district that was held by another long-term Democrat. She refused to primary him, so she decided to run for the vacant state senate seat. She endorsed my candidacy and in my neophyte mind that meant the odds were in my favor.


When I filed with the town clerk, I asked if anyone else had signed up. I hoped that I had no challenger for the Democratic ticket (I didn’t). I also held out hope that the Republicans had failed to recruit someone to run (they didn’t). The clerk gave me the name of someone who had signed up to run – a Republican whose name was Seth King, another resident of Whitefield.


I went home and googled King and the first site that came up was the Daily Anarchist, a blog for which he was an editor and regular contributor. He was a self-described “life-long libertarian activist” and affiliated with the Free State Project. The Free State Project had been in the news quite a bit lately and not getting a whole lot of good press. I figured that would be a strike against him.


King also believed that abortion should be banned from the moment of conception. In light of the chaos created by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I felt this would be another strike against him.


Finally, King did not believe the state or federal government should have any involvement in public schools. In fact, he was pretty adamant that government should stay out of people’s lives altogether. I figured this would be another strike against him and, since that was three strikes, I was most assuredly going to win.


A friend who had come to the same conclusions about King told me one day, “It’s your race to lose.” Talk about pressure. Instead of giving me confidence, that sent shivers down my spine. I was jinxed. Nevertheless, I dug in and worked even harder to canvas the long and winding roads of my three towns to find and collect my voters. I met and talked with all kinds of people who were pleasant and willing to share their concerns. Some days would be better than others, but I never wavered in my mission to win the hearts and minds of the people that would ultimately give me the job I was asking for. It was the longest job interview I had ever experienced.


On primary day I was able to collect the most recent voter registration lists from my three towns, enabling me to deeply study the demographics, the breakdown of the voters, the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and Undeclared voters.



My hometown of Whitefield was split evenly between Democrats (30%) and Republicans (30%), with Undeclared voters at 40%. In Carroll the numbers were split evenly - one third were Democrats, one third Republicans, and one third Undeclared. My Achilles heel was the town of Jefferson – Democrats (13%); Republicans (33%); and Undeclared (54%).


Without the Democratic stronghold of Randolph, I knew I had an uphill battle, so I dug deeper to convince the undeclared voters that I was the more qualified and level-headed candidate. I never strayed from my pledge to keep the campaign civil and never waged any negative advertising against King. I hoped my well-reasoned arguments that government should have a roll in the well-being of its citizens would win the day.


On election day, my team of volunteers and I stood at the polls from 8:00 until 4:30 (when the sun went down and the freezing temperatures plunged even further), greeting the voters with smiles of encouragement frozen on our faces.


When the polls closed, I went to Carroll to wait for the vote results. I lost by 33 votes. I had friends in Whitefield and Jefferson standing by for the vote results from those towns. At 9 p.m. Whitefield revealed a dead heat – King – 530; Colt – 530. At that point I knew I had lost. I needed Whitefield to rally in my favor, but they didn’t. At 10 p.m. the final nail was struck. I lost Jefferson by 165 votes. Overall, King received 55% of the votes in the three towns.


The redistricting worked exactly as the Republicans had hoped. It appears that the Republican Party is willing to put on blinders about their members as long as they win a majority in the House. Will King leave his radical libertarian views at the threshold of the State House and vote in lockstep with the leadership of “his party?” That remains to be seen and I will be watching King’s activities like a hawk, since I am now his constituent.


I will also refrain from putting things on the calendar until they are set in stone, a tough lesson I learned as a first-time candidate.

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